Posted by: nancycurteman | May 27, 2010

10 Research-Based Reasons Repeating a Grade Hurts Children

Research findings over the last 50 years have indicated that retaining students in a grade has negative rather than positive consequences. Carefully consider these points before you agree to allow your child to repeat a grade:

1. Research shows that repeating a grade does not benefit children academically or socially in the long run.

2. There is abundant evidence that retained students would have achieved higher results in math and reading had they been promoted.

3. Retention may have helped the struggling learner only in the year after the retention when he was repeating everything, but gains quickly dropped off in a couple years. In fact, the advantage of first grade retention no longer existed in reading and mathematics by third grade.

4. On standardized tests, students who repeated a grade continued to score below other low-performing students who had not repeated a grade.

5. Children who had repeated a grade showed poorer social adjustment, more negative attitudes towards school, more problem behaviors and poorer attendance.

6. A greater percentage of retained students drop out of high school, in contrast to the low-achieving but promoted students. In fact, retained students are 2 to 11 times more likely to drop out of high school than promoted students” (Wiley).

7. Wiley’s research indicated that grade level retention would cause serious harm and destroy the academic futures for most students (Wiley, 2006).

8. Research as early as the 1970’s has reported that retention is harmful to students (Jackson, 1975).

9. Negative student outcomes appear as lower academic achievement, poor self-esteem, and dropping out of school (Jimerson, & Kaufman, 2003; Anderson, Whipple, & Jimerson, 2002).

10. A child never completely recovers from being left behind in a grade while his/her peers move up. Ask a child who has been retained what grade he/she is in. The sad reply is always the same, e.g. “I’m in fourth but I should be in fifth.”


  1. Very interesting. I was held back in 7th grade, and it could have been devastating, but it was barely noticable. We moved so often that the repeated year was in a different city, and a different school.


  2. With all the other options available, I’m surprised that forcing a child to repeat a grade is still practiced.

    Fun fact: repeating a grade created the fictional character Captain “Ace” Rimmer in the Red Dwarf series.


  3. Even more telling than the research is #10 ~ a child’s eye view of the world.

    Great post, Nancy!


  4. I enjoyed reading this post, but it also raises a lot of old arguments for me. I agree that students should not repeat a grade. Although my justification is different from the arguments listed. To me, it seems redundant and financially irresponsible. Most likely the difficulty arises from the manner in which the subject is taught, not an inability to comprehend.

    Schools today have become ‘streamlined’ much like businesses. They are designed to satisfy the majority or the average, but leave little margin for error for any who fall outside of these parameters. It would be nice if schools were flexible enough to tailor education to a students strengths and weaknesses.

    For example, I have always been stronger in the ‘arts’ and I barely passed my math and science classes. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand, I just didn’t care. I still had to take all of the English classes that were required of me and I found them boring because I the teachers were repeating much of the material – for students who didn’t really care. I stopped going to school.

    If I had been able to take advanced English classes that interested me and …. I don’t know…. take a science fiction based research course, I would have become more interested in math and science. That was why I went back to college, I was writing a science fiction story and I needed a better foundation in physics. I like math and science now.

    But on another note:
    Nancy, do you believe that students should be allowed to skip grades?


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