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An exploratory analysis of the effects of a statewide mandatory grade retention policy and student academic achievement

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Title:
An exploratory analysis of the effects of a statewide mandatory grade retention policy and student academic achievement
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English
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Porter, Larry J
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University of South Florida
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Subjects / Keywords:
Retention
Promotion
High stakes testing
Student progression
Remedial instruction
Dissertations, Academic -- Interdisciplinary Education -- Doctoral -- USF
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bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

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Abstract:
ABSTRACT: The literacy skills of students have become a significant concern among legislators and educators. The federal government has responded to this by enacting legislation that increases state accountability to provide evidence-based interventions to struggling readers. In response, the State of Florida has mandated mandatory retention for third-grade students who are at risk for reading failure. Third-grade students who do not pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test-Reading (FCAT) are retained. Students who score at Level 1 are retained, and students who scored at Levels 2 through 5 are promoted. Research has indicated that retention has been an ineffective intervention to improve academic performance. However, it is difficult to compare research findings with Florida's current retention plan. Previous research has not delineated the intervention strategies that were utilized during the retention year. Florida requires that all students are provided evidence-based read ing remediation. The purpose of this study was to explore the association of Florida's model of student progression and academic achievement. More specifically, the study investigated the academic outcomes of third-grade students who scored within 10 scaled score points below the student progression achievement cut-off, attained a Level 1 designation in 2003 and were retained, and students who scored within 10 scaled score points above the student progression achievement cut-off, attained a Level 2 designation in 2003 and were promoted to fourth grade. Results indicated that 87% of the higher performing retained students subsequently scored at Level 2 or higher in 2004 while 67% of the promoted, low achieving student scored at Level 2 or higher in 2004. Furthermore, gender, SES and race were significantly associated with the reading outcomes of higher achieving retained and promoted, low achieving students. This study contributes to the literature by examining the outcomes of a retenti on model within a framework of academic remediation. In addition, the utility of high stakes testing and retention decisions were also examined. Future implications for research include direct comparisons of retained and promoted students, a longitudinal research design to examine the long-term effects of retention, and the identification of more effective services and intervention strategies to target at-risk students.
Thesis:
Thesis (Ed.S.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Larry J. Porter.
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Title from PDF of title page.
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Document formatted into pages; contains 93 pages.

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aleph - 001789738
oclc - 140133718
usfldc doi - E14-SFE0001469
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An Exploratory Analysis Of The Effects Of A Statewi de Mandatory Grade Retention Policy And Student Academic Achievement by Larry J. Porter, Jr. A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Education Specialist Department of Psychological and Social Foundations College of Education University of South Florida Major Professor: George Batsche, Ed.D. Michael Curtis, Ph.D. Constance Hines, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 4, 2006 Keywords: retention, promotion, high stakes testing student progression, remedial instruction Copyright 2006, Larry J. Porter, Jr.

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i Table of Contents List of Tables iii List of Figures iv Abstract v Chapter I: Introduction 1 Purpose 8 Research Questions 9 Hypotheses 10 Definition of Terms 11 Chapter II: Review of Selected Literature 13 Introduction 13 Characteristics of Retained Students 15 Negative Outcomes of Student Retention 16 Positive Outcomes of Student Retention 26 The State of Florida’s Retention Model 29 Supplemental Instruction 30 Early Intervention 31 Conclusion 32 Chapter III: Method 35 Introduction 35 Sample 35 Instruments 37 Procedure 39 Data Analysis 40 Chapter IV: Results 48 Introduction 48 Data Screening 48 Characteristics of Final Samples 49 Performance of the Samples on the 2003 3rd-grade FCAT Reading Test 50 Performance of Higher Achieving Retained Students 5 2 Performance of Promoted Low Achieving Students 61 Chapter V: Discussion 69

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ii Introduction 69 Student Characteristics 69 Retained Student Outcomes 71 Promoted Student Outcomes 74 Student Outcomes by Gender 75 Student Outcomes by Race/Ethnicity 76 Limitations 77 Delimitations 79 Implications for Florida’s Student Progression Poli cy 80 Implications for Future Research 83 Conclusion 84 References 86

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iii List of Tables Table 1 Demographic Characteristics of Retained and Promoted Students 50 Table 2 Means and Standard Deviations of 2003 3rd grade FCAT-Reading Scaled Scores for Retained and Promoted Students 51 Table 3 Number and Percent of Retained Students on the 2004 3rd grade FCAT Reading Test by Performance Level 5 2 Table 4 Number and Percent of Retained Students by Performance Level and Gender on the 3rd grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 55 Table 5 Number and Percent of Retained Students by Performance Level and Race/Ethnicity on the 3rd grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 56 Table 6 Number and Percent of Retained Students by Performance Level and Size of District on the 3rd grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 57 Table 7 Logistic Regression Analysis of Retained St udents Meeting State Standards on the 2004 3rd grade FCAT-Reading 59 Table 8 Observed and Predicted Frequencies for Atta inment of State Standards in Reading by Logistic Regression with th e Cutoff of .87 60 Table 9 Number and Percent of Promoted Students on the 2004 4th grade FCAT-Reading by Performance Level 61 Table 10 Number and Percent of Promoted Students by Performance Level and Gender on the 4th grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 62 Table 11 Number and Percent of Promoted Students by Performance Level and Race/Ethnicity on the 4th grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 63 Table 12 Number and Percent of Promoted Students by Performance Level and Size of District on the 4th grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 64 Table 13 Logistic Regression Analysis of Promoted S tudents Meeting State Standards on the 2004 4th grade FCAT-Reading 66

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iv Table 14 Observed and Predicted Frequencies for Suc cess by Logistic Regression with the Cutoff of .67 67

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v List of Figures Figure 1 Percentages of retained students attaining Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 3rd grade FCAT reading test and promoted, low achieving students attaining Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 4th grade FCAT reading test 54

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vi An Exploratory Analysis Of The Effects Of A Statewi de Mandatory Grade Retention Policy And Student Academic Achievement Larry J. Porter, Jr. ABSTRACT The literacy skills of students have become a signi ficant concern among legislators and educators. The federal government h as responded to this by enacting legislation that increases state accountability to provide evidence-based interventions to struggling readers. In response, the State of Flori da has mandated mandatory retention for third-grade students who are at risk for reading fa ilure. Third-grade students who do not pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test-Read ing (FCAT) are retained. Students who score at Level 1 are retained, and students who scored at Levels 2 through 5 are promoted. Research has indicated that retention has been an ineffective intervention to improve academic performance. However, it is diffic ult to compare research findings with Florida’s current retention plan. Previous res earch has not delineated the intervention strategies that were utilized during t he retention year. Florida requires that all students are provided evidence-based reading re mediation. The purpose of this study was to explore the assoc iation of Florida’s model of student progression and academic achievement. More specifically, the study investigated

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vii the academic outcomes of third-grade students who s cored within 10 scaled score points below the student progression achievement cut-off, attained a Level 1 designation in 2003 and were retained, and students who scored wit hin 10 scaled score points above the student progression achievement cut-off, attained a Level 2 designation in 2003 and were promoted to fourth grade. Results indicated that 87% of the higher performin g retained students subsequently scored at Level 2 or higher in 2004 wh ile 67% of the promoted, low achieving student scored at Level 2 or higher in 20 04. Furthermore, gender, SES and race were significantly associated with the reading outc omes of higher achieving retained and promoted, low achieving students. This study contributes to the literature by examin ing the outcomes of a retention model within a framework of academic remediation. I n addition, the utility of high stakes testing and retention decisions were also examined. Future implications for research include direct comparisons of retained and promoted students, a longitudinal research design to examine the long-term effects of retentio n, and the identification of more effective services and intervention strategies to t arget at-risk students.

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1 Chapter One Introduction Since the introduction of the Elementary and Second ary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965, the federal government has funded $320 billio n for education. However, data suggest that students are not achieving desired lev els of proficiency in the academic areas of reading, mathematics, science, and writing (Unit ed States Department of Education, 2002). In 2000, only 32% of fourth-grade students i n the United States were considered proficient in reading (Donahue, Finnegan, Lutkus, A llen, & Campbell, 2001). The disparity between funding in education and academic achievement resulted in the Congress of the United States requiring state-speci fic standards for student achievement and the use of evidence-based instruction and inter ventions. In the past, education has been the sole responsibility of the states (U.S. Co nstitution). While this is still the case, the federal government has used funding to states a s leverage for policy change. In order to obtain federal financial assistance for educatio n funds, states must ensure that their policies and practices are consistent with the ESEA Elementary and Secondary Education Act Previous laws such as the ESEA (1965) focused on en suring that states complied with the provisions in the law. States followed str ict regulations in order to obtain federal funds. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2002), t he 2002 version of ESEA, represented a shift in focus from compliance with r egulations to outcome-based services

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2 (Linn, Baker, & Betebenner, 2002). States are requi red to demonstrate that their schools use disaggregated student data to demonstrate outco mes, that their curriculum is evidence-based, and that all students are held acco untable to a single standard. In order to ensure that all students are proficient in reading, each state must establish benchmarks, known as adequate yearly progress (AYP), that lead to full proficiency by 2012 (Linn et al., 2002). No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act The impact of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act o n district, and local school educational practices has been significant. In orde r to secure funding under NCLB, states must provide documentation of student performance r elative to state goals. Also, states must submit their goals to the United States Depart ment of Education for approval (Mann & Shakeshaft, 2003). These goals are then evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education, and funds are dispersed on the approval of those state goals. In addition, NCLB provides federal funding for after-school prog rams and requires that every classroom be staffed by highly qualified teachers t o teach in the curriculum content area (Canales, Frey, Walker, Walker, Weiss, & West, 2002 ). A central tenet of the Improving the Academic Achie vement of the Disadvantaged Title in NCLB (2002), is that reading proficiency is paramount for positive student achievement outcomes. Children mus t learn to read in order to read to learn (Donnelly, 2000). In the grades Kindergarten through third grade, students are instructed in basic reading skills such as decoding oral fluency, phonics, and phonemic awareness (Sindelar, Lane, Pullen, & Hudson, 2002). However, in the fourth grade, a curriculum shift requires students to read in order to obtain knowledge. The primary

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3 focus of reading instruction shifts from reading me chanics to understanding what is read and to using that information appropriately. Theref ore, reading becomes a vehicle for subsequent learning. In order to ensure that studen ts were “reading to learn” by fourth grade, the federal government allocated a significa nt amount of funding, through the Reading First and Early Reading First initiatives, to states for evidence-based reading instruction in kindergarten through grade three. Th e Reading First initiative makes $900 million (in addition to $275 million for early read ing first) available through grants to states to support reading instruction in the early grades (NCLB, 2002). The goal of Reading First is to have every student proficient i n reading by the end of third grade (United States Department of Education, 2003). An i ntegral component of Reading First is the application of evidence-based reading resear ch to instructional techniques employed by schools. In order to receive a Reading First grant, states must submit a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education that d elineates the specific conditions under which the Reading First initiative will be im plemented in that state. This proposal is then reviewed by a panel which then makes recomm endations based upon individual state needs. Reading First and NCLB specify that reading interve ntions should focus on grades kindergarten through third grade (NCLB, 2002 ). The fundamental reason for this narrow focus is that (a) reading difficulties are m ore easily prevented than remediated (Coyne, Kame’enui, & Simmons, 2001), and (b) the re mediation of reading difficulties is most successful if interventions are employed early in the development of the problem (Haager & Windmueller, 2001, Jenkens & O’conner, 20 02; Phillips, Norris, Osmond, &

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4 Maynard, 2002). By the time a student reaches the s econdary grades, it may be too late to implement basic reading interventions successfully (Coyne et al., 2001). Reading Interventions Many reading strategies are used to advance the rea ding proficiency of individual students. Interventions such as previewing and repe ated readings are utilized to increase oral reading fluency in students (Sindelar, et al, 2002). Each strategy is contingent on the amount of time students are exposed to text. Text c omprehension interventions include vocabulary instruction, guided oral reading, and in creased teacher preparation. Vocabulary instruction involves the direct instruct ion of vocabulary words while teacher preparation focuses on increasing teachers’ instruc tional competence (National Reading Panel, 2000). Other strategies have been employed t o increase reading achievement in multiple students including class-wide peer tutorin g programs and self-monitoring interventions (Greenwood, Maheady, & Delquadri, 200 2; Shapiro, Durnan, Post, & Levinson, 2002). Student Retention One of the interventions traditionally used for stu dents performing below grade level in reading has been grade retention (Jimerson 2001; National Association of School Psychologists, 2003a). According to the National As sociation of School Psychologists (2003a) 15% to 20% of students are retained in the United States each year and 30% to 50% of students are retained before ninth grade. Re tention occurs when a student is required to repeat a particular grade year as a res ult of delayed academic progress (Rafoth, 1991). The assumptions underlying the use of retention are that students who do not possess basic academic skills will not be succe ssful in successive grade levels. It is

