Public School Grade Retention Rates in the United States: Estimates by State, Grade, Year, and Race/Ethnicity

John R. Warren, University of Minnesota
James Saliba, University of Minnesota

Being made to repeat a grade in school is one of the strongest predictors of subsequent educational, social, and developmental outcomes. What is more, unlike almost all other strong predictors of outcomes like high school dropout or mental health, grade retention is the result of intentional policies that are under the immediate control of school personnel. Despite all of this, we know exceptionally little about the rate at which American students are made to repeat grades (especially at the state level). In this paper, we describe a new technique for estimating the national and state-level rates at which American public elementary school students are made to repeat grades. We will produce estimates by grade of enrollment; by state and race/ethnicity; and for multiple academic years. Our state estimates are extremely highly correlated (r=0.92) with credible rates published by the handful of states with strong longitudinal student tracking systems.

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Presented in Session 33: State and School Policies