Center Makes Policy Statement on Grade Retention

by Jay Smink

Although the National Dropout Prevention Center has been vocal in its support of a variety of educational strategies, especially the  Fifteen Effective Strategies for Dropout Prevention, the policy statement you see here in opposition to grade retention is our first on an educational issue.

Why Grade Retention? And Why Now?

The issue of retention has been studied extensively by many researchers, and this research has been monitored by the Center staff over the past decade. The evidence of its negative effect on students’ emotional development, social behavior, academic achievement, and dropping out continues to be overwhelming. The current climate of increased accountability, while laudatory in its goal of high expectations, nevertheless needs to be accountable itself to the fact that retention of students does not work.

This policy piece challenges educators, parents, and concerned community members to join in working with local, state, and national policymakers to develop policies which combine accountability with responsible actions that promote the success of every child.

The concept of continuous improvement is one that is supported by research, and efforts need to be made to develop policies and educational practices that support what research reveals about child development. The current rigid grade level requirements imposed upon children—which are not based on research—drive the debate today. Responsible educators and parents need to speak out, loudly and clearly, on this important issue.

Yes, educators should have high expectations. But, they should not forget their knowledge of how and when children learn. To do otherwise would be to shirk their responsibilities to the children in America’s schools today.