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5 also assumed that students have not developed these skills because they have not had sufficient practice time and opportunities to learn in order for these skills to develop. Therefore, retained students may benefit and respon d to extra instructional time and become more proficient in reading, writing, and mat hematics (Graue & DiPerna, 2000). Each school district in the state of Florida is req uired to develop a district student progression plan (K-20 Education Code, 2003). Progression plans delineate the criteria necessary for a student to be moved from one grade to the next, and ultimately, graduate from secondary school. Some states have implemented grade retention in order to prepare children more adequately for the increasing demands of the curriculum as grade level increases. For example, Florida has instituted a po licy which mandates that students pass the reading section of the Florida Comprehensive As sessment Test (FCAT) in third-grade in order to be promoted to the fourth grade (Florid a Department of Education, 2002a). Thus, students who do not possess basic reading ski lls by the end of the third grade are retained (Florida Department of Education, 2002a). Exceptions are written into this law that permit for the exclusion of students with disa bilities, limited English proficient students and students who have been retained previo usly. In addition, exemptions are made for those students who perform poorly on stand ardized tests such as the FCAT, but who can otherwise demonstrate proficiency through p ortfolios or other alternate assessments such as the Stanford Achievement Test – Tenth Edition (SAT-10; Florida Department of Education, 2002a). Despite the widespread adoption of retention by sta tes and districts, a review of the retention literature has suggested that retenti on has been an ineffective intervention to improve academic performance (Denton, 2001; Jimerso n, 2001; Jimerson & Kaufman,

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6 2003). Negative side effects have also been identif ied, including, (a) increased drop out rate (Jimerson, Anderson, & Whipple, 2002), (b) low er performance on standardized academic achievement tests (Graue & Diperna, 1999; Jimerson 1999; Reynolds, 1992), (c) increased negative feelings towards learning (F ergusen, Jimerson, & Dalton, 2001), and (d) increased behavior problems as measured by ratings on behavior scales (National Association of School Psychologists, 2003a). Resear ch has suggested that students who are retained are at risk for adverse social adjustm ent in school, and may suffer from lower self-esteem than students who are promoted (Nationa l Association of School Psychologists, 2003a). Moreover, research has indic ated that males, minority, and low socioeconomic students are retained at disproportio nal rates relative to their peers. Research seems to project a grim picture of what ha ppens when districts embrace a policy of retention. The methods that have been used to explore the effe cts of retention typically compare aggregated outcome measures of students who were retained and those who were not. However, a comprehensive examination of t he research reveals that there may be serious limitations in the methods used to evalu ate the effectiveness of retention. The general format of the research on retention has bee n to compare groups of retained students to those not retained or to conduct a long itudinal study demonstrating the longterm outcomes for students who were retained. There has been no research found evaluating the different methods of retention, comp aring different activities that occur during the retention year, or evaluating the effect s of retention across diverse student demographic characteristics (e.g., age, grade, gend er, race). No study was found that has differentiated between various types of retention p ractices (e.g., retention in one subject

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7 area only, retention with intense remediation), and no study was found that compared students who simply repeated a grade to those for w hom systematic, evidence-based interventions were used during the retention year. Florida’s Model of Retention The state of Florida has adopted a model of retenti on that is conceptually different than previous models of retention (Florida Departme nt of Education, 2002a). Retention in the State of Florida calls for retention with remed iation of academic skills. Policies in the State of Florida dictate that the needs of retained students are addressed systematically during the retention year. More specifically, the S tate of Florida’s retention policy requires that students do not merely repeat the sam e curriculum and experiences. Rather, interventions are developed that are student specif ic and are designed to address individual skill deficits. The policy calls for Aca demic Intervention Plans (AIPs) to be developed for every student who is retained. These plans include instructional modifications that are linked to individual skill d eficiencies in students by setting clear and measurable academic goals. These AIPs are then evaluated frequently to determine if retained students are making progress to attain the ir academic goals (Florida Department of Education, 2002a). Although AIPs are required by the State of Florida, the implementation and integrity of AIPs vary by locati on and it was not possible to account for these differences. Examples of modifications su pported by AIPs include, pull-out services, one-on-one tutor instruction, peer tutors and the employment of reading coaches. In order to determine which third-grade students ha ve not attained the reading proficiencies necessary for promotion to fourth gra de, Florida uses a high stakes testing

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8 procedure. Third-grade students must pass the Flori da Comprehensive Assessment Test Reading in order to be promoted to fourth grade. Th ird-grade students who do not meet state standards on the reading portion of the FCAT are required to be retained (Florida Department of Education, 2002a). The scoring on the FCAT consists of scaled scores of which are broken into five achievement levels of re ading proficiency. The decision to retain third-grade students in the State of Florida is contingent, among other factors, on FCAT reading achievement levels. The achievement Le vel 1 represents scaled scores of 258 and lower and does not meet reading state stand ards. Third-grade students who attain a scaled score of 258 or lower and subsequently a L evel 1 designation on the FCAT reading test are retained. The achievement Levels 2 through 5 includes scaled scores of 259 and higher. These achievement levels are consid ered to meet state standards for reading and third-grade students who obtain the rea ding achievement Levels 2 through 5 are not required to be retained. Purpose Given the lack of research that has delineated expl icit or implied policies for the type of services provided to students during the re tention year, the effects of retention on diverse student populations, and the usefulness of using cutoff scores for identifying students for mandated retention, the purpose of the present study was to explore the association of Florida’s model of student progressi on and academic achievement. More specifically, the study investigated the academic o utcomes, as measured by FCAT reading levels, of third-grade students who scored within 10 scaled score points below the student progression achievement cut-off (248-258), attained a Level 1 designation in 2003 and were retained, and students who scored wit hin 10 scaled score points above the

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9 student progression achievement cut-off (259-269), attained a Level 2 designation in 2003 and were promoted to fourth grade. Student pop ulation characteristics (e.g., ethnicity, social economic status) and size of dist rict were also explored to extend previous research on retention and to determine if Florida’s Retention Policy is equitable for diverse populations of students. Research Questions In order to explore the effectiveness of Florida’s retention policy, the present study examined the relationship between student ret ention and reading outcomes measured by FCAT levels attained by third-grade hig her achieving retained students and fourth-grade promoted, low achieving students. Spec ifically, the present research questions included: 1. What proportion of higher performing retained third -grade students who had reading scaled scores of 248-258 on the 2003 FCAT r eading test subsequently scored at Level 2 or higher on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test? 2. What is the relationship between a) gender, and b) race/ethnicity and performance on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test for higher performing thir d-grade retained students who had scaled scores of 248-258 on the 2003 FCAT reading test? 3. Is there a relationship between the size of school district attended and performance on the 2004 third-grade FCAT reading te st for higher performing third-grade retained students who had scaled scores of 248-258 on the 2003 FCAT reading test?

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10 4. What is the relationship among gender, race/ethnici ty, prior performance on the FCAT reading test and attaining state reading stand ards on the 2004 FCAT reading test for higher performing students retaine d in third grade? 5. What proportion of promoted third-grade students wh o had reading scaled scores of 259-269 on the 2003 FCAT reading test subsequent ly scored at Level Two or higher on the 2004 fourth-grade FCAT reading test? 6. What is the relationship between a) gender, and b) race/ethnicity and performance on the 2004 fourth-grade FCAT reading test for thir d-grade promoted students who had scaled scores of 259-269 on the 2003 FCAT r eading test? 7. Is there a relationship between size of school dist rict attended and performance on the 2004 fourth-grade FCAT reading test for low ach ieving students promoted to 4th grade who had scaled scores of 259-269 on the 2003 FCAT reading test? 8. What is the relationship among gender, race/ethnici ty, and prior performance on the 2003 3rd-grade FCAT reading test and attainment of state st andards on the 2004 fourth-grade FCAT reading test for low achievi ng students who were promoted to fourth grade? Hypotheses Previous research has suggested that retention is n ot an effective academic intervention for students (Jimerson, 1999; Jimerson, 2001). Ther efore, it was hypothesized that: 1. There is a significant difference in the obtained 2 004 FCAT reading levels of higher performing retained students by a) gender, a nd by b) race/ethnicity. 2. There is a significant difference in the obtained p ost-retention 3rd-grade FCAT reading levels of higher performing retained studen ts as a function of district size.

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11 3. For higher performing students retained in the thir d grade, there is a significant relationship among gender, race/ethnicity, prior pe rformance on the FCAT reading test and attaining state reading standards on the 2004 FCAT reading test. 4. There is a difference in the obtained 2004 FCAT rea ding levels of promoted, low achieving students by a) gender, and by b) race/eth nicity. 5. There is a difference in the obtained post-retentio n FCAT reading levels of promoted, low achieving students as a function of d istrict size. 6. For students promoted to fourth grade, there is a r elationship among gender, race/ethnicity, prior performance on the FCAT readi ng test and attaining state reading standards on the 2004 FCAT reading test. Definition of Terms Retention : Repeat a grade the subsequent year because of ina dequate academic progress. High Performing Retained Students : Third-grade students in the State of Florida who were retained at the end of 2003 academic year, attained a scaled score of 248-258 on the 2003 third grade FCAT reading test, and were designated as scoring at Level One on the 2003 FCAT reading test. Promoted, Low Achieving Students : Third-grade students in the State of Florida who were promoted to fourth grade at the end of 200 3 academic year, attained a scaled score of 259-269 on the 2003 third-grade FCA T reading test, and were designated as scoring at Level Two on the 2003 FCAT reading test Low SocioEconomic Status : Students who received free and reduced lunch in Florida during the 2003-2004 school year.

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12 Meeting State Standards : Students who attained a scaled score of 259 or hi gher on the FCAT reading test.

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13 Chapter Two Review of Selected Literature Introduction Chapter II contains a review of related literature. An introduction to the effectiveness of retention on academic achievement is considered along with the characteristics of students who are retained. Also, the factors that are associated with retention are reviewed. This review of literature i s not intended to be exhaustive, rather it is intended to provide the most relevant and curren t research regarding retention practices. Student retention refers to a practice in which a s tudent is required to repeat a particular grade year as a result of delayed academ ic progress (Rafoth, 1991). In accordance with this concept, students who need sup port services are provided extra time and opportunities to learn basic academic skills. R etention has been used as an intervention for students with academic difficultie s for many years (Jimerson, 2001). However, due to increasing numbers of students in n eed of extra instructional time, more students are being retained (Jimerson & Kaufman, 20 03). According to the National Association of School Psychologists (2003a) 15% to 20% of students are retained each year and 30% to 50% of students are retained before ninth grade. Jimerson (2001) offered more conservative estimates of 5% to 10% students r etained each year. Other studies

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14 have indicated a wide range in the rate of student retention (Fine & Davis, 2003; McCoy & Reynolds, 1999). Interest in the effects of retention on academic an d behavioral outcomes has increased among researchers in the past ten years d ue, at least in part, to many politicians and educators supporting the end of “social promoti on” (Jimerson, 2001). Social promotion is regarded as promoting students in spit e of delayed academic performance. In 1999, President Clinton called for an end to soc ial promotion in his State of the Union address. This theme was continued in 2002 with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. NCLB set educational guidelines and required states to be accountable in order to obtain federal funding. NCLB particularly focused on stude nt reading proficiency. Therefore, the goal set in NCLB was for every student to be pr oficient in reading by the 2013-2014 school year. Many states have responded to NCLB by incorporating evidence-based reading interventions for students who are not obta ining adequate yearly progress. Student retention is one of the interventions that has been utilized. Retention is defined as a practice that requires a student to repeat a grade designation for one subsequent year (Jimerson, 2001 ). Retention is an expensive intervention, adding the cost of one extra year for each student retained (Pagani, Tremblay, Vitaro, Boulerice, & McDuff, 2001). Accor ding to Dawson (1998) retention costs 14 billion dollars a year. This may be the re ason, at least in part, to the insufficient funding for extra support services for students who are retained. The question for many researchers is if the cost of retaining students is worth the academic outcomes. Do retained students demonstrate significantly higher levels of academic achievement meriting the cost? The methods that researchers hav e utilized to examine the impact of

