I am about to listen to a tw0-hour webcast on the issue of promotion and retention by the Center on Children and Families at Brookings.
In the meantime, here is the official release on a new Brookings policy brief that suggests retaining struggling students in early grades pays off:
The policy brief by Harvard professor Martin R. West speaks to the ongoing debate over whether retaining students in early grades is self-defeating:
Recent evidence suggests that policies encouraging the retention and remediation of struggling readers in 3rd grade, as compared with similar students who are not retained, help boost their test scores in reading and math and reduce the likelihood of being held back later, according to a new policy brief released today by the Brookings Center on Children and Families at an event featuring policymakers, academics and practitioners. These findings are especially important because students from poor and low-income families are falling further and further behind more advantaged students, in large part because of their low reading skills.
In the brief “Is Retaining Students in the Early Grades Self-Defeating?,” Harvard professor Martin R. West reviews the research on social promotion and grade retention. Looking at high-quality, large-scale studies conducted in Florida, West notes that, as compared with similar students who were not retained, the retained children were 11 percentage points less likely to be retained one year after they were initially held back and roughly 4 percentage points less likely to be retained in each of the following three years. As a result, students retained in 3rd grade after five years are only 0.7 grade levels behind their peers who were immediately promoted to grade 4.
West also examines the long-term impacts of grade retention. He writes that, as is common in many educational interventions, the short-term improvements in reading and math achievement observed for retained students diminish over time and become statistically insignificant by the time the students reach the 7th grade. But he adds that “the retained students continue to perform markedly better than their promoted peers when tested at the same grade level and, assuming they are as likely to graduate high school, stand to benefit from an additional year of instruction. These factors may increase the likelihood of enduring benefits.”
“The keys to good policy to reduce the reading achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students are to have high-quality programs during the preschool and early elementary years featuring highly effective teachers, to provide intensive remedial instruction in reading for students who are not proficient readers by third grade, and to use retention judiciously for students who need additional compensatory instruction,” West said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog