University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

The Effect of Grade Retention on High School Completion

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February 2009

Brian Jacob, Lars Lefgren

Abstract

Low-achieving students in many school districts are retained in a grade in order to allow them to gain the academic or social skills that teachers believe are necessary to succeed academically. In this paper, we use plausibly exogenous variation in retention generated by a test-based promotion policy to assess the causal impact of grade retention on high school completion. We find that retention among younger students does not affect the likelihood of high school completion, but that retaining low-achieving eighth grade students in elementary school substantially increases the probability that these students will drop out of high school.

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Keywords: Education & Schools

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