However, there is strong research out there indicating that holding kids back in the elementary years, as Kasich's plan would do, actually increases dropout rates. From a study published in the American Education Research Journal:
Other studies come to the same conclusion, like this from Grade Retention: Is It a Help or Hindrance to Student Academic Success? which was authored by Lisa J. Bowman and published in Preventing School Failure in its Spring 2005 volume:Repeating a grade from kindergarten to sixth grade was associated with a substantial increase in the odds of dropping out even after controlling for differences in background and postretention ... Students who ended sixth grade overage for grade experienced substantial disengagement during middle school; nearly one quarter dropped out, and those who remained had significant declines in attendance. I find that the impact of being overage for grade during adolescence may explain a large proportion of the higher dropout rates among retained youths.
The accumulated research offers little support for student grade retention. My review revealed that retaining students does not increase their academic performance (Dawson, 1998; Jimerson, 2001), but does contribute to low self-esteem (Thomas, 2002).Bowman goes on to say that in some limited cases retention makes sense. But using blanket retention policies, as Kasich is proposing, simply do not have the desired positive effects on student outcomes, as laudable as the Governor's goal is.
What does this mean for the Governor's desire to increase children's reading ability and graduation rates? What it means is the idea to pursue a blanket policy to hold back kids is, at best, a risky gamble. Especially considering that the plan will involve no property tax relief from the state.
Early reading intervention is key, clearly, but the research indicates that can all be undone by holding kids back in the elementary grades. Let's hope the legislature takes a long, hard look at this policy and adjusts it appropriately so that more kids read better earlier without unduly risking that work by pursuing a dubious policy that favors retaining vast numbers of children.