Retention in Elementary School Can Leave Lasting Scars

A provocative new study suggest the practice of retaining children in primary grades may have unintended consequences.

Student retention is when a child is “held back” from graduating to the next grade at the end of the school year. It’s often done because the student’s grades aren’t equivalent to their peers, whether it be due to their development or academic level. It has been believed that hold a child back in their current grade will help them catch up in their development level.

However, it’s also been known that student retention can have negative effects too.

In the study, sociologist Dr. Megan Andrew of the University of Notre Dame found that, just as is the case for labor-market careers, events early in a child’s education can leave lasting scars.

For example, retaining a child in early primary school reduces his or her odds of high school completion by about 60 percent.

These results suggest that the scarring effects of primary-grade retention operate mainly at high school completion — despite previous findings to the contrary.

The best hopes for recovery come relatively early in the educational career, Andrew suggested.

She believes that given the high-stakes environment in US education, it is important to understand the implications of potential triggering events in the educational career are often tied to singular indicators of ability.

The article is published in the journal Social Forces.

Source: Oxford University Press USA

Student frustrated at being retained photo by shutterstock.