Grade Retention (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Retention and Social and Health Implications

Children who are retained tend to feel more poorly about their capabilities, score lower on measures of personal and psychological adjustment, and display more discipline problems. Clinical interviews with students show that they felt angry or sad about the retention and feared the reaction of family and friends. Some were teased by neighbors and reported having a difficult time adjusting to school (Byrnes, 1989; Holmes, 1989; Norton, 1990; Shepard & Smith, 1989).

Being retained in a grade has also been strongly correlated with dropping out of school. Children who are retained one year are five times more likely to drop out of school than those who have never been retained. Children who are retained two or more years have almost a 100 percent probability of becoming dropouts compared with similar low performers who are promoted (CPRE, 1990).

School failure has also been linked to participation in health-risk behaviors (cigarette use, alcohol use, and weapons-related violence) for adolescents, according to data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Blum, Beuhring, Shew, Bearing, Sieving, & Resnick, 2000). In-home interviews with a nationally representative sample of about 10,000 students ages 12 to 17 and their families showed that school failure is more likely to predict participation in violent activities, use of alcohol, and involvement in sexual activity than is poverty, race, or family structure. The researchers concluded that school failure should be viewed as a public health problem (Blum et al., 2000).

Conclusions about Retention

Even though a few studies have found that retention can have a positive short-term benefit (Alexander et al., 1994; Holmes, 1989), the vast majority have shown either no long-term advantage, harm, or a consistent "washout" effect (Gredler, 1984; Holmes, 1989; Mantizicopoulos & Morrison, 1992; Meisels, 1992; Nason, 1991; Reynolds et al., 1997; Rose et al., 1983; Shepard & Smith, 1986, 1989). This indicates that the potential benefit does not warrant the risk. Even researchers who otherwise support retention do not view it as a tool for helping children succeed in school (Alexander et al., 1994).

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