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Posts Tagged ‘grade retention’

Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, our mission is to improve the quality of life through effective intervention. One way we hope to do that is by reviewing research articles for our readers. Today‚Äôs article is titled, “Meta-analysis of Grade Retention Research:Implications for Practice in the 21st Century”. Shane Jimerson authored the article and School Psychology Review published it in 2001 (Volume 30, No. 3 pages 420-437). You may read the entire article yourself here.

Purpose of the Study

Researchers have been studying grade retention for many years. However, recently, the quality of studies has improved (e.g., more rigorous experimental designs, comparison groups). So, the purpose of the study was to review all the studies on grade retention between 1990 and 1999. The author completed a meta-analysis of the studies to better inform educators and parents about the effects of grade retention.

Research Questions

The author asked a number of research questions including:

(a) In what grade were the students retained and at what age/grade were the outcomes examined?

(b) What were the academic achievement outcomes of retained children versus promoted children?

(c) What were the social-emotional and behavioral outcomes of retained students versus promoted children?

Methodology (How the Study was Completed)

The author searched for research studies on the effects and outcomes of grade retention. Over 400 studies were found. The author identified studies that met the following inclusionary criteria:

(a) research must have been presented in a professional publication;

(b) study results must have addressed the efficacy of grade retention (i.e., achievement, social-emotional, or other);

(c) study must have included a comparison group of promoted students;

(d) research must have been published between 1990 and 1999

Twenty studies met the criteria and were analyzed for the meta-analysis.

The author and two research assistants coded the studies. Meta analyses were completed using the effect sizes reported by study authors. For our readers with little experience and training in research, this means that the author and research assistants read the previously published studies and entered information into a spreadsheet. They also took the results from the previous studies and combined them with all the other study results to get an average outcome across studies.

Results

Groups Studied

The retained students and the promoted students were matched on several variables including academic achievement, IQ, gender, SES, and social-emotional adjustment). Essentially, all the studies made sure that both groups were equal except for one variable: retention or promotion.

Grade of Retention and Grade of Outcome

The majority of the studies (N=14 out of 20) included students that were retained in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade. The remaining six studies included students retained K through 8th grade. Many studies (14 out of 20) reported outcomes over a series of years. Only 6 studies reported outcomes in just one year.

Academic Outcomes

All of the data from the 20 studies resulted in 175 different academic outcomes for students. Of those 175 outcomes, only 9 favored retained students while 82 outcomes favored promoted students. 84 outcomes showed no difference between retained and promoted students.

More specifically, the promoted group of students performed higher than retained students in areas of language arts, reading, math, composite scores, and grade point average.

Social-Emotional Adjustment

All of the data from the 16 studies that examined social-emotional adjustment resulted in 148 outcomes. Of those, 8 favored the retained students and 13 favored the promoted students. 127 of those showed no differences between groups.

Author Recommendations

The authors of the 20 studies favored either retention or promotion and these results were analyzed. Authors from 4 studies recommended grade retention while authors from 16 studies recommended against grade retention.

Authors from the 4 studies recommending retention emphasized that remedial strategies in addition to grade retention is necessary. Grade retention alone is not enough.

Conclusions

The author of the meta analysis concludes with a few recommendations for educators and school psychologists.

  1. First, he stressed the importance of utilizing remedial strategies to support children who are struggling.
  2. Second, he encouraged educators and educational researchers to study the long-term effects of grade retention, particularly in light of other research linking grade retention to higher rates of high school drop out.
  3. Third, he encouraged school psychologists to explore educational alternatives and to disseminate research to parents and teachers to that teams make informed decisions regarding grade retention.
  4. Finally, he recommended that educators consider using interventions that have been proven effective through special education research. These include: mnemonic strategies, enhancing reading comprehension, behavior modification, direct instruction, cognitive behavior modification, formative evaluation, and early intervention.

What are things that you considered when deciding to retain or promote your child? Teachers, behavior analysts, what variables did you consider? What interventions did you try first?

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about their child’s behavior.Today’s question comes from Karen who asks,

“My son with autism is in 2nd grade and struggling with academics along with his social challenges. I am wondering if we should hold him back and keep him in 2nd grade next year. What are the things we should consider to help us with this decision?”

All parents ask this question from time to time–regardless of whether their child has a disability. Some parents hold children back so they will be older when they graduate. Others hold their children back so they will have a greater likelihood of excelling in sports. So, the good news is that you are not alone in thinking about this.

I think there are several issues to consider. Personally, I am opposed to holding a child back once they start school. Thus, if you intentionally start them a year later than their similar aged peers, I don’t believe the consequences are as severe as when you hold a child back once they have started school.

Peer Relationships are Formed

Children begin forming their peer groups on the first day of school. Yes, children begin forming relationships as early as preschool. Friendships formed at that age, can potentially last a lifetime. Once your child develops relationships, it will be detrimental to him/her to lose those relationships. Sometimes the mere separation from teacher to teacher can be enough to interfere with friendships. However, if the children remain in the same grade with different teachers, they will continue to share lunch time, recess, and some specials.

Holding your child back to repeat a grade separates him/her from friends. They must learn to fit in with social groups that have already been formed. They must eat lunch and play outside with a whole new crop of friends. If your child has issues socially, this could be an even more difficult time for him/her.

Child’s Self-Esteem

A child’s self-esteem may take a blow when they are asked to repeat a grade. Children know when their friends move on. Children know when they have to say “I’m in first grade again”. Even if you think your child is unaware, chances are he/she is fully aware, she just may lack the verbal skills to tell you.

Fitting In Size Wise

Depending on the month of your child’s birthday, when you first enrolled him/her in school, and general family genetics, your child’s height and weight (and subsequent puberty) may be an issue if you choose to hold them back. For example, if your child holds an August birthday and you choose to start 1st grade at age 7 rather than age 6 but then a couple of years later, your child repeats a grade, your child is now almost 2 years older than her classmates. Your child could be hitting puberty much sooner than her peers and she could be the victim of negative social attention for it. Moreover, the last thing you want is for your daughter to be the tallest girl in the grade (unless of course Basketball is in her future).

Research Shows Retention is Ineffective

A number of studies have been conducted on the long-term effects of grade retention, including social effects as well as academic effects. The research shows that grade retention does not result in the intended outcomes. In fact, some negative long-term effects include a greater risk of high school drop out as well as poor academic achievement.

Children Know and Remember

Finally, your child’s peers will know and remember that your child was held back. They will carry it with them over the years, “Oh yes, that’s Suzie, she was in 2nd grade with me and she had to repeat 2nd grade”. Children have so many other issues to over come, it seems odd that we would purposefully add another source of stress for them.

Resources

Here are some other resources you may find helpful:

Center for Development and Learning

National Association for School Psychologists (NASP)

A second post by NASP

Weigh In

I would love to hear from our readers on this one. Have you held your child back? How did it go or how is it going? Did your friends? Teachers and behavior analysts, what have your experiences been?

If you have a behavior question for Missy, email askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot com.

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