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15 grade-retention on academic performance has traditi onally compared aggregated data of outcome measures of students who were retained to s tudents who were not retained. Researchers have utilized prospective longitudinal designs, meta-analyses, and qualitative methods to investigate grade retention. Research regarding the effect of retention on acade mic and behavioral outcomes has been inconclusive. According to Tomchin and Imp ara (1992), teachers view retention as a useful strategy to increase mastery of academi c tasks. A handful of studies have found that retention is linked to limited improveme nt in self-esteem and mathematics scores (Alexander, Entwisle, & Dauber, 1994; Gottfr edson, Fink, & Graham, 1994; Mantzicopoulos & Morrison 1992). Pagani et al. (200 1) indicate that the positive effects of retention tend to fade out over time. A larger number of studies have linked negative academic and behavioral outcomes to retention (Jime rson, 2001; National Association of School Psychologists, 2003a). Characteristics of Retained Students As would be expected, low academic achievement is c ommon among students who are retained (Jimerson, 2001). Additionally, re search indicates that a student is more likely to be retained if the student is male, an et hnic minority, and of low social economic status (Abidin, Golladay & Howerton, 1971; Niklason 1984). Retained students are typically considered to be younger than their grade -level peers, however, studies addressing the age of students who are retained hav e been inconclusive (Shepard & Smith, 1987). Jimerson, Carlson, Rotert, Egeland, and Sroufe (199 7) identified many additional variables that are associated with retained student s. Their study included 179 participants

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16 (80% Caucasian, 14% African American, and 6% Hispan ic) in three groups: a retained group (n = 29), a low achieving group (n = 50), and a control group (n =100). The results of the study indicated that males are more likely t o be retained than females ( M = 6.76 p < .05). The participants in the retained group were comprised of 74% males, while the participants in the low achieving but promoted grou p were comprised of 56% males. The results of the study also indicated that ethnic minority students were more likely to be retained than Caucasian students and that low socia l economic status (SES) was a risk factor for grade retention. Specific internal stude nt characteristics were also identified as being associated with retention. These included low er cognitive ability, poor peer relations, and high rates of absenteeism. A study conducted by Graue & Diperna (2000) corrobo rated the findings of Jimerson et al. (1997). Results indicated that male s were retained more often than females, and that minorities were retained more oft en than Caucasians. In addition, students whose birthdays were close to the school e ntrance cutoff were more likely to be retained. Negative Outcomes of Student Retention As previously stated, retention is used for student s with delayed academic performance. However, a great number of studies ind icate that it is not an effective strategy. A study conducted by Pagani, et al. (2001 ) focused on the academic and behavioral outcomes of retained students. The study included 1,830 students who were randomly selected from a larger pool of 6,397 parti cipants. Each of the participants selected were followed until the age of 12. The ind ependent variables in the study included retention and gender. The study included t eachers’ ratings of students overall

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17 academic performance, and the teachers completion o f the Social Behavior Questionnaire. The questions on the Social Behavior Questionnaire are derived from the Preschool Behavior Questionnaire and the Prosocial Behavior Questionnaire. The data were analyzed using a basic autoregressive model. T his model allows for the control of changes that would be expected from students with d ifferent achievement levels. Therefore, achievement level trajectories are held constant. Analysis of the data suggested that retention had a negative affect on the academic trajectory of both girls and boys. Specifi cally, after being retained between the ages of 6 and 8, boys showed signs of negative acad emic trajectories at the times of follow up (e.g., ages 10 and 12) relative to studen ts who were not retained (path = -.12, p < .01). Girls displayed similar negative academic effects at age 10 (path = -.07, p < .01) and at age 12 (path = -.07, p < .05). Retention als o seemed to have a negative effect on the behavioral trajectories of the boys who partici pated in the study. The authors suggested that the negative behavioral effects may have caused the negative academic effects of retention and it was d ifficult to separate the two variables. The study relied on overall student performance rat ings from teachers to assess academic achievement. Teachers’ ratings may not have been re liable, and the ratings may not be an accurate representation of actual student academic performance. Finally, while the study’s trajectories were found to be statistically significant, the sample size was large. Therefore, the statistical significance may not ind icate a large effect size designating real world significance. Another longitudinal study conducted by McCoy and R eynolds (1999) indicated similar results. Data were analyzed from the Chicag o Longitudinal Study to determine

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18 the academic outcomes of students who were retained The participants included 1,164 low-income, mostly African-American seventhand ei ghth-grade students, of which 315 had been retained. Of the students retained, 296 ha d been retained once, and 19 had been retained more than once. The study included four ou tcomes measures: a) reading comprehension, b) mathematics achievement, c) perce ived school competence, and d) school-reported delinquency. The participants were given the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) mathematics and reading comprehension subsec tions at the age of 14. The students’ scores were analyzed using a hierarch al multiple regression model. Retention significantly predicted student reading c omprehension ( R2 = .47) and mathematics performance ( R2 = .57) when comparing same age peers. According to the study, retention explained 47% of the variability i n the participants’ ITBS reading comprehension scores and 57% of the variability in the participants’ ITBS mathematics scores. After the researchers included demographic factors (e.g., gender, parent education, free-lunch eligibility, and SES) and ear ly adjustment indicators (e.g., classroom adjustment, first-grade reading and mathe matics achievement), retention predicted lower mathematic scores ( ES = -.481, p <. 001) and reading comprehension scores ( ES = -.424, p < .001). The time at which students were retained ( e.g., early vs. late retention) seemed to have an impact on reading scores. Early retention (grades 1-3) was associated with lower reading achievement than later retention (grades 4-7). The authors did note, however, that more than 50% of th e differences between the groups were explained by other factors. In addition to comparing same age peers, the author s compared seventhgrade retained students with their same grade peers. Agai n, analysis indicated that retention

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19 predicted negative reading comprehension ( = -4.6 standard score points, p < .001), however, the prediction was not significant for the mathematics ITBS scores. According to the authors, the results of this study indicate that retention is not an effective intervention for low achieving students. Retention did not seem to benefit students more than other less expensive alternatives. A similar study conducted by Jimerson (1999) attemp ted to answer the question “To retain or not to retain?” (p 243). This study s et out to determine the association between grade retention and high school academic ac hievement, later high school dropout rates, and post-secondary education. Partic ipants in the study fell into three groups including a retention group (n = 29), a lowachieving, promoted group (n=50), and a control group (n = 100). The retained group h ad a larger number of males than did either the low-achieving, promoted group or the con trol group. The percentage of minority students was highest in the retained group (35%), followed by the lowachieving, promoted group (31%) and finally the con trol group (16%). Students in the retained group were retained once in kindergarten t hrough third grade. The researchers conducted teacher interviews, child interviews, chi ld testing, parental interviews and parental testing (e.g., Wechsler Adult Intelligence Test, Home Inventory) during the early childhood years for participants in the retained gr oup, low-achieving, promoted group, and the control group. In addition, mother and home assessments were collected before birth and soon after birth, at 30 and 48 months, an d at first grade. This information included SES, age of the mother at the child’s birt h, education completion, and intelligence assessment. The participants were foll owed into adolescence (eleventh grade) and early adulthood (19 and 20-years-old). Several outcome measures were investigated

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20 including high school achievement as measured by gr ade point average, and attendance, high school completion, and post-secondary educatio n enrollment. The results of the study indicated that the retenti on group had significantly lower high school achievement than the low-achieving, pro moted group ( F = 6.59, p <.01) and the control group ( F = 13.95, p < .001). The participants in the retention group w ere also more likely to drop out of high school (F = 3.57, p < .05), and were less likely to receive a certificate for high school completion ( F = 5.44, p < .01) relative to the low achieving, promoted group. The researcher suggested that the r esults of the study indicated that retention is not an effective early intervention pr actice. Students who were retained in early primary grades were more likely to eventually drop out of school. However, the additional academic support that the retention stud ents received during the retention year was not assessed or discussed. Students who were re tained may not have received any academic remediation interventions. An earlier study conducted by Jimerson et al. (199 7) examined the effects of retention on achievement in elementary school and a t sixth grade. The study included 179 students from Minnesota that consisted of three gro ups: a retained group, a lowachieving, promoted group, and a control group. The retained group consisted of 29 students who were retained in either kindergarten, first, second, or third grade. The participants in the low achieving, promoted group w ere selected because their academic performance was similar to that of the participants within the retention group. These students were identified by Peabody Individual Achi evement Test (PIAT) scores that fell within the bottom quartile of the entire sample. Fi nally, the control group consisted of 100 participants randomly selected from a larger po ol of participants who were not

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21 eligible for the retained or the low-achieving, pro moted groups. The participants were enrolled in kindergarten (25), first (25), second ( 25) and third (25) grades. The study utilized several outcome measures to compare the th ree groups. Each participant was given each of the measures during the primary grade of the student and at sixth grade. The outcome measures included teacher interview mea sures, attendance reports, the Child-Behavior-Checklist—Teacher Edition (CBCL-T), peer acceptance measures, the PIAT, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence (WPPSI), the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R), t he Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test-Revised (WJ-R), maternal interviews, and a lif e events inventory. The results of the study reported both the short-t erm effects and long-term effects of retention. The short-term effects of retention w ere measured by running contrasts comparing the PIAT scores of the retained and the l ow achieving, promoted groups the next school year. The age at which the participant was retained was also considered. Participants who were retained in kindergarten were compared with same aged peers after the completion of first grade. After controlling fo r previous achievement, contrasts indicated that the PIAT math, reading comprehension and spelling scores of students who were retained during kindergarten and low achie ving, promoted students were not statistically significant. This indicates that reta ined students academic achievement did not improve relative to same age peers. Similarly, the PIAT reading comprehension and spelling scores of first and second grade retained group did not differ from the low achieving, promoted group. However, retained studen ts did have significantly higher PIAT math scores than low achieving, promoted stude nts ( F = 6.05, p < .05).

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22 In addition to examining the short-term effects of retention the authors also examined the long-term effects of retention on acad emic achievement. The long-term effects of retention were measured by total PIAT sc ore performance for each group at the completion of sixth grade and WJ-R total scores at age 16. The contrasts between the retained and low achieving, promoted groups PIAT sc ores at the completion of sixth grade were not significant. Furthermore the contras ts between the retained and the low achieving, promoted groups WJ-R scores were not sig nificant. The results of this study indicate that students who were retained did not pe rform significantly better than their peers when prior achievement was controlled. Shortterm positive effects for math were evident for first and second grade participants, ho wever these effects washed out after the completion of sixth grade. Critiques of this study are that it included a small sample size and omitted a discussion regarding academic interve ntions employed during the retention year. It is possible that students who were retaine d received no additional academic support services and completed another year of curr icula that they already had received. A meta-analysis conducted by Jimerson, et al. (2002 ) examined 17 studies in order to determine the relationship between retenti on and high school drop-out. Each of the studies that identified retention as a potentia l predictor of later high school dropout indicated that retention was significantly associat ed with later high school dropout. Furthermore, retention was consistently one of the most powerful predictors of dropout. Moreover, students who were retained more than once are more at-risk for later dropout. The studies that were reviewed indicated that stude nts who were retained once were 40 to 50% more likely to drop out of high school and stud ents who were retained more than once were 90% more likely to drop out of high schoo l when compared with promoted

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23 peers. The authors conclude that retention should n ot be considered a direct cause of dropout. Rather, retention and other factors such a s low SES, immaturity, and low achievement place students at risk for future dropo ut. The relationship between retention and later high school dropout is transactional. Ret ention leads to other negative conditions such as absenteeism, low school engageme nt, and low self-esteem contributing to later dropout. A recent study by Fine and Davis (2003) investigat ed the long-term effects of grade retention. Specifically, the authors were int erested in the relationship between grade retention and later post-secondary education enrollment. The study included 11,637 (5605 male, 6031 female) participants derived from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS) database. The data used for this study were gathered in 1988, 1992, and again in 1994. Retention status for each participant was determined by responses to survey questions. Likewise, the outcom e measure, post-secondary enrollment, was determined by participant responses to surveys in 1994. The participants were matched on demographic variables, SES and acad emic achievement. Odds ratios reported the likelihood of the outcome measure amon g students with different characteristics. Each of the regressions used promo ted students as the comparison group. The results of the study indicated that boys were almost twice as likely to be retained than girls with an odds ratio of 1.89 ( p < .01) and students with low SES were almost twice as likely to be retained as high SES p articipants with an odds ratio of 1.87 ( p < .01). However, males were slightly less likely to be retained more than once (odds ratio = .88). Students who were retained were one-half le ss likely to enroll in a four-year college (odds ratio = .47, p < .01) when compared to promoted students. Retaine d

