Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education
Grade Retention Policies and Student Success
What is the “right” student retention policy?
Grade retention remains a relatively common practice across the United States. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 2.3 percent of students in grades kindergarten through eight were retained in grade in 2015. Empirical evidence on the merits of these policies remains mixed, leaving districts to balance these findings while following state grade retention rules. In this policy brief, we examine the student retention policy of one large metro-Atlanta school district and present a descriptive analysis comparing achievement and behavioral outcomes of students who are impacted by the policy.
We observe decreasing retention rates over time, with variation by grade and subject. Placement rates are remarkably high: students are highly likely to move on to the next grade despite falling short of reaching proficiency in either reading or math. Lastly, students who do not pass either the spring End-of-Grade exam or the summer re-take and are placed into the next grade have substantially lower test scores and more disciplinary issues relative to students who score just above the minimum cutoff for grade promotion.
To read more, please download the policy brief below.