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School Retention: Staying Behind to Get Ahead

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — When a child struggles in school, it’s hard to know what to do. Some research has shown that holding students back a grade is associated with negative long-term outcomes, such as a greater likelihood of dropping out of high school. But now, a new study suggests that retaining students may have some positive effects.

About one in ten kids in the United States must repeat at least one grade in school, and a new study suggests it may benefit them.

Researchers followed nearly one million third graders in all. Some were tracked through high school. They compared students who barely passed a standard reading test and those who just failed it and, as a result, were held back a year. The students who were held back had much better test scores in the first few years after repeating third grade. These effects tapered off over time, but the students who were held back needed fewer remedial courses and had higher GPAs in high school, and being held back did not make them less likely to graduate high school. It’s good news for kids who need an extra year to catch up.

While this study suggests that there may be positive academic benefits of holding kids back, it comes at a high price. One estimate found that retaining students enrolled in U.S. schools costs about $12 billion a year.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Julie Marks, Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

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