During my days of schooling and it is perhaps true up till now, retention is seen as bad. In a world where nobody is perfect and failure is inevitable, it is indeed surprising that retention is widely perceived as detrimental. A lot of research do show that retention may have negative effects. However, it should be clear that what is actually done with retention can significantly affect the outcome. ASCD's article, What Research Says About... / Grade Retention
, ends with a wise statement, "Without early diagnosis and targeted intervention, struggling students are unlikely to catch up whether they are promoted or retained."
Thus, studying the effects of retention must be carefully designed. A paper scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology
, looks at the effects of retention by examining more than a hundred students that have been retained from a total sample of more than a thousand students in 42 secondary schools in Germany. The first sentence of its abstract reads:
Consistently with a priori predictions, school retention (repeating a year in school) had largely positive effects for a diverse range of 10 outcomes (e.g., math self-concept, self-efficacy, anxiety, relations with teachers, parents and peers, school grades, and standardized achievement test scores).
I think the outcome "relations with teachers, parents and peers" measures much more than the effect of retention. The fact that retained students in this study speaks positively of their relations with both teachers and parents speaks volume of what actually happens when a student is retained in these cases.
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