Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Child and Family Characteristics Associated with Nonpromotion in Preprimary Education

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Child and Family Characteristics Associated with Nonpromotion in Preprimary Education

Article excerpt

School nonpromotion practices in primary and preprimary education are widespread, although significant differences are recorded between countries--even within Western Europe (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, 1998; Paul, 1997). Different preprimary nonpromotion practices also exist in the United States, including redshirting or delaying the child's entry into preschool, and the nonpromotion of a student prior to or following kindergarten (Carlton & Winsler, 1999; Mantzicopoulos & Neuharth-Pritchett, 1998; Matthews, May, & Kundert, 1999). In Flanders (the Dutch-language region of Belgium), the present research and that of a birth cohort study (Van Landeghem & Van Damme, 2004) show a delay of at least 1 year for approximately 6% of children entering primary education.

Although many teachers believe that early nonpromotion provides a child with the time needed to naturally develop school readiness (Troncin, 2004), a growing body of literature confirms the negative effects of grade retention in primary education (Holmes, 1989; Jimerson, 2001). The reasons for preprimary nonpromotion differ somewhat from those for later school nonpromotion; therefore, it was thought that its effects might differ as well. To date, however, research on preprimary extra-year programs (primarily conducted in the United States) does not show clear advantages for preprimary nonpromotion (Carlton & Winsler, 1999; Cosden, Zimmer, & Tuss, 1993; Mantzicopoulos, 2003; Matthews, et al., 1999; Owings & Magliaro, 1998; Shepard, 1989; Troncin). Nevertheless, in several countries--including Belgium--this research has not yet produced a significant decrease in retention practices.

Consequently, the focus of research has shifted to examining the reasons that teachers continue to claim that benefits of preprimary nonpromotion do exist, and to exploring the child, family, teacher, and school characteristics that could be associated with nonpromotion practices. This shift has resulted in the identification of several problems. Research indicates that--as is the case for primary students--preschool-aged children, their parents, and their peers often consider nonpromotion to be a stigmatizing consequence of the child's failure at school, and sometimes even as indicating insufficient effort on the part of the child (Shepard & Smith, 1989; Troncin, 2004). International research has revealed that (as in primary education) nonpromotion practices occur more frequently with younger children, boys, and children of nonnative extraction. Additionally, children from lower-income families and families with low parent-school participation levels are overrepresented in the nonpromoted group (Byrd & Weitzman, 1994; Cosden et al., 1993; Delgado & Scott, 2006; Jimerson, Carlson, Rotert, Egeland, & Sroufe, 1997; Mantzicopoulos & Neuharth-Pritchett, 1998; McCoy & Reynolds, 1999; Troncin; Wallingford & Prout, 2000). Although, on average, these children do show more preacademic and psychosocial problems in preprimary education, the decision to hold them back, in turn, produces negative consequences for them (Merle, 1998) and enlarges the educational gap between the children who are held back and those who are promoted.

This study was designed to extend current knowledge about the predictors and antecedents of preprimary nonpromotion in several ways. Internationally, much of the research on educational nonpromotion focuses either on grade retention or on referral to special education. Both trajectories are expected to provide answers to distinct educational problems. Regarding grade retention, it is expected that--to attain general education objectives--some children need (a) more time to mature, or (b) a complete rehearsal of (most of) the subject matter of a particular grade. As to referral to special education, it is assumed that specific, severe, and persistent characteristics (disabilities) hamper a child's development to the extent that specialized treatment and adapted education is required. …

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