Issues in Studying the Effects of Retaining Students with High-Stakes Promotion Tests

Findings from Chicago

Authored by: Elaine Allensworth , Jenny Nagaoka

Handbook of Research on Schools, Schooling, and Human Development

Print publication date:  May  2010
Online publication date:  June  2010

Print ISBN: 9780805859485
eBook ISBN: 9780203874844
Adobe ISBN: 9781135283872


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The practice of retaining students in grade has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Traditionally, the decision to hold students back was made by teachers and parents about individual students, based on a holistic appraisal of the child’s school performance. Beginning in the 1980s, the accountability movement brought a dramatic shift in the practice of grade retention. Increasingly, policies at the state and district levels mandated grade retention for students who failed to meet specific criteria for promotion. 1 Grade retention under such conditions is on a much larger scale, and is qualitatively different from traditional grade retention. In this chapter, we discuss what is known about traditional and mandated retention and the issues involved in studying their short- and long-term academic and social outcomes. 2

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