If Johnny can’t read by the end of first grade, should he repeat the grade or move on with his friends? Texas schools are struggling with the question, reports the Houston Chronicle. Most studies show students who are held back never catch up, but some educators think retention helps if it’s done before students fall too far behind.
A study by University of Houston sociology professor Gary Dworkin showed that students who were held back because they failed Texas’ standardized test went on to greater academic and social success.
“Higher retention rates, when it’s done very early, ends up to be somewhat beneficial to the kids, as opposed to doing nothing or to socially promoting them and hoping they pick up the material,” Dworkin said.
“The best we could say is that it was not harmful in ways that earlier studies conveyed,” Dworkin said.
Some schools are trying “partial promotion,” which lets students take most classes with students their own age but do remedial work in reading or math. Texas is trying intensive reading remediation in the summer for first graders who aren’t quite ready for second grade.
Even if holding students back doesn’t help them catch up, it arguably helps teachers and other students by narrowing the range of skills in higher grades.