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Retention Is this educational practice failing our kids?

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1 Retention Is this educational practice failing our kids?
Kelly Caci-Newburgh Enlarged City School District John Garruto-Oswego City School District; State University of New York College at Oswego

2 The frequency of a practice should not be confused with its effectiveness.
Robert Brooks

3 Have you heard these statements?
Johnny needs another year in kindergarten to learn the basics He has a late birthday She is small for her age, so she will fit in after she is left back Boys are less mature She hasn’t really connected with the other kids so she won’t miss her friends Another year will help him learn the language

4 Or False? True Making the Grade: Beyond Retention and Social Promotion
Pasco County Schools

5 If a student is below grade level and isn’t retained, he/she is at risk for dropping out.
FALSE Retention actually INCREASES the achievement gap and risk for dropping out.

6 FALSE If a student is immature retention will help him/her adjust and gain self-confidence. Research does not support the idea that retention improves maturity. In fact, retention has had the opposite effect, lowering the student’s self-esteem and sense of belonging.

7 Retention is the best alternative for struggling students
FALSE Retention is the best alternative for struggling students Various other strategies have been proven successful with struggling students. “Simply having a student repeat a grade is unlikely to address the multiple factors influencing the student’s poor achievement or adjustment that resulted in the decision to retain the student.” (Jimerson, 2001)

8 Young students benefit from retention.
FALSE Young students benefit from retention. There is currently no systematic means to predict accurately which children will benefit from being retained. Overall, the literature identifies grade retention as an ineffective strategy for meeting the educational needs of low achieving students.

9 Fact or myth? The latest study on the stress with grade retention indicated that grade retention was third most stressful with death of a parent and going blind as the other two. Myth: This study was replicated and it was actually the most stressful associated event in a child’s life.

10 Fact or myth Grade retention will give students who are identified the gift of time. Myth: Students may legally attend school until they are age 21 when they have a disability. If you put a year on the front end, you lose a year on the back end.

11 What do we mean when we say “retention”
Keeping a child back in a grade in elementary school to repeat the grade Delaying the start of an incoming kindergartener The repetition of a grade in middle/high school due to academic failure The use of “bridge” or “transition” classes What do we mean when we say “retention”

12 Who gets retained? Other common characteristics include:
Boys are retained more than girls Poor, minority, inner city students are retained more than white students Aggressive, acting out students Students displaying ADHD and or ODD characteristics Students who are learning disabled Other common characteristics include: Poor academic achievement and low standardized test scores A history of numerous school changes and absenteeism Students with large family size Students with low parental education and low family involvement SES is a powerful indicator – more so than race Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes Anderson, Whipple, & Jimerson 2002

13 Academic Effects of Retention
Gains in student achievement may be noted the first year after retention. However, the gains tend to be small and diminish within 3 years Students who are struggling academically but moved to the next grade demonstrate higher achievement than retained students Many students are diagnosed with a learning disability shortly after they are retained Kindergarten retention and transition rooms are ineffective. Transition children perform no better academically than transition-eligible children who moved to first grade. Transition rooms are not effective whether the child is retained for academic or maturity issues

14 Mental Health Effects of Retention
Lower self esteem and rate of school attendance are predictive of dropping out. Students who drop out experience higher rates of mental health problems, chemical abuse, and criminal activities. Increased stress levels Lower self esteem Lower rates of school attendance Increased acting out behaviors Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes Anderson, Whipple, & Jimerson 2002

15 From the students’ perspective
Surveys of stressful events in the 80s found that students feared retention most after the loss of a parent and going blind When this study was replicated in 2001, 6th grade students rated retention as the single most stressful life event, higher than both the loss of a parent and going blind Anderson, Jimerson, & Whipple, 2002

16 Why is retention a failed “intervention”?
Retention is not preventive and attempts to remedy problems that have already occurred Most often nothing different happens for the retained child other than a repeat of the school year In the absence of specialized interventions during the retention year, students are exposed to a class/program that were not beneficial the first time There is often a general failure to address the risk factors associated with retention Members of decision-making teams may use data selectively and recommendations to retain or promote may be subject to bias. Being retained one year almost doubled a student’s likelihood of dropping out, while failing twice almost guarantees it. Retention is the second greatest predictor of school drop-out Being overage for a grade may result in stigma in later school years and exacerbate behavioral and social-emotional adjustment problems

17 Other relevant data classified students who may need up to their 21st year to graduate lose a year at the end of their educational career and may not have enough time to earn the required credits to graduate. the threat of non-promotion is not a motivating force for students grade retention does not generally improve achievement or adjustment for developmentally immature students economically, grade retention is a poor use of the education dollar, because it increases the cost of education without any benefits for the vast majority of retained children

18 Educators’ views on retention
A study by Range, Holt, Pijanowski, & Young (2012) discovered the following information: Educators and principals differed on their views of grade retention For those who supported grade retention, the two most common reasons were “Prevents Future Failure” and “Maintains Standards.”

