Does Repeating a Grade Help?


Do struggling students improve when forced to repeat a grade? A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California offers evidence that, at least in some cases, the answer may be yes.

PPIC looked at the process of holding back students -- known as "retention" -- in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state's largest (approximately 1 in 9 California students attend LAUSD). The key finding: students who repeated first or second grade made significant gains. From the report:

"Retention is a severe step, but it can benefit struggling students. We find that students  retained in the first or second grade can significantly improve their grade-level skills during their repeated year. Gains in reading skills among students retained in the first grade are significant and widely experienced. Among those retained in the second grade, the level  of improvement in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics is also remarkable—many students improve at least one proficiency level and a significant percentage attain proficient  status, with larger shares in math (41%) than in ELA (18 percent)."

The full report can be found here.


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