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Volume 30, Issue 3 (2001)

Meta-Analysis of Grade Retention Research: Implications for Practice in the 21st Century

pp. 420—437

Abstract. Retaining a child at grade level has become increasingly popular, consistent with the emphasis on accountability and standards in elementary education.This article provides a comprehensive review of the research examining the academic and socioemotional outcomes associated with grade retention. Following a brief historical overview of previously published literature reviews, a summary of studies published between 1990 and 1999 is provided. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 20 recent studies includes: outcome variables (i.e., achievement and socio emotional adjustment), age or grade of retained population, matched or controlled for variables in analyses with comparison groups, and the overall conclusion regarding the efficacy of grade retention. Results of recent studies and this meta-analysis are consistent with past literature reviews from the 1970s and 1980s.In addition to a summary of the results, the discussion addresses the disparity between educational practice and converging research regarding grade retention and suggests directions for practice. This review encourages researchers, educational professionals, and legislators to abandon the debate regarding social promotion and grade retention in favor of a more productive course of action in the new millennium.

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