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24 students were also less likely to enroll in any typ e of post-secondary education (odds ratio = .617, p < .01). Interestingly, students who were retained more than once were more likely to enroll in a four-year college (odds ratio = .75) than students who were retained once (odds ratio = .45) when compared to promoted peers. However, students who were retained once were more likely to enroll in any typ e of secondary education (odds ratio = .64) than students who were retained more than once (odds ratio = .37) when compared with promoted students. Overall, the results of this study indicate that r etention has negative long-term effects on students. The author suggests that even when retained students overcome the odds and graduate from high school the effects of r etention are still evident. Students who were retained were significantly less likely to enr oll in post-secondary education than their promoted peers. According to the investigator s, teachers, school staff and school psychologists should be cautious when recommending retention for students because the effects of retention may not be evident until early adulthood. Limitations of this study include the age of the NELS database. More current data would have been more desirable. Also, there was no control for the quali ty of instruction, interventions, and curriculum to which retained and promoted students were exposed. Finally, this study did not include students who did not graduate from high school, but who did obtain their GED. These students could have impacted the results of the study. A meta-analysis performed by Jimerson (2001) atte mpted to provide a thorough review of 20 studies published between 1990 and 199 9. The author’s goal was to summarize the most current research on retention, a nd to recommend alternatives to both

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25 retention and social promotion. Each study was exam ined by (a) determining the variables used to match retained students with comp arison peers, (b) determining the outcomes associated with the grade at which student s were retained, (c) examining the statistical outcomes of retention on academic achie vement, and (d) the author’s conclusions regarding the use of retention as an in tervention for academic difficulties. The studies reviewed matched students on various va riables including IQ scores, previous academic achievement, SES, and sex. Most studies co mpare students who were retained with promoted students and measured academic achiev ement by relative gains on normreferenced achievement tests. The results of the analysis indicated that retentio n had a negative effect on the academic outcomes of the participants. Included wit hin the 20 studies were 91 statistically significant analyses, of which 82 fav ored low achieving, promoted students over retained students. In addition, 84 statistical analyses on academic achievement were not significant. Subtracting the mean of the retain ed group from the mean of the comparison group and dividing by the standard devia tion of the comparison group calculated the effect sizes (ES) for each academic achievement analyses. The effect sizes ranged from –2 to 1.25. The overall ES was -.39 ind icating that on average, the retained group scored .39 standard deviation units lower tha n the comparison group. The author concludes by suggesting that neither grade retentio n nor social promotion will remediate the academic difficulties of students. The costs th at are associated with retention do not justify its use. Professionals and researchers shou ld begin to focus on alternative strategies to enhance academic achievement such as prevention and early intervention, and progress monitoring.

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26 Positive Outcomes of Student Retention Although a large portion of literature contends tha t retention negatively affects student achievement, some research has documented p ositive effects of retention. A study conducted by Mantzicopoulos (1997) investigated the long-term academic effects of retention on kindergarten students with attention p roblems. The study included 40 participants (28 males, 12 females) of which 25 wer e retained and 15 were promoted. Each student had attention difficulties as measured by teacher interviews and was matched for school, sex, at-risk status, reading ac hievement, and math achievement. Two measures were used to assess achievement: the Stanf ord Achievement Test, and the California Test of Basic Skills (CTBS). Specificall y, reading and mathematics achievement were assessed at the end of the kinderg arten, first and second grade. The results of the study included comparisons of sa me-grade participants and same-age participants. Same-grade comparisons indic ated that retained students earned higher mathematics achievement scores ( F = 5.63, p < .05). However, same-grade comparisons of reading achievement scores did not f avor retained or promoted students. Same-age comparisons for mathematics achievement wa s also significant ( F = 4.95, p < .05) indicating that retained students outperformed their same-age peers on the mathematics achievement tests. Same-age comparisons of reading achievement did not yield significant results. Adjusted mean difference s were calculated for both retained and promoted students from national averages. Retained students’ performed higher than the national average in mathematics ( MAd = ,21, .41 for first and second grades respectively) while the promoted group remained below the nationa l average. Adjusted mean differences were also calculated for reading achiev ement scores. After an initial

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27 improvement in the first grade ( MAd = .72), mean differences decreased by second grade ( MAd = .18) for retained students. This decrease was not evident for promoted students. Based on the results of this study the author sugge sted that retention does not benefit students as an intervention for delayed aca demic progress. This assertion is made because the participants reading achievement scores improved the first year after retention, but faded by second grade. Retention did however seem to benefit the participants’ mathematics achievement scores. Even at the end of first grade, retained students mathematic achievement scores remained abo ve the national adjusted average, and were significantly higher than same-age and sam e-grade peers. As with most studies investigating retention, this study did not control for instructional strategies that were used during the retention and subsequent school yea rs. The decline in reading achievement score gains could be explained by disco ntinued academic interventions after the retention year. Additionally, the sample size u sed in this study was relatively small, making it difficult to generalize the results to ot her populations. While Mantzicopoulos (1997) offered limited eviden ce of the possible positive effects of retention, Alexander, et al. (1994) cond ucted a longitudinal study with more conclusive positive findings. The study consisted o f a stratified random sample of 800 children in Baltimore. At the beginning of the stud y, each of the participants were entering first grade. Each were then followed for e ight subsequent years. At the end of the first year of the study, 127 first-grade studen ts were retained. The authors noted that some students who were retained were later promoted mid year (n = 17), or were double promoted (n = 12). By the eighth year of the study, 142 children were at least one year behind grade level (7th grade). Data were collected on each participant vi a test scores,

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28 grade reports, interviews with the participants and their parents, and questionnaires completed by teachers. In analyzing the data, the r esearchers controlled for prior achievement, demographic variables (race, SES), par ent education, and school readiness. Three groups were compared: the retained group, the low achieving, promoted group, and the rest of the students who were promoted. In addi tion to comparisons, the retained groups academic trajectory was determined by compar ing preand post-retention academic achievement. As expected, the participants who were retained at end of first grade had significantly lower test scores than did their same age non-retained peers at the beginning of first grade ( M = -33.5, p < .01), and at end of first grade ( M = -59.5; p < .01). After the completion of the retained year, the achievement gap was less between the retained group and their same age non-retained peers. The retained group participants gained seven points ( p < .01) on reading test scores and 4 points ( p < .01) on math test scores when compared to non-retained same age peers Comparisons of math test scores between retained students and same-grade non-retain ed students at the completion of the retention favored the retained students with a 17-p oint relative gain (p < .01). However, this gap decreased after the initial follow up. Stu dents who were retained in second grade seemed to fair better than the participants who wer e retained in the first grade. The second grade retained students gained on average 17 .3 test score points relative to their same age peers. Students who were retained in third grade seemed to show the most achievement gains. At the end of the initial third grade year, the retained students on average scored 28.4 points lower than their same-ag e peers. At the end of the retention year, the retained student’s test scores were on av erage 15.9 points lower than their same-

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29 age peers, and by the end of seventh grade, the ret ained student’s scores were on average only 9.7 points lower than their non-retained peers The results this study indicated, that on average, the students who were retained in the third grade had better outcomes than the studen ts who were retained in the first grade. The authors argue that if the retained students wou ld not have been retained, the achievement gap between them and their same-age pee rs would have widened rather than decreased. Although this may be the case, other fac tors may have influenced the results of the study. No attempt was made to determine whet her supplemental services were provided to the students who were retained. The gai ns in tests scores could be attributable to intense remediation interventions that were prov ided during the retention year rather than merely repeating a particular grade. The State of Florida’s Retention Model According to the Florida Department of Education, Florida’s retention practices are different from those of the past in two key dom ains. In the past, retention has included repeating a grade with no emphasis on supplemental services. Students experienced the same materials, instruction, and teachers for an ad ditional year. Moreover, past models of retention were conceptualized as an intervention to remediate students’ academic skills. It has been a response to academic failure and if reta ined, students will catch up to their same-grade peers. The state of Florida’s retention policy is focused on (a) providing students with increased amounts of time to engage i n academic instruction and (b) preventing the academic failure of students.

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30 Supplemental Instruction According to the Florida Department of Education ( 2002a) each retained student is required to have an individualized academic impr ovement plan (AIP). This program delineates the type, difficulty, amount, and intens ity of instruction each retained student needs in order to reach academic standards. Many ti mes, AIPs specify the use of supplemental instructional services for students. S upplemental instruction is that which is beyond what students typically obtain during allott ed instructional time. Some examples are as follows: reading instruction is increased fr om 45 minutes to 90 minutes, other types of instruction (e.g., mathematics, art) are s uspended giving more time for reading instruction, and the use of after-school tutors. Pr oviding more allocated time to students may result in more opportunities for the retained s tudent to be engaged in instruction and academic activities than their peers. The extra tim e allows for at-risk students to close the achievement gap (Aronson, Zimmerman, & Carlos, 1998 ; Nelson, 1990). In addition to providing more time, supplemental in struction is intended to provide students with intensive evidence-based acad emic interventions matched to students’ individual needs. Numerous studies have d ocumented the effectiveness of supplemental instruction in promoting academic achi evement (Gredler, 1997). A recent meta-analysis conducted by Jimerson, Kaufman, Ander son, Whipple, Figueroa, Rocco, & O’Brien, (2002) provides a comprehensive review of academic interventions in an attempt to persuade educators and professionals to move beyond discussing retention and social promotion and focus on supplemental instruct ion strategies.

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31 Early Intervention In addition to supplemental instruction, early int ervention is a critical component to Florida’s model of retention. Students are retai ned in third grade, before what many call the curriculum shift at fourth grade. The rete ntion gate is set at third grade forcing educators and teachers to focus academic support on grades 1-3. The overall goal is to prevent students from being retained in third grade. There fore, more resources are given to early intervention in order to prevent academic failure. Early intervention research has suggested that reading difficulties are more easily prevented than remediated (Coyne et al., 2001, National Association of School Psycholog ists, 2003b), and the remediation of reading difficulties is most successful if interven tions are employed early in the development of the problem (Haager & Windmueller, 2 001, Jenkens & O’conner, 2002; Phillips, et al., 2002). A study conducted by Lennon & Slesinski, (1999) ev aluated the impact of early intervention on later reading development. The stud y included 156 students who were assessed in reading based on their letter-naming pr oficiency. The participants in the study fell into three groups; low-scoring ( n = 80), middle-scoring ( n = 56), and high scoring ( n = 40). Students in the low-scoring group were randoml y assigned into two subgroups: 1:2 tutoring during 20 weeks (low-scoring A), or 1:2 tu toring during the second 10 weeks (low-scoring B). The middle-scoring group was also assigned to one of two tutoring sessions (middle-scoring A and middle-scoring B). T he high-scoring group did not receive tutoring but served as a control group. Eac h tutoring session lasted 30 minutes, 5 times a week and consisted of explicit instruction in letter naming, letter sounds, phoneme segmentation, the alphabetic principle, pri nt awareness and sight words. The

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32 outcome measures assessed letter naming fluency, le tter sound, phoneme segmentation, decoding fluency, sight words, and concepts of prin t. Each of the outcomes was measured during baseline, after 10 weeks, and again after 20 weeks. The results indicated that all students who receive d instruction during the first 10 weeks performed better on each of the outcome measu res than did students who waited 10 weeks for tutoring. The low-scoring group A outp erformed the low-scoring group B on letter naming (ES = .63), letter sounds, (ES = 98), decoding (ES = .69), phoneme segmentation, (ES = .67), sight words (ES = .78), a nd concepts of print (ES = .67) outcome measures. Results also indicated that middl e-scoring participants benefited from receiving instruction during the first 10 weeks whe n compared to their peers who waited 10 weeks for tutoring on each outcome measure. Fina lly, results indicated that after intervention the low-scoring A subgroup performed s imilarly to the middle-scoring group did at baseline. Moreover, the middle-scoring A sub group performed similarly to the high-scoring group did at baseline. The researchers concluded that early intervention promotes academic achievement for low performing st udents, and average performing students. Conclusion In conclusion, a preponderance of research studies on retention does not find support for retention as an effective intervention for the remediation of academic delays of primary grade students. Furthermore, studies exa mining the long-term effects of retention suggest that students who are retained ar e more likely to drop out of school, and are less likely to obtain post-secondary education (Jimerson, Anderson, & Whipple, 2002). In addition to negative academic effects, re search has suggested that retention has

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33 negative behavioral and emotional effects (National Association of School Psychologists, 2003a). A few studies (Alexander, et al., 1994; Got tfredson, Fink, & Graham, 1994; Mantizicoupoulos, 1997, Peterson, DeGracie, & Ayabe 1987) offer some evidence that in some instances retention can help promote the ac ademic achievement of students. However, these academic gains are often reported to be short-term (Pagani, et al., 2001). According to researchers (e.g., Ferguson et al., 20 01; Jimerson, 2001; Jimerson et al., 1997) research that has examined the effects o f student retention on academic achievement have common experimental design flaws. Isolating the effects of retention is difficult because one cannot randomly assign groups of students to be either promoted or retained and examine the achievement differences. T herefore, many studies are quasiexperimental attempting to control for potentially relevant variables (e.g., demographic characteristics, prior achievement). A second poten tial flaw in literature is the definition used by researchers for retention. Retention is bro adly defined within the literature as a practice that requires any student to repeat a grad e as a result of academic difficulties. This broad definition makes it difficult to determi ne what characteristics of the retention year are potentially effective or ineffective. The definition does not control for the quality of instruction and interventions that students enga ge during the retention year. No study could be found that addressed the types of services that were offered during the retention year. Some students may have received intensive aca demic interventions during the retention year, while others may have been exposed to the same curriculum that they had received the previous year. Florida’s model of retention can be considered to b e retention with reading remediation. Students who are retained are provided with AIPs that are individually

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34 developed for each student and provide evidence tha t retained students received supplemental services during the retention year. In addition to individualized AIPs, students are provided with extra opportunities to b ecome proficient in reading due to the extra time afforded by retention.

