Despite a century of research, educators continue to argue over whether it helps or hurt students to hold them back when they perform below grade level.
A recent panel sponsored by the Center on Children and Families at Brookings Institution explored the retention vs. social promotion divide. On the side of retention — at least as part of a comprehensive reform strategy — was Harvard professor and Mitt Romney campaign education adviser Martin R. West, who reviewed the research on social promotion and grade retention and the Florida results for a Brookings policy brief.
Since 2003, Florida has required that third graders scoring at the lowest level on state reading tests be held back and given intense remediation.
Compared with similar students who were not retained, the retained kids 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,