This study investigated the effects of retention or promotion in 1st grade on growth trajectories in mathematics and reading achievement over the elementary school years (Grades 15). From a large multiethnic sample (n 784) of children who were below the median in literacy at school entrance, 363 children who were either promoted (n 251) or retained (n 112) in 1st grade could be successfully matched on 72 background variables. Achievement was measured annually using WoodcockJohnson W scores; scores of retained children were shifted back 1 year to permit same-grade comparisons. Using longitudinal growth curve analysis, trajectories of math and reading scores for promoted and retained children were compared. Retained children received a 1-year boost in achievement; this boost fully dissipated by the end of elementary school. The pattern of subsequent retention in Grades 2, 3, and 4 and placement in special education of the sample during the elementary school years are also described and their effects are explored. Policy implications for interventions for low-achieving children are considered.
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