Martin R. West
Recent studies that isolate the causal impact of retaining low-achieving students cast further doubt on the conventional view that retention leads to negative outcomes. Much of this work has focused on Florida, which since 2003 has required that many third graders scoring at the lowest performance level on the state reading test be retained and provided with intensive remediation. Students retained under Florida’s test-based promotion policy perform at higher levels than their promoted peers in both reading and math for several years after repeating third grade; they are also less likely to be retained in a subsequent grade. Although it is too soon to analyze the policy’s effects on students’ ultimate educational attainment and labor-market success, this new evidence suggests that policies encouraging the retention and remediation of struggling readers can be a useful complement to broader efforts to reduce the number of students reading below grade level.