test scores are low, schools often use them to determine whether or not
a student should pass on to the next grade with his or her peers.
The benefits of repeating a grade do not outweigh the costs. Short-term
improvements are lost as new material is presented.
Not only is this practice ineffective at improving academic performance, it can have long-term harmful effects on a studentís social, emotional, and academic outcomes such as:
· Reduced confidence
and self esteem,
· Increased behavior problems
· Higher dropout rates
· Lower academic and employment outcomes
· Decreased likelihood of receiving a diploma or going on to college
· Lower pay per hour
A very important study by Jimerson (1999) followed kids for 21 years. It included students who were held back in school, low-achieving students who were not held back, and control (average) students. It showed that students who are held back had a higher probability of poorer educational and employment outcomes during late adolescence. The low scoring students who were not held back turned out no different from the average scoring students. This means that even students who have low scores can eventually catch up to their higher scoring peers!
Why is it so important for students not to be held back?
During childhood and
adolescent development, social and emotional adjustment can be extremely
important. Being a part of a peer group has implications for social
development that extend into adulthood. Academics are not the only
factor in adult success. When children are held back in school they
donít remain with the same peer group, which makes social adjustment more
difficult. Emotionally, they feel inferior to others. They
lose motivation to try in school because they have already been labeled
as incompetent. This is likely to lead to higher dropout rates and
poorer grades. Without emotional and social stability, kids donít
do well in school, no matter how smart they are or how well taught.
These problems are even more difficult to address once a student reaches
adolescence. Parents and teachers canít afford to wait until middle
school or high school to solve these problems.
Prevention, Intervention, and Alternative Solutions
How can we prevent kids from getting behind in school? One way is to know who is most likely to have problems. Studies have shown several predictors of students being held back in school such as:
· Low test scores
and grades at early levels
· Boys are more likely than girls to be held back
· Low parental involvement in childís education
· The number of times a child has changed schools
If we know what to look for, we can be more successful at preventing low grades and scores instead of trying to improve them later. These predictors tell us that we should intervene at earlier grades, pay more attention to boys with academic problems, increase parental participation and involvement, and provide attention to and adjustment for kids who have changed schools. It is tough for teachers to get parents involved, sometimes especially the ones whose children perform poorly.
Psychologists and educators have offered many Alternative Solutions such as:
and increasing professional development for better teacher performance
· Providing targeted and timely support to students with academic problems
· Interaction with students of varying ages and achievement levels
· Restructuring the curriculum of early grades to reflect the developmental stages of learning
· Providing extra assistance programs such as tutoring, classroom interventions, and special programs
· Increasing the influence teachers have in the decision making process and understanding the influence of state and local school policies on these decisions
· Adopting an orientation toward learning and student progress with consideration to the rate and manner in which children naturally learn.
For example: Using the amount of progress a student has made over the year as the basis of achievement evaluation.
Teachers know their students on a much closer level than standardized tests do!
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This page last updated June 15, 2000.