Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. EA 1.2 Grade retention

04/01/1997

Childrens 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 second grade students who were retained in kindergarten and/or first grade, as reported by their parents. Estimates are presented for 1991, 1993, and 1995. These data indicate that 11 percent of second grade children in 1991 had repeated kindergarten and/or first grade and 8 percent in 1993 and 1995 had repeated either or both of these grades.

Differences by Gender. Males were more likely than females to have repeated kindergarten and/or first grade. For example, in 1995, 11 percent of male second graders had repeated a grade, in comparison with only 5 percent of females (see Table EA 1.2).

Differences by Race and Ethnicity.5In 1995, black and Hispanic second graders were more likely than their white peers to have repeated kindergarten and/or first grade (see Table EA 1.2). Twelve percent of black children and 10 percent of Hispanic children had repeated a grade, compared with 7 percent of white children. Rates declined for each race and ethnic group between 1991 and 1995, but especially among Hispanic children, for whom rates dropped by almost half, from 18 percent to 10 percent.
 
 

Figure EA 1.2 
Percentage of Second Graders Who Were Retained in Kindergarten and/or First Grade, by Poverty Status and Mothers Education: 1995 
 

EA1_2.GIF

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Household Education Survey of 1995.
 

Differences by Socioeconomic Status. Grade repetition differs by family socioeconomic status, measured by poverty status and maternal education levels (see Figure EA 1.2). In 1995, 10 percent of children in poor families (at or below the poverty threshold) had repeated a grade, in comparison with 7 percent of second graders living in nonpoor families (above the poverty threshold). Grade repetition varies by maternal education, with the highest percentage of grade repetition in 1995 among children whose mothers did not complete high school (12 percent) and the lowest percentage among children whose mothers were college graduates (5 percent). Rates of grade repetition among children whose mothers did not complete high school declined substantially between 1991 and 1995, from 21 percent to 12 percent.
 

Table EA 1.2 
Percentage of Second Graders Who Were Retained in Kindergarten and/or First Grade, by Child and Family Characteristics: 1991, 1993, and 1995 
 

 
 
 
 
1991 
1993 
1995 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total 
11 
 
Gender       
 
 
Male
13 
10 
11 
 
 
Female
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White non-Hispanic
 
 
Black non-Hispanic
15 
12 
12 
 
 
Hispanic
18 
11 
10 
 
Poverty Statusa
 
 
Non-poor
 
 
Poor
18 
10 
10 
 
Family Type
 
 
Two parents
10 
 
 
One or no parent
14 
11 
 
Mothers Educationb
 
 
Less than high school
21 
15 
12 
 
 
High school/GED
12 
 
 
Vocational/technical or some college
 
 
College graduate
 
Mothers Employment Statusb
 
 
35 hours or more per week
12 
 
 
Less than 35 hours per week
 
 
Not in labor force
11 
 
Note: aChildren were classified as non-poor (living above the poverty threshold) or poor (living below the poverty threshold), based on family size and income. See Wright, D., Hausken, E.G., and West, J. (1994). Family-Child Engagement in Literacy Activities: Changes in Participation Between 1991 and 1993. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 

bChildren without mothers in the home are not included in estimates dealing with mothers education or mothers 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, and 1995 National Household Education Survey.

 

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 for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.
 

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