The effect of grade retention on academic and social-behavioral outcomes for students with disabilities in elementary grades




Yang, Man

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There is a lack of research examining the rates and effect of grade retention, a widely used intervention at schools, among students with disabilities. The existing research evidence of retention effects among students without disabilities remains inconclusive, which might result from the differences in analytical methodologies, sample selections and measurement errors. The purpose of the present study was to examine the retention rates, academic and behavioral trajectories of retained versus promoted students with disabilities, and the effect of grade retention for students with disabilities using the nationally representative Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS) dataset. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was conducted to investigate the trajectories of being retained at three different time points (kindergarten, first and second grade) on later academic and social development trajectories among students with disabilities (N = 13,176). Propensity score matching (PSM) was used to infer causal inferences by creating two equivalent groups matched on a set of baseline measures. Results indicated that retention rates for students with disabilities are much higher than that for students without disabilities reported in previous studies. In addition, retention rates differ, albeit slightly, by student demographic characteristics such as race, gender, EL status, family income and disability types. Retained students with disabilities do not differ significantly from their promoted peers in terms of academic and behavioral trajectories with an exception of mathematics at kindergarten. The analysis of propensity score matching indicated that there is no effect of grade retention on reading performances but retention results in significant worse math performances for students with disabilities.


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