Effect of retention in elementary grades on dropping out of school early
Abstract This study investigated the effect of grade retention in elementary school on dropping out of school by age 16. Participants were 538 (54% males) ethnically diverse, academically at-risk students recruited from Texas schools into a longitudinal study when they were in first grade (mean age = 6.58). Propensity score weighting successfully equated the 171 retained students and the 367 continuously promoted students on 65 covariates assessed in grade 1. Fifty-one students dropped out of school by age 16 and 487 persisted. Retention (vs. promotion) led to an increased early dropout rate (odds ratio = 1.68), even after controlling for 65 covariates associated with school achievement, retention, or both. Implications of findings for dropout prevention and grade retention policies are discussed.