Title: Grade retention. The role of the national educational policy and the effects on students' academic achievement, psychosocial functioning, and school career
Other Titles: Grade retention. The role of the national educational policy and the effects on students' academic achievement, psychosocial functioning, and school career
Authors: Goos, Mieke
Issue Date: 24-Apr-2013
Abstract: Within any class, there is typically considerable variation in students’ cognitive and psychosocial skills. This heterogeneity challenges educators in their attempts to guarantee high educational standards and raises the question what to do when students are struggling. In Flanders, struggling students are commonly retained in the same grade for an extra school year, instead of promoted to the next grade level. Though intuitively appealing—by being granted more time to acquire the knowledge and skills prerequisite for the next grade—it is also highly controversial. International studies have demonstrated that, with the exception of some small positive effects on their psychosocial functioning, repeaters do not benefit much from their retention year. In addition, this practice incurs high costs for the educational system. Therefore, it is important to investigate the effects of this practice in the Flemish context as well, in order to inform educational policy and practice.This dissertation contains four manuscripts, connected by a common focus on grade retention. In a first part (Manuscript 1), the practice of grade retention in Flanders is placed in a broader international perspective, as not all countries worldwide opt for this practice to deal with student heterogeneity. Data from the PISA 2009 study, Education at a Glance brochures, and the TALIS 2007 study are analyzed. Then, in a second part (Manuscript 2, 3, and 4), the focus of this dissertation is shifted towards examining the effectiveness of first-grade retention in Flanders, using data from the SiBO study in which about 4,000 students were followed throughout their primary school career.Manuscript 1 examines the extent to which the national educational policy is related to differences in students’ probability of repeating a grade in primary and lower-secondary education across the 34 OECD member countries. Findings indicate that a remarkable amount of variation in the likelihood of student grade retention lies at the country level. National educational policy factors, however, seem to account for this variation only partly, indicating that traditions and societal beliefs regarding the benefits of grade retention also play a role in the explanation for international differences in grade retention rates.In Manuscript 2, the effects of repeating first grade on Flemish children’s academic growth, psychosocial growth, and school career throughout primary education are examined. Results show that first-grade repeaters seem, at least for a part of their primary school career, behind in academic skills and psychosocial skills in comparison to their equally at-risk but continuously promoted, younger grademates, while they seemingly would have performed better and would have developed a similar or even better psychosocial functioning, had they been promoted to second grade instead of been held back. Furthermore, findings suggest that, if not retained, they would have been less likely to transition to special education, move to another school, and go to the B trackin secondary education.Manuscript 3 elaborates these results by investigating the moderating role of extra support received during the retention year. Results show that almost 60% of first-grade repeaters receive at least some kind of extra support, mostly from several persons and for a combination of problem domains. Findings, however, also reveal that extra support by someone at or outside school barely matters, in that first-grade repeaters, even if additionally supported while retained, still would have performed better and would have shown a similar or even better psychosocial functioning if promoted to second grade instead of held back, (mostly) regardless of being additionally supported.Finally, Manuscript 4 explores why struggling first-grade students perform so much worse when retained. Findings demonstrate that disrupted relationships with peers play a role but cannot explain all differences.We hope that the findings of this dissertation can encourage (a) other researchers to extend our work to, for instance, other regions, grades retained, determinants, effectiveness criteria (e.g., cross-school differences, peers’ school adjustment, graduation, labor market position), mediating mechanisms, moderating variables, and methodological approaches (e.g., cluster-randomized design, measurement error adjustment, multilevel multiple imputation), (b) first-grade teachers to better monitor their students’ academic achievement progress so as to identify students at risk for developing school difficulties at an earlier stage, (c) schools to use interventions for these struggling first-graders that have been proven to be effective, from the exact first moment difficulties arise, and to promote them to second grade as much as possible, while additionally supporting them in all challenges encountered there, and (d) educational policy makers to rethink the allocation of resources currently used for paying repeaters’ extra school year to make these suggested actions feasible.
Table of Contents: CHAPTER 1. General introduction
1.1. Introduction
1.2. The PISA 2009 study, Education at a Glance, and the TALIS 2007 study
1.3. The SiBO study
1.4. Common methodological aspects
1.5. Structure and content of this dissertation

CHAPTER 2. How can cross-country differences in the practice of grade retention be explained? A closer look at national educational policy factors
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Method
2.3. Results
2.4. Discussion

CHAPTER 3. First-grade retention: Effects on children’s academic growth, psychosocial growth, and school career throughout primary education
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Method
3.3. Results
3.4. Discussion

CHAPTER 4. Is first-grade retention mere rehearsal? A closer look at extra support received and its consequences on repeaters’ academic achievement and psychosocial functioning
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Method
4.3. Results
4.4. Discussion

CHAPTER 5. First-grade retention, peer relationships, and academic achievement: An application of causal mediation analysis
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Method
5.3. Results
5.4. Discussion

CHAPTER 6. General discussion
6.1. Main dissertation findings
6.2. Strengths, limitations, and suggestions for future research
6.3. Implications for educational policy and practice
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Educational Effectiveness and Evaluation
Methodology of Educational Sciences
Parenting and Special Education

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