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35 Chapter Three Method Introduction Chapter III contains information regarding the meth od and procedures that were used in the present study. Specifically, the popula tion and sample, instrumentation, data collection, and data analysis are discussed. Sample The sample for this study was drawn from the total population of thirdand fourth-grade students in the public schools of the state of Florida who took the FCAT reading Test in 2003 and 2004. In the state of Flor ida, 28,028 third-grade students were retained during the 2002-2003 school calendar year (Florida Department of Education, 2004), however the final sample of students used fo r the current study consisted of two select groups of retained and promoted third-grade students. Higher Performing, Retained Sample. Third-grade students whose 2003 FCAT reading score fell just “under” (score of 248-258) the cut score required for promotion to fourth grade and who were retained in third grade f or the 2003-2004 school year constituted the retained group. These students scor ed at a Level 1 on the 2003 FCAT Reading Test. According to the Florida Department o f Education (2004) students who score at Level 1 on the FCAT-reading test will expe rience limited success with the Sunshine State Standards Curriculum. Therefore, the se Level 1 students are retained

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36 because it is believed that they will not benefit f rom fourth-grade instruction. According to Florida educational guidelines, any student who exhibits a substantial reading, writing, math, or science deficiency must have an Academic I mprovement Plan (AIP). The purpose of an AIP is to ensure an individualized in tervention plan for each student. These plans are required to identify specific areas of de ficiency (e.g., fluency, phonemic awareness, comprehension) and include instructional and environment interventions designed to remediate academic deficiencies in stud ents. Examples of AIP interventions are (1) the use of a peer tutor, (2) one-on-one ins truction with a reading coach, and (3) 30 minutes extra time for reading instruction. AIPs al so include measurable academic goals that are linked to previous assessment. Teachers an d school staff are required to monitor the progress of these goals on a frequent basis. Re tained students as well as at-risk students are required to have an AIP. Promoted, Low Achieving Sample. This sample consisted of students whose 2003 3rd grade FCAT reading score ranged from 259-269, who received a Level 2 designation and were promoted to the fourth grade for the 20032004 academic year. For the purposes of this study, this sample of students is referred to as the “promoted, low achieving group”. Students who obtained an FCAT rea ding score just above the required promotion score received a Level 2 designation. Acc ording to the state of Florida, these students will experience little success with the Su nshine State Standards curriculum, but possess the skills necessary for promotion to fourt h grade. FCAT reading scores from 12,948 students (grades three and four) in the Flor ida Department of Education database constituted the final sample. The score of each stu dent who took the 2002-2003 and

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37 2003-2004 FCAT was archived in the FLDOE database, along with the gender, race, and size of district that the student attends. Several students were excluded from the study due t o various reasons. Students who scored just below the required FCAT reading sco re for promotion but were promoted because of one of the previously stated go od cause exceptions were not included. Students who attended lab schools in the State of Florida were excluded, as well as students who attended home school. Finally, students with missing data were also excluded from the sample. Instruments The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) i s a criterion-referenced test developed by a panel of curriculum specialists from the Harcourt Educational Measurement Company (Florida Department of Educatio n, 2003). It was developed to assess student achievement of the higher-order cogn itive skills represented in the Sunshine State Standards (SSS). The FCAT reading re ports scores in four areas including: (1) main idea, plot and purpose, (2) wor ds and phrases in context, (3) comparisons of cause/effect, and (4), reference and research (Florida Department of Education, 2003). Included in the FCAT are literary passages, and informational passages. Another portion of the FCAT reading secti on is used normatively, comparing the students of Florida with the rest of the nation During the months of February and March, the FCAT is administered to over 1.5 million students. The tests are then sealed and sent to the Florida Department of Education. Th e FCAT contains both multiple choice and performance questions. The multiple choi ce questions are scored by computers while the performance tasks are hand scor ed.

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38 Scoring of the FCAT is based on item response theor y (IRT, Lord & Novick, 1968). The IRT theory assumes that student response s to individual questions are directly related to underlying achievement in a given conten t area. Cronbach’s reliability coefficient estimates of the fourth-grade reading p ortion of the FCAT scores was reported by total score ( r = .88 ), literary text ( r = .79 ) and informational text ( r= .79 ) (Florida Department of Education, 2002b). The third-grade r eliability coefficients were not provided. Unfortunately, score reliability estimate s for the proposed sample will not be available. Construct, criterion, and content validi ty coefficients of the FCAT could not be found. However, the items on the FCAT were reviewed by the Florida Department of Education for style, content and match to SSS bench mark. Community sensitivity committees, bias committees, and content committees then reviewed the FCAT items (Florida Department of Education, 2002b). Currently the only resource that has provided the technical characteristics of the FCAT is provid ed by the state of Florida (Florida Department of Education, 2002b). The possible range of scaled scores on the FCAT rea ding achievement test is 100 to 500 (Florida Department of Education, 2003). Bas ed on these scaled scores students are placed within one of five levels. Each level re presents a different level of proficiency in reading. In 2003, Level 1 scores fell within the scaled scores of 100-258, Level 2 scores fell within the 259-283 range, Level 3 score s fell within the 284-331 limits, Level 4 scores fell within the 332-393 range, and Level 5 scores fell within the 394-500 limits. In reading, a student who achieves a Level 1 score on the FCAT is predicted to experience limited success with the content of the Sunshine State Standards. A Level 2 score represents little success (Florida Department of Education, 2003). Currently,

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39 Florida Statute (Florida Department of Education, 2 002a) requires that students in third grade who scored Level 1 in Reading must be retaine d (with noted exceptions). Procedure A proposal for the current study was submitted to t he Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of South Florida and the FL DOE for approval before any data were analyzed. After the approval of the IRB and th e FLDOE, the procedure for the present study was carried out in the following mann er. Step 1: The primary investigator identified the po tential pool of thirdand fourthgrade students who obtained 2003 3rd-grade FCAT reading scaled scores of 248-269 from the data provided by the Florida Department of Educ ation. Step 2: Classifications of size for each school dis trict in the state of Florida was obtained from the Florida Department of Education. The size classifications are Very Large, Large, Medium, Small/Medium, and Small. Step 3: Participants who obtained a scaled score o f 248-258 on the 2003 3rd grade FCAT reading test, obtained a Level 1 designation, and were retained in third grade due to academic reasons were selected. This group of st udents was designated as the “higher performing retained group”. The 2004 3rd grade FCAT reading scores for the higher performing retained group were then obtained in the spring of 2004. Step 4: Participants who received a scaled score o f 259-269 on the reading portion of the 2003 3rd grade FCAT, obtained a Level 2 on the 2003 FCAT and were promoted to fourth grade due to academic reasons we re placed in a “promoted, low achieving group”. These participants represent stud ents who received the lowest scores on the FCAT reading test of Level 2 students and we re promoted to fourth grade. The

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40 2004 4th grade FCAT reading scores for the promoted, low ac hieving group were then obtained in the spring of 2004 from the FLDOE. Step 5: Students who attended school at home, atten ded laboratory schools, or who had missing data were excluded from both sample s. In addition, students with data that were not consistent with Florida’s student pro gression plan (e.g., promoted due to academic reasons, attained Level 1 on the FCAT) wer e also excluded from the study. Step 6: The size of each group was determined upon analysis of third graders’ 2003 FCAT reading scaled scores. As predicted, ther e were an adequate number of participants in each group to conduct inferential s tatistical procedures on the data. The 3rd grade higher performing retained group consisted of 3,886 students and the 4th grade promoted, low achieving group consisted of 9,062 st udents. Step 7: The information from the database obtained from the FLDOE were transferred into the Statistical Analysis Software (SAS, 2004) by the primary investigator for analysis. Step 8: The alpha significance level used for the p resent study was delineated at .05, two-tailed. The rationale for a two-tailed ana lysis is that it was not certain what the effect retention will have on students FCAT perform ance. Therefore analysis of the variables were sensitive to both negative (lower FC AT attained Levels) and positive (higher FCAT attained Levels) outcomes. Data Analysis 1. What proportion of higher performing retained third -grade students who had reading scaled scores of 248-258 on the 2003 FCAT r eading test subsequently scored at Level Two or higher on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test?

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41 This research question was addressed from the data obtained from the 2003 and 2004 3rd grade FCAT reading scaled scores for students for the higher performing retained group. The demographic characteristics of the group s were reported in terms of race, gender, and size of school district. The number and percent of the 3rd grade higher achieving retained students who scored at Levels 1 through 5 on the 2004 3rd grade FCAT reading test were computed. In addition, the p ercentages of these retained students who attained a Level 2 or higher and a Level 3 or h igher on this test were reported. A bar graph was developed to visually communicate the per cent of higher performing retained students who scored at Level 2 or higher and those students who scored at Level 1 on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test. 2. There is a significant difference in the obtained 2 004 FCAT reading levels of higher performing retained students by a) gender, a nd by b) race/ethnicity. Descriptive statistics for each subgroup (e.g., ret ained male, female, AfricanAmerican, Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic students) were computed including means, standard deviations and skewness and kurtosis coeff icients for the 2003 FCAT reading scaled scores. The percentages of the 2004 FCAT Lev el designations by gender were reported for higher retained students. Chi-square p rocedures were used to determine if the obtained proportion of higher performing retained m ale and female students who scored at Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading subtest was significantly different than the expected proportio ns. Similarly, the percentages of the 2004 FCAT level designations were reported for high er performing retained AfricanAmerican, Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic students. Chi-square procedures were also used to determine if the obtained proportions of hi gher performing retained African-

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42 American, Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic students w ho scored at Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading subtest was significantly diffe rent than the expected proportions. 3. There is no difference in the obtained post-retenti on 3rd-grade FCAT reading levels of higher performing retained students as a function of district size. Data from 2003 and 2004 FCAT reading scores, retent ion group classification, and the size of students’ attended district were examin ed. District size classifications that were used in the analysis were Very Large, Large, M edium, Medium/Small, and Small, following the criteria that are used by the FLDOE f or such designations. Descriptive statistics included the 2003 FCAT reading score mea ns and standard deviations from each district size designation were calculated for the higher performing retained students. Skewness and kurtosis of FCAT scores of these retai ned students by size of attended district were also calculated. The percentages of h igher performing retained students who attained Levels 1, 2 and 3 through 5 designations o n the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test were calculated and reported. A chi-square mea sure of association analysis was conducted for the higher performing retained group to determine if the obtained proportions of retained third-grade students who ac hieved state reading standards significantly differed from the expected proportion s relative to the size of district attended. 4. For higher performing students retained in the thir d grade, there is a significant relationship among gender, race/ethnicity, prior pe rformance on the FCAT reading test and attaining state reading standards on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test.

