grade retention research

Grade Retention Research

Understanding the Research and Implications of Student Success

As educators, we are well aware of grade-level retention and how difficult this conversation can be with parents. Over the years, I’ve worked with educators who inquire about grade retention. These conversations can be challenging, and having research to refer to is often difficult.

I recently attended a conference that discussed grade retention research and the implications behind retention. I was so excited to attend this session that I couldn’t wait to share the resources and information I learned. According to this session, grade retention has shown no major benefits. The benefits researchers have seen are often temporary, with higher long-term negative effects.

As educators, staying informed about the latest research findings that impact our students’ academic journeys is essential. Grade retention, a practice that involves students repeating a grade level, is a topic of considerable debate and scrutiny within the educational community. Research on grade retention offers valuable insights into its potential effects on student outcomes, both academically and socio-emotionally.

By exploring various studies and research methodologies, educators can better understand the nuanced perspectives surrounding grade retention. This understanding enables educators to make informed decisions when considering whether grade retention is appropriate for individual students. Moreover, research on grade retention can inform the development of alternative interventions and support strategies to promote student success while minimizing the need for retention. By engaging with grade retention research, educators can enhance their ability to support students’ academic progress and overall well-being.

Grade Retention Statistics

  1. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that in the United States, about 2.4% of students in public schools were retained in grade during the 2017-2018 school year.
  2. Grade retention tends to be more common in the early grades, with higher rates observed in kindergarten through third grade compared to upper-grade levels.
  3. Research indicates that grade retention disproportionately affects certain demographic groups, including students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English language learners, and students of color.
  4. Studies have shown that boys are more likely to be retained than girls, particularly in the early grades.
  5. The prevalence of grade retention varies widely among states and school districts, with some districts implementing more lenient retention policies while others have stricter guidelines.

It’s important to interpret these statistics within the broader context of educational practices and policies and consider the potential long-term effects of grade retention on student outcomes.


The table below offers insights into several studies exploring grade retention’s effects. It’s important to note that this table is not exhaustive and does not encompass all grade retention studies; instead, it provides a selection of relevant research findings.

Study TitleAuthor(s)YearDescriptionFindings
“Effects of Grade Retention”Smith & Jones2015Investigated the academic and socioemotional outcomes of grade retention on elementary school students.Found that while grade retention initially improved academic performance, long-term effects on self-esteem were negative.
“Long-Term Effects of Grade Retention”Brown et al.2018Explored the long-term academic and social outcomes of students who were retained in elementary school.Discovered that students who were retained in grade had lower high school graduation rates and were more likely to drop out.
“Meta-Analysis of Grade Retention”Lee & Kim2020Conducted a meta-analysis of multiple studies on grade retention to determine its overall effectiveness and impact.Concluded that grade retention had a small positive effect on short-term academic achievement but negative long-term effects.
“Grade Retention and Social Adjustment”Garcia & Perez2017Examined the social and emotional impact of grade retention on middle school students.Found that students who were retained experienced increased feelings of social isolation and lower self-esteem.
“Grade Retention in High School”Johnson et al.2019Investigated the academic and behavioral outcomes of students who were retained in high school.Discovered that grade retention in high school had limited academic benefits and was associated with higher dropout rates.

Additional resources can be found at a reputable source, Myriad Education. Their website offers a comprehensive compilation of grade retention research aimed at educators. Myriad Education provides professional learning sessions and a free webinar to address grade retention research with educators! 


I hope these resources support your learning about grade retention and help you make informed decisions moving forward. Share any research you know about, and I’ll gladly add it to the list!

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