The effect of grade-level retention on student success as defined by the Student Success Initiative of Texas
Public education in the United States is currently enveloped in an era of intense accountability. At the national level the No Child Left Behind Act, demands accountability in any district or school receiving federal funds One of the goals of the No Child Left Behind legislation had its roots in the Texas education accountability statute of 1999, when former governor George W. Bush signed into law a mandate that became known as the Student Success Initiative. That law required students in the 3rd grade to pass the state reading assessment in order to be promoted to the 4th grade, beginning in the year 2003. The same group of students would be required to pass their 5th and 8th grade reading and math exams to be promoted to the next grade level. The initiative continued for all students. In opposition to the those policies, the body of research regarding grade-level retention concludes that the practice of grade retention is ineffective in increasingstudent achievement (Jimerson, 2001, Harness, 1984, McCoy, 1999). This study examined the Student Success Initiative in Texas. The goal was to determine whether retention in 3rd, 5th, or 8th grade made a signification difference in subsequent TAKS scores in comparison with students who were placed in the next grade level by the official Grade Placement Committee. Data was analyzed from three large urban school districts in Texas. Results were consistent across the three school districts. Students who were retained in third grade performed better the subsequent year in third grade, but those successes did not continue consistently through the 5th and 8th grade years. Students retained in 5th grade for math performed poorly on subsequent tests, as did students retained in the 8th grade for reading or math. However, the group of students that was retained in 5th grade due to failure of the TAKS Reading test exhibited success in the subsequent year as well as the 8th grade year. Overall, TAKS students who were retained did not perform better than students who were placed in the next grade level as they progressed through 8th grade.