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43 To test this hypothesis, the data from the higher p erforming retained student sample were subjected to a logistic regression procedure. The logistic regression statistical procedure allows for a dichotomous outcome variable (achievement of state reading standards vs. non-achievement of state standards), and both dichotomous (e.g., male and female) and continuous (2003 FCAT scaled scores) va riables as predictor variables. In the present study, gender, race/ethnicity, and prio r performance on the 2003 FCAT reading test were entered into the model to predict meeting state standards for reading achievement in 2004 as measured by the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading level designations for higher performing retained third-grade students The nominal variables were coded to allow for within group comparisons among the higher achieving retained male students and likewise for the promoted, low performing stude nts. The coding was as follows: (a) Males were coded as 0 and female students were code d as 1, (b) the race/ethnicity variable was dummy coded so that African-American, Asian, and Hispanic students were compared to Caucasian students, (c) student who rec eived the FCAT reading Levels 2 through 5, which was considered to have met state r eading standards, was coded as a 1 and the FCAT Level 1 designation which does not mee t state standards and was coded as a 0, and (d) students who received free and reduced lunch in the 2003-2004 school year were coded as a 0, and students who did not receive free and reduced lunch during the 2003-2004 were coded as a 1. The overall likelihood ratio for the model was reported to determine if the model predicted retained student o utcomes better than chance along with the Hosmer and Lemeshow goodness-of-fit statistic w hich indicates if model is a good fit for the data. The weights and standard error for ea ch of the variables were reported and odds ratios for race/ethnicity, gender, and size of district attended for higher performing

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44 retained third-grade students were also calculated and reported to determine if retention differentially benefited groups of students. 5. What proportion of promoted third-grade students wh o had reading scaled scores of 259-269 on the 2003 FCAT reading test subsequent ly scored at Level 2 or higher on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test? To analyze this research question, descriptive stat istics were reported including the means for each group including the standard deviati on and the skewness and kurtosis values. First, the percentage of students who attai ned a 2004 4th-grade FCAT of Level 2 or higher and Level 1 were reported. The percentage s of promoted students attaining designations at each specific achievement level wer e also reported. A bar graph was utilized to display percentages of promoted, low ac hieving students who scored at Level 2 or higher and at Level 1 on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading section. 6. There is a difference in the obtained 2004 FCAT rea ding levels of promoted, low achieving students by a) gender, and by b) race/eth nicity. Descriptive statistics for each subgroup (e.g., pro moted, low achieving male, female, African-American, Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic st udents) were reported including 2003 FCAT reading scaled score means, standard devi ations and skewness and kurtosis coefficients. The percentages of the 2003 FCAT leve l designations were reported for promoted, low achieving male and female students al ong with a pie graph representing these percentages. Chi-square procedures were used to determine if the obtained proportion of promoted, low achieving male and fema le students who scored at Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test were significantly differe nt than the expected proportions. Similarly, the perce ntages of the 2004 FCAT level

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45 designations were reported for promoted, low achiev ing African-American, Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic students. Chi-square proced ures were also used to determine if the obtained proportions of promoted, low achieving African-American, Asian, Caucasian, and Asian students who scored at Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 or higher on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test was significantly differen t than the expected proportions. 7. There is a difference in the obtained post-retentio n FCAT reading levels of promoted, low achieving students as a function of d istrict size This hypothesis was tested utilizing the database p rovided by the FLDOE. Specifically, 2003 3rd-grade FCAT reading scaled scores, the 4th-grade 2004 FCAT Levels, retention group classification, and the siz e of students’ attended district were examined. Descriptive statistics including the 2003 FCAT reading score means and standard deviations from each district size designa tion were calculated for the promoted, low achieving students. The skewness and kurtosis o f FCAT scores of promoted students by size of attended district were also calculated. A chi-square measure of association analysis was conducted for the promoted, low achiev ing students to determine if the obtained proportions of students who achieved state standards on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test significantly differed from the e xpected proportions relative to the size of district attended. 8. For students promoted in third grade, there is a re lationship among gender, race/ethnicity, prior performance on the FCAT readi ng test and attaining state reading standards on the 2004 FCAT reading test.

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46 To test this hypothesis, the data from promoted, lo w achieving student sample were subjected to a logistic regression procedure. The l ogistic regression statistical procedure allows for a dichotomous outcome variable (achievem ent of state reading standards vs. non-achievement of state standards), and both dicho tomous (e.g., male and female) and continuous (2003 FCAT scaled scores) variables as p redictor variables. In the present study, gender, race/ethnicity, and prior performanc e on the 2003 FCAT reading test were entered into the model to predict meeting state sta ndards for reading achievement in 2004 as measured by the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading level designations for promoted low achieving fourth-grade students. The nominal variab les were coded to allow for within group comparisons among the higher achieving retain ed male students and likewise for the promoted, low performing students. The coding w as as follows: (a) Males were coded as 0 and female students were coded as 1, (b) the r ace/ethnicity variable was dummy coded so that African-American, Asian, and Hispanic students were compared to Caucasian students, (c) student who received the FC AT reading Levels 2 through 5, which was considered to have met state reading stan dards, was coded as a 1 and the FCAT Level 1 designation which does not meet state standards and was coded as a 0, and (d) students who received free and reduced lunch in the 2003-2004 school year were coded as a 0, and students who did not receive free and reduced lunch during the 20032004 were coded as a 1. The overall likelihood rati o for the model was reported to determine if the model predicted retained student o utcomes better than chance along with the Hosmer and Lemeshow goodness-of-fit statistic w hich indicates if model is a good fit for the data. The weights and standard error for ea ch of the variables were reported and odds ratios for race/ethnicity, gender, and size of district attended for higher performing

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47 retained third-grade students were also calculated and reported to determine if retention differentially benefited groups of students.

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48 Chapter Four Results Introduction The purpose of the present study was to explore th e relationship between Florida’s model of third-grade student progression and reading performance as measured by the FCAT-reading test. This chapter reports the results of the present study as delineated in the previous chapter. Specifically, t his chapter includes a brief description of how the data were screened, student demographic information, the characteristics of the samples, and the results of the data analysis t o answer the research questions and hypotheses posed. Data Screening Before the data were analyzed, students who attain ed a scaled score between 248 and 269 on the 3rd-grade 2003 FCAT-Reading test were identified. Stu dents who attended home school and laboratory schools, and st udents who were younger than sixyears-old and older than 16-years-old were excluded from the final sample. Based on these parameters, 14,139 students were identified. For the analyses that required gender, ethnicity, and district information, an additional 1,191 (457 retained, 734 promoted) students from the study were excluded due to incons istencies within the database (e.g., obtaining a scaled score within the Level 1 designa tion yet receiving a Level 2), student attrition, and for missing data on the gender and e thnicity variables for a total of 12,948

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49 students. For the analyses that required informatio n regarding SES data, an additional 90 (35 retained, 55 promoted) students were excluded d ue to missing data. Thus, the overall sample for the study consisted of 12,858 students. Characteristics of Final Samples The final subsamples for this study included the fo llowing: a) The first subsample consisted of 3,886 students who were retained in third grade at the end of the 2003 academic year, attaine d a scaled score of 248-258 on the 2003 FCAT reading test, and who retook the 3rd-grade FCAT reading test in the 2003-2004 academic year. b) The second subsample was comprised of 9,062 stud ents who were promoted to fourth grade at the beginning of the 2003-2004 acad emic year, attained a scaled score of 259-269 on the 2003 FCAT reading test, and who took the 4th-grade FCAT reading test in the 2003-2004 academic year. Demographic characteristics of the students in the first subsample (hereafter, referred to as the higher performing retained group sample), and second subsample (hereafter, referred to as the promoted, low achiev ing sample) for academic year 20032004 are reported in Table 1. As is shown in the ta ble, 40% of the higher performing retained students were African-American while 37% o f promoted students were Caucasian. A great majority of the promoted, low ac hieving and higher performing retained students received free and reduce lunch (7 0% and 71%, respectively). As expected, the students attending Very Large distric ts comprised a majority of the higher performing retained (58%) and promoted, low achievi ng (59%) samples.

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50 Table 1 Demographic Characteristics of Retained and Promote d Students Performance of Samples on the 2003 3rd-Grade FCAT Reading Test Descriptive statistics for the 2003 FCAT reading s caled scores by gender and race/ethnicity for promoted, low achieving and high er performing retained students are presented in Table 2. 2004 Status Characteristic Total (N = 12,949) Retained (N = 3886) Promoted (N = 9062) N % n % n % Gender Male 6720 51.90 2027 52.16 4,693 51.78 Female 6228 48.10 1859 47.83 4,369 48.21 Race/Ethnicity African-American 4715 36.41 1558 40.09 3157 34.84 Asian 163 1.26 37 .95 126 1.39 Caucasian 4532 35.00 1175 30.24 3357 37.04 Hispanic 3538 27.32 1116 28.72 2422 26.73 Free and Reduced Lunch Yes 9477 73.71 3087 80.16 6390 70.94 No 3381 26.29 764 19.84 2617 29.06 District Size Very Large 7619 58.84 2273 58.49 5346 58.99 Large 2090 16.14 674 17.34 1416 15.63 Medium 2051 15.84 595 15.31 1456 16.07 Small/Medium 717 5.54 205 5.25 512 5.65 Small 471 3.64 139 3.58 332 3.66

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51 Table 2 Means and Standard Deviations of 2003 3rd grade FCAT-Reading Scaled Scores for Retained and Promoted Students The ranges, means, skewness and kurtosis values of scores on the 3rd-grade 2003 FCAT reading test were computed for both the higher perf orming retained and promoted, low achieving samples. The mean score for the higher pe rforming retained group was 252.96 ( SD = 3.16) with a range of 248 to 258. The skewness va lue for the higher performing retained group FCAT suggested a relatively normal d istribution, however, it was platykurtic ( k = -1.21), which was expected because the 2003 FCAT reading scaled scores Characteristic N Mean SD Skew Kurtosis Retained Students (N = 3886) Gender Male 2027 252.98 3.18 -.004 -1.23 Female 1859 252.99 3.15 -.012 -1.18 Race/Ethnicity African-American 1558 252.91 3.16 .013 -1.22 Asian 37 252.97 3.28 .215 -1.35 Caucasian 1175 253.15 3.12 -.074 -1.17 Hispanic 1116 252.93 3.21 .024 -1.21 Promoted Students (N = 9062) Gender Male 4693 264.17 3.16 -.078 -1.22 Female 4369 264.24 3.12 -.075 -1.20 Race/Ethnicity African-American 3157 264.05 3.18 -.017 -1.24 Asian 126 264.51 3.16 -.149 -1.26 Caucasian 3357 264.33 3.10 -.126 -1.17 Hispanic 2422 264.19 3.16 -.080 -1.22

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52 were restricted. As is shown in Table 2, the means and standard deviations of scores for males and females and across race/ethnicity were ap proximately equal. The obtained mean for the 2003 FCAT reading scaled score variable for the promoted group was 264.19 ( SD = 3.14) with a range of 259 to 269. An examination of the distribution of scores indicated that the skewn ess value was minimal (-0.07) but was platykurtic ( k = -1.22). The promoted, low achieving gender and ra ce/ethnicity subgroups had similar means, and also had platykurtic distrib utions. Performance of Higher Achieving Retained Students 1. What proportion of higher performing retained third -grade students who had reading scaled scores of 248-258 on the 2003 FCAT-R eading test scored at Level Two or higher on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT-Reading test? The performance levels of the third-grade higher pe rforming retained students are reported in Table 3. Table 3 Number and Percent of Retained Students on the 2004 3rd grade FCAT Reading Test by Performance Level Performance Level N % 1 495 12.74 2 823 21.18 3 2015 51.85 4 527 13.56 5 26 .67 Total 3886 100

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53 As is shown, a majority (87.26%) of higher performi ng retained third-grade students scored at Level 2 or higher on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test, while 12.74% (n = 495) scored at Level 1. A more detailed examination of students scoring at Level 2 or higher reveals that 66% of the higher performing re tained students scored at Levels 3 through 5. Students scoring at Level 3 or higher o n the FCAT reading tests are considered proficient in reading. Students who scor e at Level 1 are predicted to experience little success with future reading instr uction. Although an attained Level 2 on the FCAT test meets state standards for reading, st udents scoring at this level are predicted to experience limited success with future reading instruction (Florida Department of Education, 2004). Figure 1 visually d isplays the percentage of higher performing retained and promoted, low achieving stu dents scoring at Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test.

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54 Figure 1. Percentages of retained students attainin g Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test and promoted, low achievin g students attaining Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Level 1Level 2Levels 3-5 Percent Retained Percent Promoted 2. There is a significant difference in the obtained 2 004 FCAT reading levels of higher performing retained students by a) gender, a nd by b) race/ethnicity. Gender. This hypothesis was rejected. There were 2027 males and 1859 females in the higher performing retained group. To test the h ypothesis, a c2 test of Association was conducted. The number and percent of higher per forming retained male and female students by performance level on the 3rd-grade FCAT reading test are presented in Table 4. The obtained c2 statistic was not statistically significant ( c2 = 5.04, p > .05), indicating that there was no difference in reading performance between

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55 male and female higher performing retained students as measured by the 3rd-grade 2004 FCAT Reading test. Table 4 Number and Percent of Retained Students by Performa nce Level and Gender on the 3rdGrade FCAT-Reading in 2004. Performance Level Gender N Level 1 n % Level 2 n % Levels 3-5 n % Male 2027 266 54 401 49 1360 53 Female 1859 229 46 422 51 1208 47 Total 3886 495 823 2568 c2 (2, N = 3886) = 5.04, p = .08 Race/Ethnicity. This hypothesis was supported. There were a total of 1,558 African-American, 37 Asian, 1,175 Caucasian, and 1, 116 Hispanic students in the higher performing retained group. To address the hy pothesis, the data were subjected to a c2 test of Association. The number and percent of Afr ican-American, Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic students by performance lev el on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test are presented in Table 5. As is shown there is a significant difference in the attained reading levels by race/ethnicity c2 (4, N = 3886) = 70.21, p < .01, indicating that the expected outcomes of retention varied as a function of race/ethnicity.

