Grade retention and school performance: An extended investigation

Ann R. McCoy, Arthur J. Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


A follow-up study of the predictors and consequences of grade retention up to age 14 was conducted. This study investigated the effects of retention on school achievement, perceived school competence, and delinquency. The study sample included 1,164 low-income, minority (95% Black, 5% Hispanic) children from the Chicago Longitudinal Study. This was 93% of the original study by Reynolds (1992). Twenty-eight percent of the study sample were retained-in-grade by age 14 (first grade-eighth grade). The strongest predictors of retention were early school performance (test scores and grades), gender (boys were more likely to be retained), parental participation in school, and the number of school moves. Grade retention was significantly associated with lower reading and mathematics achievement at age 14, above and beyond an extensive set of explanatory variables. Results based on same-age comparison groups yielded larger effects of retention on school achievement than results based on same-grade comparison groups. Both approaches, however, indicated that grade retention was associated with significantly lower reading achievement. Grade retention was not related either to perceived school competence at age 12 or to delinquency infractions at age 14. With one exception, the effects of early grade retention (Grades 1-3) were similar to those of later grade retention (Grades 4-7). Like the earlier study, these findings suggest that intervention approaches other than grade retention are needed to better promote school achievement and adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-298
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of school psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was completed during the first author's postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Preparation of this article was supported by grants from the National Institute on the Education of At-Risk Students, U.S. Department of Education (Grant R306F0055), and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD34294).


  • Achievement
  • Competence
  • Delinquency
  • Predictors
  • Retention


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