This study examined and analyzed selected middle school teachers' perceptions of grade retention, and informed teachers about current and past research on grade retention. Through analysis of teacher interviews and using a Likert scale instrument, responses indicated that teachers continue to support and to use retention when students do not master required objectives for promotion. Because of the new Florida retention policy and the No Child Left Behind policy, it was critical to measure teachers' levels of understanding and perceptions of grade retention.
Their perceptions gave insight into their thoughts and beliefs about the practice. Survey responses of 326 teachers in five selected middle schools in Florida and ten interviews clearly indicated that teachers believe children should be retained. A majority, nearly 83%, disagreed that students should not be retained. Although suspension and attendance have bearing, over 76% of teachers agreed that poor academics were the major reason for retention.
Over 65% of teachers indicated that grade retention allows students who are behind academically to “catch-up” with peers. In addition, nearly 39% disagreed that retention is harmful to a child's self-concept/self-image. However, nearly 80% of teachers agreed grade retention affects a child's self-esteem. Data also indicated 56% of students who are more than two grades behind should not be retained. A chi-square statistics test used to measure significant differences based on teachers' years of teaching experience, grade level taught, race of teacher and socioeconomic status of the students, found significant differences only for student socioeconomic status. Although students have been retained since one-room schoolhouses, research on effectiveness of retention clearly points to instead of practicing grade retention, teachers, administrators, and parents need to analyze data in greater depth. Without more studies and analysis, teachers, administrators, and parents will continue a practice research has found harmful instead of beneficial to students.
Educators must find a way to ensure that every child experiences academic success. Each educator must devise methods of working with students before they fail a grade. Tutoring, remediation, mentoring, small group work, after school programs, Saturday school, and summer school can help children learn.