Many American states require that students lacking basic reading proficiency after third grade be retained and remediated. This study exploits a discontinuity in the probability of retention under Floridas test-based promotion policy to study the causal effect of retention on student outcomes over time.
Although OLS estimates suggest negative effects on achievement, regression discontinuity estimates indicate large positive achievement effects and reduced retention probabilities in future years.
After six years, the achievement gains from retention fade out entirely when retained students are compared to their same-age peers, but remain substantial when compared to peers in the same grade.
Contrary to prior research based on observational data, the study finds that early grade retention has no effect on the probability that students graduate from high school.