19 Research studies regarding retention:
First-in the spirit of transparency-research that did not identify retention as harmful: A few studies did not underscore grade retention as a bad practice (Hong & Yu, 2008; Gleason, Kwok, & Hughes, 2007). However, even those studies failed to look at grade retention over time. Therefore, even those select few studies that did not identify the practice as harmful were not able to substantiate that any benefit to grade retention is often lost in a few years (NASP, 2003). An additional recent study noted in Range et al. (2012) cited a study by McCombs indicating self-esteem was not impacted after 4 years.

20 Why turn to research? A caveat: Almost anyone will find exceptions to the rule. This includes testimonials of “it worked for these people I know.” Our practice toward grade retention must reflect research done on many children, while still keeping in account individual differences. Analyzing the success of practices is our professional duty. Despite our feelings toward any issue (and grade retention is an emotionally charged issue), we must turn to the body of research to guide how we work with children. We would not expect our doctors, cancer research specialists, etc. to rely on their feelings-we depend on them to rely on research.

21 Research by Anderson, Jimerson, & Whipple (2002).
Clearly past research has indicated that we are putting quite a toll on our youth in terms of stress when we opt to look at grade retention. Previous research has indicated that 6th grade students found retention to be the third most stressful event after losing a parent and going blind (NASP, 2003). Anderson et al.’s (2002) study found that 1st grade students found retention to be the 10th most stressful life event. Third graders found it to be the 5th most stressful and sixth graders found it to be the most stressful life event…even worse than losing a parent or going blind.

22 Research by Jimerson (2001).
As can be seen from the graph - the majority of effect sizes were zero on down; only a few were positive. Eighty percent of the studies showed a negative effect size.

23 Research by Jimerson (2001).
The last slide shows that in 80% of the studies that were selected, the effect size was either nil or negative. When one combines the research of the two studies, the research indicates that we are putting a heavy amount of stress on children for a practice that has an 80% nonsuccess rate. That’s like going to a doctor, undergoing a stressful medical procedure, that has an 80% failure rate.

24 Research by Ferguson, Jimerson, & Dalton (2001).
This was a longitudinal study following 106 students from K-11th grade. The research showed: Older retained students who showed early personal deficits were especially harmed by retention. Students with low SES and low parental education and low parental value of education were also especially harmed by retention. Something different must be done to head off educational problems.

25 Summary of research When combining the results of the past problem solving research-we have learned: Grade retention has been overwhelmingly shown to be an ineffective practice. For those studies where retention was not shown to be especially harmful- those studies did not identify results were sustained over time. The students we are often likely to retain are the most likely to be harmed by retention. When we retain students-we put one of the greatest life stressors on them with negligible to negative returns on this “investment.”

26 Local Statistics 47 students retained between 1999-2004
School Demographics 83% of students retained are students of color 55.3% of retained students are African American 27.7% of retained students are Hispanic 50% of retained students were later referred to CSE and classified – AFTER THEIR RETENTION 65% are students of color African American – 22% Hispanic or Latino – 42% White – 27% Asian/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander – 5% Native American – 1%

27 When other factors are controlled, retention N becomes 28.
53% of retained students did not graduate Of those not graduating: African American - 57% Hispanic - 28% White -17% Local Demographics: African American – 22% Hispanic or Latino – 42% White – 27% When other factors are controlled, retention N becomes 28. Controlling for those who transferred out of district, are not yet at the point of graduation

28 National Academy of Education (1991): "Research conducted in recent years on grade retention has led educators to make the connection that holding young people back in schools holds them back in life" (p. 53).

29 Foster (1993): “Recent literature in the field, however, presents conclusive evidence against retaining children... A large number of other meta-analyses and synthesis of retention studies confirm the notion that children recommended for retention, but promoted anyway, do at least as well or better than similar children who were retained in order to improve their academic skills. ... If the goal of retention is to enhance academic achievement, implementation fails to realize this goal" (p. 39).

30 House (1989): Students are retained in rather arbitrary and inconsistent ways, and those flunked are more likely to be poor, males and minorities, although holding students back is practiced to some degree in rich and poor schools alike. The effects of flunking are immediately traumatic to the children and the retained children do worse academically in the future, with many of them dropping out of school altogether. Incredibly, being retained has as much to do with children dropping out as does their academic achievement. It would be difficult to find another educational practice on which the evidence is so unequivocally negative.

31 How many of you use this to help you make retention decisions?

32 Test review for Light’s Retention Scale
Spencenier, L.J. (2010) says: “seems to be a dusted-off relic, dug up from a different era of time. Much of the research cited is over 10 years old and outdated.” “Much of the data that support the categories used to identify students are outdated. This scale has limited use and value.”

33 Test review for Light’s Retention Scale
Suen (2010) says: “There is a large host of reliability and validity questions regarding the precision of the scores, the margin of scoring error, the appropriateness of the weights, the predictive accuracy of the total scores regarding retention effectiveness, and many other questions of score-related reliability and validity that remain unanswered.” “There is little evidence that the scoring scheme leads to scores that are meaningful, reliable, or useful. Additionally, the guidelines for score interpretation seem to be arbitrary and without any theoretical or empirical support” Suen did comment that he thought the domains were useful but more from a guidance perspective and not a quantitative perspective.

