Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Does Grade Retention Work?

The Michigan legislature is considering HB 5111, which mandates retention for 3rd graders who do not pass the state reading test, even if they are proficient in all other subjects, and HB 5144, which requires support for struggling readers and provides for alternative reading proficiency assessments, although it is contingent upon passage of HB 5111.

While at first consideration, holding kids back might seem like a good idea, this is one of those counter-intuitive issues. A vast body of research exists that shows that retention at best, has little to no lasting effect, and at worst, is a disaster for the lives of children who have been retained. Unfortunately, this policy will largely impact children who are living in poverty.

Regardless of which side of this debate you find yourself, relying on intuition isn't enough. Make sure you are well informed. If you are aware of any additional resources, please feel free to post them in the comments below.

I've compiled a number of resources on the subject of grade retention below:

Larry Ferlazzo's extensive list of resources for information on grade retention

Nancy Flanagan's most recent blog post: "The Third-Grade Crackdown Club"

My updated blog post with additional links: Keeping 3rd Graders Behind

Oakland Schools Blog includes video with Dr. Joan Firestone: Intervention Beats Retention

UPDATE: 3-26-14: John Hattie's Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Acheivement, page 97, effect size of retention: -1.5 (yes, that's negative 1.5)

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