Children’s early primary school experiences are associated with their adjustment to school and their later school success. Grade retention (repeating a grade) at an early age may indicate that a child has started school without adequate preparation and may continue to experience school problems in subsequent years. It may also measure the degree to which schools are able to respond to children from a variety of backgrounds.4
Table EA 1.2 presents data on the percentage of 2nd grade students who were retained in kindergarten and/or 1st grade as reported by their parents. Estimates are presented for 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1999.5
Trends in Grade Retention. Data in Table EA 1.2 indicate a decline in the proportion of 2nd graders retained in kindergarten and/or 1st grade, from 11 percent in 1991 to 8 percent in 1999 (see Figure EA 1.2).
Differences by Gender. A higher percentage of boys repeat kindergarten and/or 1st grade in 1991 and 1999 compared to girls (see Table EA 1.2). For example, in 1999, 10 percent of boys were retained, compared with 6 percent of girls.
Differences by Socioeconomic Status. Grade repetition differs by family poverty status and maternal education levels. In 1999, 16 percent of 2nd graders in poor families had repeated a grade, in comparison with 5 percent of 2nd graders living in nonpoor families (see Table EA 1.2). Grade repetition varies by maternal education, with the highest percentage of grade repetition in 1999 among children whose mothers did not complete high school (16 percent) and the lowest reported percentage among children whose mothers had attended some college or a vocational/technical school (6 percent) (see Table EA 1.2).
4 Alexander, K.L., Entwisle, D.R., & Dauber, S.L. 1994. On the Success of Failure: A Reassessment of the Effects of Retention in the Primary Grades. New York: Cambridge University Press.
5 Estimates are not presented when based on less than 30 cases in a subgroup.
Table EA 1.2 Percentage of 2nd graders in the United States who were retained in kindergarten and/or 1st grade, by child and family characteristics: 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1999
|Race and Hispanic origina|
|At or above poverty||9||8||7||5||5|
|One or no parent||14||11||9||—||10|
|Less than high school||21||—||—||—||16|
|Vocational/technical or some college||9||—||7||—||6|
|Mother’s employment statusd|
|35 hours or more per week||12||8||9||—||8|
|Less than 35 hours per week||8||—||—||—||8|
|Not in labor force||11||—||8||—||7|
— = sample size is insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
a Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
b The poverty threshold for 1995 and 1996 data was calculated using the total number of household members and estimates of household income to the nearest $1,000 either alone or in combination with exact income information. The 1995 and 1996 poverty calculations differ from calculations in other years (1991 and 1993), which were based on total number of household members and estimates of household income (in increments of $5,000 or $1,000) only. Calculations for all years do not account for the number of children in the household.
c Parents include any combination of a biological, adoptive, step-, and foster mothers and/or fathers. No parents in the household indicates that the child is living with non-parent guardians (e.g., grandparents).
d Children without mothers in the home are not included in estimates dealing with mother’s education or mother’s employment status. A mother is defined as a biological mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, foster mother, or female guardian (e.g., grandmother) who resides in the home with the child.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1996 National Household Education Surveys. Tabulations of data performed by U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (unpublished).
Figure EA 1.2 Percentage of 2nd graders in the United States who were retained in kindergarten and/or 1st grade: Selected years, 1991-1999
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1999 National Household Education Surveys. Tabulations performed by National Center for Education Statistics.
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