Against student Retention focusing on grades K-12 (elementary middle and high school)
Retaining a student at the same grade at school for a second year is not academically and economically justified as proved by the new report from University of Maine College of Education and Human Development. This research paper will support this statement and provide some background of retention programs. Many schools have adopted stricter promotion standards after Nation at Risk report in 1983. However, it resulted in higher retention grades instead of increased student motivation and did not improve school effectiveness.
K-12 is a term used in education for publicly supported school grades prior to college. The letter K stands for kindergarten and letter 12 indicates the 1st through 12th grades. It has been estimated that about 5 to 7 percent of students are retained each year in United States. Moreover, about half of all students have failed a grade and some even left the school. The conclusion made out of this statistics is that retention by itself does not benefit academically “risk” students. It only burdens them with extra year of school and creates expenditures of estimated $10 billion for schools annually.
It is ineffective to hold students back at the same grade. There have been numerous researches done which prove that retention does not raise achievement or solve learning problems of students. Nevertheless, it is the best short-term solutions to many schools. The retention percent is growing constantly, but the achievement level does not change and according to some researches even falls.
Leaving the student at the same grade twice is not the only form of retention. Indirect retention also includes delayed entry to kindergarten, multi-aged classrooms and transition grades. There are many alternatives to retention, for example, closer observation and teaching to the needs of individuals is labor intensive however, it will bring more positive results.
It is an interesting fact that majority of the retention United States is the kindergarten and the first grade. After retention they actually show gains in academic expectations, but these gains are evaporated in the 7th grade. Students who have problems with learning will not succeed by simple repetition of the material twice. In addition, retained children very often have parents who did not graduate from high school. Thus the roots of the problem are much deeper and need some other solution than repetition of the same grade.
Male students are twice more likely to be retained than female students. After retention students did not show decreased achievement, but also no improved performance was observed. From the other hand, some researches found that retention can actually be beneficial if students are retained not more than for one year and retention is combined with intensive remedial assistance.
Retention can even harm the academic achievement. School promotion is like social promotion. For underachieving child promotion is view as the best interest from academic sight. Such children perform even worse on average after retention. Many students who had to repeat the grade are more likely to drop out before graduation.
Schools should provide extra instructional help or after school programs, summer school and peer-tutoring. The cost of these programs can be high, but as mentioned above, retention costs are much higher. Retention also affects the self-esteem of students.
Many schools have started to refuse from retention programs. For example, New York City school announced that students of 4th and 7th grade will not be left for the second time if they scored poorly on standardized tests. Harold Raynolds Jr, the Massachusetts commissioner of education, stated that discretionary grants will be awarded only to schools, which have adopted some other alternatives to retention programs. In Chicago schools are re-evaluating their promotion policies as a part of reform obligatory according to the state legislature.
Teachers hold students back a year for several reasons. They believe that retention makes students more mature and master their deficient skills. If it was true, the drop out level would decrease each year when in reality it falls continuously. Some view retention as an insurance of the competency of high school graduates. However, in 1989 the synopsis of about 60 studies was done and revealed that students who were retained performed more poorly compared with the students of similar achievements who went directly to the next grade. Retention does not help.
In addition, the decision to retain is often made for non-academic reasons. It is the fact that males, minorities and low-income level children are more likely to be retained. Even after considering academic achievements, such children can be singled out unfairly. Retention status is determined by cut-off scores on standardized tests and makes students responsible for such issues as poor instruction and disruptive environment.
School districts need to provide retained students with the material, which is different from the first time. It is not done in most cases. For example, in Philadelphia school district students are retained based not only on the scores but also on the teacher’s judgement. It worth to mention, that retention level at this district is 22(!) percent. However, not-promoted students have to visit summer school and receive support services during the year (tutoring and mentoring) to make the repetition more effective.
Philadelphia also started the program created especially for students with multiple retentions: they were paired with four teachers and an assistant who provided extra instruction for several years. However, even such program did not benefit students and all benefits diminished over time: the differences in academic excellence between promoted and retained students disappeared. The conclusion is that it is not enough to promote the students with poor performance but to provide continuous help and support.
The retention in the elementary and middle school is even more unfair because children at this age develop unevenly and very rapidly. It is a bad idea to install the sense of failure into young students from the beginning of their studying. However, 72% of citizens favour stricter grade promotion standards. They key problem is still financial: most alternatives to retention cost money requested in the district budget, while retention costs belong to general education budget and are paid by state.
It does not matter, whether to be for or against the retention programs. The prevalence of retention points out that there are deficiencies in the education which need to be solved. High retention level tells that are many students who are not ready to move into the next grade. The threat of retention may serve as a stick in some cases to make students perform better and for teachers to offer better instruction. However, this threat of participation in summer school may be equally effective because it provides additional opportunities for learning. The students who are retained usually do not get support and help while repeating the same material and as a result they disengage from school.
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