EARLI SIG 18 edition:3 location:Zürich date:29 - 31 August 2012
Every year, many children make the transition from kindergarten to first grade, a period in which children develop rapidly. Children of this age differ tremendously in their readiness to learn, saddling parents and educators with the question of ‘what to do when a child seems barely ready to meet the expectations of primary education’. One option is to adopt a practice of retaining struggling children in kindergarten rather than promoting them to first grade. This policy is based on the belief that granting a child more time to mature will prevent failure and frustration in later academic life. However, opponents argue that kindergarten retention deprives children of access to meaningful intellectual challenges and disrupts children’s academic growth. This controversy is reinforced by previous research, yielding inconsistent research findings and often facing methodological shortcomings. Using multilevel propensity score stratification, we attempt to face these shortcomings and to answer the question of ‘how kindergarten repeaters develop throughout primary education with regard to mathematics achievement in comparison to equally at –risk but promoted (1) younger grade-mates and (2) age-mates who are in a higher grade’. We control for several covariates by utilizing three-level estimated propensity scores. Preliminary results suggest that in the repeated year, repeaters perform better compared to equally at-risk younger grade-mates who will promote to first grade. However, this academic advantage already disappears by the end of first grade, where kindergarten repeaters do not perform better in mathematics achievement compared to equally at-risk, but promoted, grade-mates.