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56 Table 5 Number and Percent of Retained Students by Performa nce Level and Race/Ethnicity on the 3rd-Grade FCAT-Reading Test in 2004 Performance Level Race/Ethnicity N Level 1 n % Level 2 n % Levels 3-5 n % Caucasian 1175 111 22 226 27 838 33 African-American 1558 266 54 371 45 921 36 Hispanic 1116 115 23 214 26 787 31 Asian 37 3 1 12 1 22 1 Total 3886 495 823 2568 c2 (4, N = 3886) = 70.21, p < .01 Specifically, more African-American students scored at Levels 1 and 2 than expected while fewer African-American students scored at Lev els 3 through 5 than expected. In addition, more Caucasian students scored at Levels 3 through 5 than expected. 3. There is a significant difference in the obtained p ost-retention 3rd-grade FCAT reading levels of higher performing retained studen ts as a function of district size. This hypothesis was rejected. The number and percen t of higher performing retained students by performance level on the 3rd-grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 by size of district are reported in Table 6.

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57 Table 6 Number and Percent of Retained Students by Performa nce Level and Size of District on the 3rd-Grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 Performance Level District Size N Level 1 n % Level 2 n % Levels 3-5 n % Small 139 16 3 29 4 94 4 Medium-Small 205 30 6 43 5 132 5 Medium 595 62 13 128 16 405 16 Large 674 72 15 132 16 470 18 Very Large 2273 315 64 491 60 1467 57 Total 3886 495 823 2568 c2 (8, N = 3886) = 11.44, p = .18 A review of the Table 6 reveals that 2,273 higher p erforming retained students attended Very Large districts while only 139 students attend ed Small districts. The obtained c was not statistically significant c2 (8, N = 3886) = 11.44, p = .18, indicating that the expected outcomes of retention did not vary significantly as a function of the size of attended districts. 4. For higher performing students retained in the thir d grade, there is a significant relationship among gender, race/ethnicity, prior pe rformance on the FCAT reading test and attaining state reading standards on the 2004 FCAT reading test. This hypothesis was accepted. A logistic regression was conducted. An additional 15 students were excluded due to missing data on the S ES variable. Thus, a total of 3,851 students were included in the analysis. The variabl es race/ethnicity, 2003 FCAT reading

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58 scaled scores, gender, and SES were entered into th e regression model as independent variables. Relating to the gender variable, males w ere coded as 0, and female students were coded as 1. The race/ethnicity variable was su bjected to a dummy coding procedure, comparing African-American, Asian, and Hispanic stu dents with their Caucasian peers. The dependent variable was defined as student attai nment of state standards on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test and was treated as a dicho tomous variable (achieving state standards = 1, not achieving state standards = 0). As mentioned in previous chapters, students must score a level 2 or higher on the 3rd-grade FCAT-reading test to meet state standards for reading proficiency. The results of t he regression are presented in Table 7. The results of the logistic regression showed that Predicted logit (Achieving State Standards) = -4.7 679 + .0948*Female + (-0.5944*African American) + (-0.0196*Hispanic) + (0.1817*Asian) + (-0.2715*LowSES) + (0.0283*Prior FCAT Reading Scal ed Scores). The overall likelihood ratio was statistically sign ificant ( c2= 51.33, p < .01) indicating that the model with five factors was significantly more effective in predicting students’ achievement of state standards than a constant only model. The Wald and Score tests support this conclusion. The Hosmer and Lemeshow go odness-of-fit test was insignificant ( c2= 4.69, p = .78) indicating that the obtained regression was a good fit for the data.

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59 Table 7 Logistic Regression Analysis of Retained Students M eeting State Standards on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT-Reading Predictor B SEB Wald’s c2 df p eB (odds ratio) Constant -4.768 3.924 1.4763 1 .2243 Gender (1 = Female) .0948 .0982 .9330 1 .3341 1.099 Race African American -.5944 .1283 21.4574 1 <.0001 .552 Hispanic -.0196 .1462 .0180 1 .8934 .981 Asian .1817 .6115 .0883 1 .7664 1.199 SES (1 = Low SES) -.2715 .1454 3.4885 1 .0618 .762 SSR -0.028 .0155 3.3351 1 .0678 1.029 Test c2 df p Overall model evaluation Likelihood Ratio test 51.3274 6 <.0001 Score test 51.5561 6 <.0001 Wald test 50.2783 6 <.0001 Goodness-of-fit test Hosmer & Lemeshow 4.6921 8 .7899 The Goodman-Kruskal’s Gamma statistic, which accoun ts for ties on both the outcomes and predictor variables (as are present in these data), is .206. This is interpreted as 21% fewer errors were made in predicting which o f two students would achieve success on the FCAT-Reading by using the estimated probabilities than by chance alone. In addition, the c statistic, which for this model is .601, means that for 60% of all possible pairs of students – one successful and the other un successful – the model correctly

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60 assigned a higher probability of success to the stu dent who was successful. This indicates that the model is better at assigning outcomes than one that randomly assigns probabilities to observations. In addition to the m easures of association, a measure of classification was conducted, and results are displ ayed in Table 8. Table 8 Observed and Predicted Frequencies for Attainment o f State Standards in Reading by Logistic Regression with the Cutoff of .87 Predicted Observed Successful Unsuccessful % Correct Successful 2119 233 63.0 Unsuccessful 1246 253 52.1 Overall % Correct 61.6 Note. Sensitivity = 2119/(2119+1246)% = 62.9%. Spec ificity = 253/(253+233)% = 44.6%. False positive = 233/(233+2119)% = 9.9%. False negative = 1246/(1246 +253)% = 83.7%. At a .87 probability level, the model correctly pre dicted 63% of the students achieving success, 52.1% of students not achieving success, and 61.6% of students overall. The false positive rate (9.9%) measures th e proportion of observations misclassified as events over all those classified a s events while the false negative rate (83.7%) measures the proportion of observations mis classified as nonevents over all those classified as non-events. The overall correct ion prediction was 61.6%, which is improved from chance. Of the independent variables, only race was signifi cantly associated with the performance level obtained on the 2004 FCAT Reading -Test. Specifically, AfricanAmerican students were less likely to meet state st andards ( B = -.594, p < .01) than their

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61 Caucasian peers. The Odds Ratio for African-America n students was .552 (Confidence Limit = .43-.71) indicating that African-American s tudents achieved state standards at approximately half the rate of their Caucasian coun terparts. Performance of Low Achieving Promoted Students 5. What proportion of promoted, low achieving fourth-g rade students who had reading scaled scores of 259-269 on the 2003 FCAT r eading test subsequently scored at Level 2 or higher on the 2004 fourth-grad e FCAT reading test? Overall, the percentage of promoted fourth-grade st udents who scored at Level 2 or higher on the fourth-grade 2004 FCAT reading test w as 67.68% while 32.32% of students scored at Level 1 on this test. A more det ailed analysis of students scoring at Level 2 or higher indicates that approximately 36% of students scored at Levels 3 through 5 on the fourth-grade test. The number and percentage for promoted students at each achievement level is presented in Table 9. Table 9 Number and Percent of Promoted Students on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT-Reading by Performance Level Performance Level N % 1 2929 32.32 2 2930 32.33 3 2906 32.07 4 291 3.21 5 6 .07 Total 9062 100

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62 Figure 1 visually displays the percentage of higher performing retained and promoted, low achieving students scoring at Levels 1, 2, and 3 through 5 on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT reading test. Students who scored at Level 3 o r higher are considered proficient in reading (Florida Department of Education, 2004). 6. There is a difference in the obtained 2004 FCAT rea ding levels of promoted, low achieving students by a) gender, and by b) race/eth nicity. Gender. This hypothesis was accepted. A total of 4,693 male and 4,369 female students were included in the promoted, low achievi ng sample. To test the hypothesis, the data were subjected to a Chi-square Test of Associa tion. Table 10 reports the number and percent of promoted students by performance level o n the 3rd-grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 by gender. Table 10 Number and Percent of Promoted Students by Performa nce Level and Gender on the 4thGrade FCAT-Reading in 2004 Performance Level Gender N Level 1 n % Level 2 n % Levels 3-5 n % Male 4693 1573 54 1464 50 1656 52 Female 4369 1356 46 1466 50 1547 48 Total 9062 2929 2930 3203 c2 (2, N = 9062) = 8.21, p = .02 The obtained Chi-square statistic for promoted male and female students was statistically significant c2 (2, N = 9062) = 8.21, p = .02. This indicated that promoted, low achieving

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63 females and males 2004 reading achievement levels w ere significantly different than expected. Specifically, fewer promoted female stude nts than expected scored at Level 1 on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT-reading test. Conversely, more male stu dents attained Level 1 than expected. Race/Ethnicity This hypothesis was accepted. A total of 3,157 Af rican-American, 126 Asian, 3,357 Caucasian, and 2,422 Hispanic stud ents were included in the sample. In order to test the hypothesis, the data were subject ed to a Chi-Square Test of Association. The number and percent of promoted students by race /ethnicity and performance level on the 4th-grade 2004 FCAT-Reading Test in 2004 are reported in Table 11. Table 11 Number and Percent of Promoted Students by Performa nce Level and Race/Ethnicity on the 4th-Grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 Performance Level Race/Ethnicity N Level 1 n % Level 2 n % Levels 3-5 n % Caucasian 3357 1000 34 1030 35 1327 41 African-American 3157 1209 41 1047 36 901 28 Hispanic 2422 690 24 810 28 922 29 Asian 126 30 1 43 1 53 2 Total 9062 2929 2930 3203 c2 (7, N = 9062) = 124.59, p < .0001 The obtained c2 was statistically significant c2 (7, N = 9062) = 124.59, p < .0001 indicating that the expected outcomes of student pr omotion varied among race/ethnicity.

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64 Specifically, more African-American students scored at Level 1 on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test than expected, and fewer scored a t Levels 3 through 5 than expected. Fewer Caucasian and Hispanic students scored at Lev el 1 and more Caucasian than expected scored at Levels 3 through 5. 7. There is a difference in the obtained post-retentio n FCAT reading levels of promoted, low achieving students as a function of d istrict size. This hypothesis was accepted. The number and percen t of promoted students by performance level on the 4th-grade 2004 FCAT-Reading test by district size are presented in Table 12. Table 12 Number and Percent of Promoted Students by Performa nce Level and Size of District on the 4th-Grade FCAT-Reading in 2004 Performance Level District Size N Level 1 n % Level 2 n % Levels 3-5 n % Small 332 136 5 96 3 100 3 Medium-Small 512 171 6 164 6 177 6 Medium 1456 509 17 457 16 490 15 Large 1416 423 14 462 16 531 17 Very Large 5346 1690 58 1751 60 1905 59 Total 9062 2929 2930 3203 c2 (8, N = 9062) = 22.21, p = .005

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65 As shown in Table 12, the obtained c2 for promoted students by district attended was statistically significant c2 (8, N = 9062) = 22.21, p = .005, indicating that th e expected outcomes of promotion varied among size of the stud ents’ district attended. 8. For students promoted to fourth grade in 2003-2004, there is a relationship among gender, race/ethnicity, prior performance on the FC AT reading test and attaining state reading standards on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test. This hypothesis was accepted. A logistic regression was conducted for the promoted group who took the fourth-grade FCAT in 2004. A tot al of 9,007 promoted students were included in the analysis, 58 students that were exc luded due to missing data on the SES variable. Data reflecting race, 2003 FCAT reading s caled scores, gender, and SES were entered into the regression model as independent va riables. For gender, males were coded as 1, and female students were coded as 0. The race /ethnicity variable was dummy coded, comparing African-American, Asian, and Hispanic stu dents with their Caucasian peers. The dependent variable was student attainment of st ate standards on the 2004 fourthgrade FCAT reading test and was treated as a dichot omous variable (attainment of state standards = 1, non attainment of state standards = 0). The results of the logistic regression are presented in Table 13. The results of the logistic regression showed that Predicted logit (Attaining State Standards) = -12. 7390 + 0.1355 *Female + (-0.2663*African American) + (0.1651*Hispanic) + ( 0.3734*Asian) + (-0.2730*LowSES) + (.0517*Prior FCAT Reading Scale d Scores).

