In the Media

At Psychology Today, doctoral student Kathleen Day discusses student retention

Is there value in holding back struggling students?

Kathleen Day, a doctoral student in Educational Psychology, Measurement and Evaluation program, looks at that question in a blog post at Psychology Today.

Retention, in which struggling students are held back to repeat a grade level, is a practice that affects roughly 2.4 million students at some point in their education, Day reports. But many studies have suggested that retaining students negatively affects their development, she says.

“Researchers have associated retention with decreases in school engagement, motivation, academic performance, and feelings of academic competence. Retention has also been related to issues with emotional, behavioral, social adjustment and school dropout,” Day writes. “Students of color, males, and students who are poor are also more likely to be retained. This is especially troubling considering that many of these students are already in need of increased support, not more educational barriers.

“A few studies have shown positive gains for retained students, but often those studies have a few critical issues. For instance, these researchers have been unclear whether the gains from retention are merely the result of maturation,” Day says.

She says there are three things that need to happen:

  • Researchers must more thoroughly analyze the value of retention practices.
  • Researchers need to do more work on other options for students who might be retained.
  • A serious conversation must be held between researchers, educators, and policy makers regarding retention.

Read Day’s blog post here.