Grade Repetition Risk for Boys in Early Schooling in Queensland, Australia

By Anderson, Robyn | Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Grade Repetition Risk for Boys in Early Schooling in Queensland, Australia


Anderson, Robyn, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood


Introduction

Grade repetition, also called 'repeating' a year level in Australia (Anderson, 2008), or 'grade retention' in the United States (Brophy, 2006), refers to an intervention practice whereby students 'repeat' a year level at school rather than being promoted to the next year level along with their same-age peers. It has been used in schools worldwide (Brophy, 2006), including Australia, as a remedy to address school failure, or at the preschool level, students' 'unreadiness' for school (Anderson, 2008). While a considerable body of research exists on grade repetition in the United States, there is a dearth of available Australian research on grade repetition. Further, there is no publicly available systematic data collected on grade repetition in any level of schooling in Australia. Regardless of the lack of interest in grade repetition in Australia, McGrath argues that the practice has been 'widely accepted in Australian schools' (2006, p. 39). Despite its wide acceptance, decades of research in the United States has shown that grade repetition offers few benefits for students (Cannon & Lipscomb, 2011; Hong & Raudenbush, 2005; Hong & Yu, 2006; Hughes, Chen, Thoemmes & Kwok, 2010; Jimerson, 2001, 2004; McGrath, 2006) and may be harmful (Jimerson, 2001, 2004). Thus, this paper makes a significant contribution to the relatively unresearched area of grade repetition in Australian schools. In particular, the study examines the most recent grade repetition data drawn from the Queensland Government's Department of Education, Training and Employment's (DETE) in-house database (2013a) and aims to show that:

1. Grade repetition as an intervention practice exists in Queensland state schools.

2. Boys are more at risk of being repeated than girls in the early years of schooling.

The paper first considers the available literature on grade repetition and a group of students more often repeated in early schooling: boys. The literature is followed by the methodology, findings, discussion and conclusion.

Review of literature

The first section of the literature considers the possible effects of grade repetition on student achievement and social and emotional adjustment. The second section discusses grade repetition in preschool and early schooling, and the third section discusses one group of students more often repeated: boys.

Effects of grade repetition

Grade repetition has been employed by educators and policy-makers worldwide as an intervention practice to improve educational outcomes for low-achieving students or, in the case of preschool students, better prepare them for school (UNESCO, 2005). Despite decades of research mainly from the United States, limited long-term support has been found for this widely used intervention practice (Hong & Raudenbush, 2005; Hong & Yu, 2006; Hughes et al., 2010; Jimerson, 2001, 2004). Jimerson (2004), who has researched extensively in the area of grade repetition in the United States, argues that results from decades of research advise against grade repetition. Findings from meta-analyses that provided outcomes of 83 published studies between 1925 and 1999, including students retained at the preschool level, 'demonstrate(d) consistent negative effects of grade retention on subsequent academic achievement' (Jimerson, 2001, pp. 50-51). In considering all areas of socio-emotional adjustment (social, emotional, behavioural, attitude toward school and attendance), the meta-analyses similarly showed a negative effect.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) in the United States further considered numerous reviews on grade repetition. In its most recent review, the NASP concluded that grade retention has 'limited empirical support' (2011, p. 1). In particular, the 'unanimous conclusion from these reviews is that grade retention offers few, if any, benefits to the retained student and may increase the retained child's risk for poor school outcomes, including dropping out of school prior to high school graduation' (NASP, 2011, p. …

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