34 Retention Policies What does your school district’s retention policy look like? 10.pdf

35 It is rare in educational research to find so many studies with a similar conclusion: retention is not a successful intervention to assist students either academically or personally. John Hattie, 2004

36 The retention inoculation toolkit

37 When you hear: “How can we send my child to the next grade when he/she hasn’t mastered everything they need to in this grade?” You will say: “It’s understandable that this would be a concern. However, even if your child repeated this grade-does this make the problem go away? If it’s a disability-does the disability go away? If it’s a difficulty-does the difficulty go away? Those things are still present and while maybe your child will get better at the material for that grade level-the next grade level is all new and their disability, difficulty, emotional difficulties still interfere. Only this time-they see people younger than they are surpassing them.” “Is it better to do the same thing again when it hasn’t worked this year? Or should we look to the root of the problem and help the child make real growth?”

38 When you hear: “But the state test is next year, and there is no way they’ll pass it”, you’ll answer: So if grade retention has been shown to be harmful to a child (as you will have provided the research for this), is it okay to harm a child so they will maybe get a better score on the state test?

39 When you hear: “Let’s give him the gift of time”, you’ll say:
Children can attend school until they are 21; retention does not add a year onto this law. Are you prepared to take a year away from them while they’re trying to get credits to graduate?

40 When you hear: “Research isn’t everything”, you’ll say:
“Would you be okay if your doctor said this to you?”

41 When you hear: “Let’s give them one more year before we test them”, you will say:
If there’s suspicion of a disability, we are legally required to evaluate right away. Students with disabilities are not good candidates for retention. Wouldn’t we want to make sure the student is not disabled before we engage in this practice?

42 …it is critical to emphasize to educators and parents that a century of research has failed to demonstrate the benefits of grade retention over promotion to the next grade for any group of students. Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes Anderson, Whipple, & Jimerson 2002

43 Range et al. (2012) said this about teacher perspectives:
“Educators in this school district clearly show what others have found: that current research does little to sway the views of practitioners. Most importantly, this study differentiated between the views of teachers and principals, with teachers being much more supportive of the use of grade retention. Universities must do a better job at educating preservice teachers concerning the negative consequences associated with retention and training them on research-based interventions that support struggling students” (p. 12).

44 References Anderson, G. E., Jimerson, S. R., & Whipple, A.D. (2002). Student's ratings of stressful experiences at home and school: Loss of a parent and grade retention as superlative stressors. Manuscript prepared for publication, available from authors at the University of California, Santa Barbara Anderson, G. E., Whipple, A.D., & Jimerson, S. R. (2002). Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes. Retrieved October 15, 2014, Jimerson, S., Ferguson, P., Whipple, A., Anderson, G., & Dalton, M. (2002). Exploring the association between grade retention and dropout: A longitudinal study examining socio-emotional, behavioral, and achievement characteristics of retained students. California School Psychologist, 7, Retrieved September 28, 2009, from PsycINFO database. Gleason, K., Kwok, O., & Hughes, J. (2007, March). The Short-Term Effect of Grade Retention on Peer Relations and Academic Performance of At-Risk First Graders. Elementary School Journal, 107(4), Retrieved September 28, 2009, from Education Research Complete database

45 References Range, B.G., Holt, C., Pijanowski, J., & Young, S. (2012). The Perceptions of Primary Grade Teachers and Elementary Principals about the Effectiveness of Grade Level Retention. The Professional Educator, 36(1), 1-17. Making the Grade: Beyond Retention and Social Promotion. Pasco County Schools Hong, G., & Yu, B. (2008, March). Effects of Kindergarten Retention on Children's Social- Emotional Development: An Application of Propensity Score Method to Multivariate, Multilevel Data. Developmental Psychology, 44(2), Retrieved September 28, 2009, doi: /

46 Some other resources Grade Retention & Special Education:--A Call for a Transparent System of Accountability Retention & FAPE: What Does the Research Say? Doing Your Homework: Retention! Special Ed Teacher Needs Ammunition Retention, Delays and Social Promotion: Grade Retention and dyslexia: Is Grade Retention Educational Malpractice Visible learning-- retention is ranked as one of the worst things you could do to a student: ible_LearningRanking_7F15A33DEECCA.pdf The major issues in the Retention debate:

47 Some other resources Questioning retention Does Retention (Repeating a grade) Help Struggling Learners: Does the Timing of Grade Retention Make a Difference? Examining the Effects of Early Versus Later Retention: Effects of Kindergarten Retention Policy on Children's Cognitive Growth in Reading and Mathematics: Dissertation--there is a good section on alternatives to retention: Alternatives to Retention in Grade: Alternatives to Grade Retention: Beyond Grade Retention and Social Promotion: Promoting The Social And Academic Competence Of Students: ntion.pdf

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