Trajectories of Math and Reading Achievement in Low-Achieving Children in Elementary School: Effects of Early and Later Retention in Grade

Department of Psychology, Arizona State University.
Journal of Educational Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.52). 08/2012; 104(3):603-621. DOI: 10.1037/a0027571
Source: PubMed


This study investigated the effects of retention or promotion in first grade on growth trajectories in mathematics and reading achievement over the elementary school years (grades 1-5). From a large multiethnic sample (n = 784) of children who were below the median in literacy at school entrance, 363 children who were either promoted (n = 251) or retained (n = 112) in first grade could be successfully matched on 72 background variables. Achievement was measured annually using Woodcock-Johnson W scores; scores of retained children were shifted back one year to permit same-grade comparisons. Using longitudinal growth curve analysis, trajectories of math and reading scores for promoted and retained children were compared. Retained children received a one year boost in achievement; this boost fully dissipated by the end of elementary school. The pattern of subsequent retention in grades 2, 3 and 4 and placement in special education of the sample during the elementary school years is also described and their effects are explored. Policy implications for interventions for low achieving children are considered.

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    • "In fact, by fifth grade, the retained students had somewhat lower math and much lower reading standardized test scores than their peers. Moser et al. (2012) contend that had the students who were retained in first grade been promoted , they would have performed just as well on the fifth grade achievement test as they actually did, indicating that grade-level retention does not evidence long-term beneficial effects. Gottfried (2012) similarly found a post-retention achievement gap when he compared the performance of retained versus continuously promoted students over a 6- year period. "
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    ABSTRACT: Research indicates that the practice of grade-level retention may have negative effects on students; nevertheless it is often used in practice for students who fail to meet academic standards. In contrast to retention, response to intervention (RtI) is a sound practice that is based on a preventive framework and utilizes differentiated instruction and progress monitoring to meet student needs. The present study examined a sample of students from a district where RtI implementation was being scaled-up, but retention also occurred. Academic assessment data for those students identified as having specific learning disabilities in the area of reading were examined to determine whether there were differences between students who were retained prior to referral and their non-retained peers. Results indicated that the retained students performed significantly worse on the reading comprehension and math domains of the standardized academic tests and had fewer progress monitoring data points collected prior to referral for evaluation. The results suggested that retention may have offered little academic skills benefit and, perhaps, even a delay in the time to eligibility for special education. The implications for the impact of retention on academic skills are discussed and future directions for research are presented.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014
    • "We used the one (retained child) to various number (of promoted children) matching scheme (Ming & Rosenbaum, 2001) with the PROC ASSIGN routine in SAS (v.9.2) to create the optimally matched groups. This optimal matching scheme minimizes the sampling error while simultaneously maximizing the sample size (Moser et al., 2012). We also used a caliper distance of 0.25, indicating that any pair of matched groups does not differ by 0.25 standard deviations in their propensity scores. "
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    ABSTRACT: The authors investigated the effects of retention in grades 1 to 5 on students' reading and math achievement, teacher-rated engagement, and student-reported school belonging in middle school. From a multiethnic sample (N=784) of children who scored below the median on a test of literacy in grade 1, an average of 75 students subsequently retained in grades 1 to 5 were matched with an average of 299 continuously promoted students on the basis of propensity to be retained in the elementary grades. A total of 20 imputed datasets were analyzed, all of which showed good balance across the 67 baseline covariates used to calculate propensity scores. The hypothesis that retained students, who are "old for grade" when they make the transition to middle school, would have a more difficult transition to middle school than promoted peers was tested with 3-level, piecewise growth modeling. Piece 1 included assessments prior to the transition to middle school, and piece 2 included assessments after the transition. Retained and continuously promoted students did not differ on any of the outcome measures during the year prior to transition, nor did they differ in their post-transition trajectories. Discrepancies between these results and results of prior research are discussed in terms of demographic and generational differences as well as differences in methodological rigor.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Journal of school psychology
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives The aim of this work is to examine the promise that propensity scores can yield accurate effect estimates in nonrandomized experiments, review research on the realities of the conditions needed to meet this promise, and caution against irrational exuberance about their capacity to meet this promise. Methods A review of selected experimental work that illustrates both the promise and realities of propensity score analysis. Results Propensity score analysis of nonrandomized experiments can yield the same results as randomized experiments. Those estimates depend on meeting the strong ignorability assumption that the available covariates well describe selection processes and on use of comparison groups that are from the same location with very similar focal characteristics. When those assumptions are not met, propensity scores may not yield accurate estimates. Conclusions The use of propensity score analysis has proliferated exponentially, especially in the last decade, but careful attention to its assumptions seems to be very rare in practice. Researchers and policymakers who rely on these extensive propensity score applications may be using evidence of largely unknown validity. All stakeholders should devote far more empirical attention to justifying that each study has met these assumptions.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2012 · Journal of Experimental Criminology
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