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66 Table 13 Logistic Regression Analysis of Promoted Students M eeting State Standards on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT-Reading Predictor B SEB Wald’s c2 df p eB (odds ratio) Constant -12.7390 1.9118 44.3989 1 <.0001 Gender (1 = Female) .1355 .0456 .8.8296 1 .003 1.145 Race African-American -.2663 .0569 21.9216 1 <.0001 .766 Hispanic .1651 .0618 7.1226 1 .0076 1.179 Asian .3734 .2162 2.9814 1 .0842 1.453 SES (1 = Low SES) -.2730 .0557 24.0051 1 <.0001 .761 SSR -.0517 .00724 51.0777 1 <.0001 1.053 Test c2 df p Overall model evaluation Likelihood Ratio test 167.0246 6 <.0001 Score test 166.0687 6 <.0001 Wald test 163.3335 6 <.0001 Goodness-of-fit test Hosmer & Lemeshow 7.6385 8 .4696 The overall likelihood ratio test was statistically significant c2(6, 9007) = 167.02, p < .01). The Hosmer and Lemeshow goodness-of-fit Tes t was insignificant ( c2= 7.64, p = .47) indicating that the obtained regression was a good fit for the data. The GoodmanKruskal’s Gamma statistic, which accounts for ties on both the outcomes and predictor variables (as are present in these data), is .168. This is interpreted as 17% fewer errors made in predicting which of two students would achi eve success on the FCAT-Reading

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67 by using the estimated probabilities than by chance alone. The c statistic, which for this model is .583, means that for 58% of all possible p airs of students – one successful and the other unsuccessful – the model correctly assign ed a higher probability of success to the student who was successful. This indicates that the model is better at assigning outcomes than one that randomly assigns probabiliti es to observations. In addition to the measures of association, a measure of classificatio n was conducted, and results are displayed in Table 14. Table 14 Observed and Predicted Frequencies for Success by L ogistic Regression with the Cutoff of .67 Predicted Observed Successful Unsuccessful % Correct Successful 3616 2474 59.4 Unsuccessful 1377 1540 52.8 Overall % Correct 57.2 Note. Sensitivity = 3616/(3616+2474)% = 59.4%. Spec ificity = 1540/(1540+1377)% = 52.8%. False positive = 2474/(2474+3616)% = 27.6%. False negativ e = 1377/(1377+1540)% = 61.6%. At a .67 probability level, the model correctly pre dicted 59% of the students achieving success, 53% of students not achieving su ccess, and 57% of students overall. The false positive rate (27.6%) measures the propor tion of observations misclassified as events while the false negative rate (61.6%) measur es the proportion of observations misclassified as nonevents. The overall correction prediction was 57.2%, which is improved from chance.

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68 According to the results of the logistic regression gender, race, prior achievement and SES were significantly associated with the leve l attained on the 2004 FCAT reading test for this select group of promoted students. Wh en other variables were controlled, female students ( B = .135, p < .01) were significantly more likely to achieve st ate standards than male students. The obtained odds-rat io for female students achieving state standards to male students was 1.15 (Confidence Lim its 1.04-1.52). African-American students were less likely ( B = -.266, p < .01) to achieve state standards than their Caucasian peers. The obtained odds-ratio for Africa n-American students to Caucasian students achieving state standards was .766 (Confid ence Limits .685-849). Hispanic students ( B = .165, p < .01) were more likely to achieve state reading st andards than their Caucasian peers. The obtained odds-ratio for Hispan ic students to Caucasian students achieving state standards was 1.18 (Confidence 1.05 1.33). Students of low socioeconomic status were less likely ( B = -.273, p < .01) to achieve reading state standards than students of high socio-economic status. The ob tained odds-ratio for low SES students to high SES students for achieving state s tandards was .761 (Confidence Limits.682-.849). Finally, students who had higher prior achievement ( B = .052, p < .01) were more likely to achieve state standards for rea ding.

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69 CHAPTER FIVE Discussion Introduction The purpose of the present study was to examine th e academic outcomes of Florida’s student progression policy on retained an d promoted students. Specifically, the academic outcomes for two select samples of student s were examined: students whose 2003 3rd-grade FCAT reading scaled scores fell just “under” (248-258) the criteria for promotion to fourth-grade (and were subsequently re tained), and students whose 2003 3rd-grade FCAT reading scaled scores fell just “above” (259-269) the criteria for fourthgrade promotion (and were promoted). Chapter V cont ains a discussion of the results that were reported in Chapter IV. Specifically, the purp ose of this chapter is to discuss the relevance of the present study in the context of pa st research, present a summary of research findings, and discuss the implications for educational policy in the State of Florida. The limitations of the study will be discu ssed in detail and directions for future research will be addressed. Student Characteristics Overall, the sample characteristics of the present study suggested that male and minority students were more likely to be retained t han female and Caucasian students, respectively. This is consistent with previous rese arch conducted by Abidin, et al. (1971), Alexander et al. (1994), Fine and Davis, (2003) and Jimerson et al. (1997). Upon closer

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70 examination, the percentage of males in the retaine d group in the present study was lower than what has been found in previous research. The distribution of males in the higher achieving retained and promoted, low achieving grou ps in the present study was not congruent with the findings of Jimerson et al. (199 7). Jimerson found that males constituted 74% of the higher achieving retained gr oup, and 56% of the promoted, low achieving group, while males comprised 52% of the r etained group and 51% of the promoted group for the present study. Minority students represented the majority of the h igher achieving retained (70%) and promoted, low achieving (63%) groups in the pre sent study, while only constituting 51% of the third-grade population in the State of F lorida. This represents a 19% overrepresentation of minority students in the high er achieving retained sample. This was congruent with previous research (McCoy & Reynolds, 1999; Reynolds, 1992) that indicated that minority students were more likely t o be retained than their Caucasian peers. Minority students were also overrepresented in the promoted, low achieving sample by 12%. African-American students were the m ost overrepresented ethnic group in the higher achieving retained and promoted, low achieving groups. African-American students consisted of 24% of all third-graders in t he State of Florida in the 2002-2003 school year, while African-American students compri sed 40.23% of all higher achieving, retained students in the present study. The observed student characteristics of the higher achieving retained and promoted, low achieving groups may have been direct ly related to how the groups were identified for the study. Students were selected ba sed upon a narrow range of 2003 3rdgrade FCAT reading test scaled scores. The percenta ges of minority and male students

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71 may be different for the entire population of stude nts who scored at Levels 1 and 2 on this test. In addition, the retention rates for min ority students may have been influenced by socio-economic status (SES). The students who we re selected for the study scored at Levels 1 and 2. Previous research would suggest tha t SES may account for more of the variance in reading performance than race/ethnicity Furthermore, the educational opportunities for minority students may have put th ose students at risk for retention. Retained Student Outcomes Overall, higher achieving third-grade retained stud ents were likely to meet state standards for third-grade reading proficiency at th e conclusion of the retention year. This conclusion was supported by the result that 87.6% o f higher achieving retained students attained a Level 2 or higher designation on the 3rd-grade FCAT reading test. Perhaps of greater interest is that approximately two-thirds o f the higher achieving retained students scored at Level Three or higher on the 2004 FCAT re ading test. Many of the higher achieving retained students not only met the minimu m state standards for reading, but were proficient in reading at the third-grade level as defined by the State of Florida. Many of the retained third-grade students in this s tudy would not be considered at-risk for future academic failure at the conclusion of their retention year. The general outcomes for the higher achieving retai ned students in this study are not consistent with the overall results of previous research. The meta-analysis conducted by Jimerson (2001) clearly indicated that the major ity of retention literature has suggested that grade retention was not an effective intervention for addressing academic deficiencies for students. In fact, retention was o ften associated with negative academic outcomes. The few studies that reported initial pos itive results were not longitudinal and

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72 indicated that the academic gains were not sustaine d over time. Furthermore, the few academic gains that were demonstrated by retained s tudents were not related to reading proficiency. Rather, a limited number of students d emonstrated higher achievement in mathematics after the retention year. It is difficult to determine why the majority of hi gher achieving retained students in the present study demonstrated increased reading proficiency when previous research would predict otherwise. It may be due in part to the educational climate that exists in Florida. The FCAT reading test is linked to third-g rade promotion in the State of Florida. Students must pass the test in order to be promoted If third-grade students who were retained fail for a second time, they will be retai ned in third grade again, repeating the grade for a third time. This type of atmosphere in the State of Florida has influenced the priorities for teachers, principals, parents and st udents. The emphasis on reading achievement, and the high stakes associated with th e FCAT, may have had an impact on the quality of reading instruction that was provide d to students in Florida’s third-grade classrooms. The intent of the retention year is to adapt instru ction in order to maximize success in the acquisition of reading skills during that retention year. Students who were retained were required to receive differentiated in struction intended to remediate reading deficiencies. According to the State of Florida’s p olicy (Florida Department of Education, 2002a) retained students are required to receive prescriptive and intensive remedial reading instruction delineated on an Acade mic Improvement Plan (AIP). Students also received additional instructional tim e which allowed for students to increase their academic engaged time in the third-g rade curriculum. Previous research has

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73 linked academic engaged time (AET) to higher academ ic achievement (Aronson et al., 1998). The extra AET afforded by the retention year may help explain, in part, the academic achievement of the higher performing retai ned students in the study. The combination of additional academic instructional ti me and instruction organized through AIPs may have provided the higher achieving retaine d students with the opportunity to improve reading skills. Moreover, it is possible th at the retained students were successful because they benefited from third-grade instruction and would have not been successful within the fourth-grade curriculum. Research has in dicated that students benefit most from instruction within their instructional level ( Shapiro & Elliot, 1999). Fourth-grade regular education teachers may have not been able t o provide the higher achieving retained students with differentiated instruction a t their instructional level that would be necessary for success. Although the results of the present study indicated gains in academic achievement for the higher achieving retained students, past re search (Pagani et al., 2001) has suggested that these gains may not continue after t he retention year. Students who were retained and subsequently scored at a proficient le vel on the FCAT reading test may not continue to receive supplemental academic services in addition to the core curriculum. If and when the extra academic learning time and acade mic supports are withdrawn, the observed reading gains for the higher achieving ret ained group may fade over time. Additional research is needed to confirm or reject this hypothesis. More perplexing questions occur when the retained s tudents reach secondary education. A recent study conducted by Jimerson at al. (2002) indicated that while retention may have initial benefits on academic ach ievement, it was a significant

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74 predictor of future school dropout. Additionally, t he research conducted by Fine and Davis (2003) suggested that students who were retai ned once were half as likely to enroll in post-secondary education as their promoted peers These previous studies did not delineate the academic remediation strategies that were employed during the retention year, and it not clear if students received supplem entary academic instruction. Therefore, it remains to be seen if the student outcomes from previous research pertain to the students in the present study. Promoted Student Outcomes Previous research (Jimerson et al., 2001) has indi cated that when compared to similarly performing retained students, promoted st udents attained higher scores on standardized reading tests. The results of the pres ent study may suggest otherwise. Like their retained peers, promoted, low achieving stude nts who were promoted to fourth grade were also likely to meet state reading standa rds on the 2004 4th-grade FCATReading test. Approximately two-thirds of promoted students attained a Level Two designation or higher on the FCAT. However, only 35 % of low-achieving promoted students scored proficiently (Levels 3 through 5) o n the 4th-grade 2004 reading FCAT as compared with the 60% of students who scored profic iently on the 3rd-grade FCATreading test. Promoted students were relatively ev enly distributed among Levels 1, 2 and 3, with very small percentages of students scoring at Levels Four and Five on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT-Reading test. Although a majority of th e promoted, low achieving students passed the 4th-grade FCAT, only 35% of the students attained a le vel of proficiency in reading from the previous year. This indicates that approximately twothirds of the promoted students may be considered a t-risk for future academic failure as

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75 opposed to one-third of the higher achieving retain ed group. More explicitly, a majority of the promoted, low achieving students maintained their position as relatively lowachievers at the end of fourth grade. The previous research (Jimerson et al., 2001) that has suggested the negative academic effects of retention has typically compare d the achievement outcomes of retained students and similar low achieving peers. It is difficult to directly compare the higher achieving retained and promoted, low achievi ng students in the present study because the two groups of students took different l evels (reflecting different skill sets) of the FCAT. The FCAT proficiency rate for the low ach ieving, promoted students was somewhat less than the proficiency rate of higher a chieving retained students but, the retained third-grade students took the 3rd-grade FCAT and the promoted fourth-grade students took the more difficult 4th-grade FCAT. Therefore, the reading proficiency differences that were observed in higher achieving retained and promoted, low achieving students may not represent the retained group closi ng the achievement gap. The higher achieving retained group may subsequently not score as proficiently on 4th-grade measures of reading achievement. However, the resul ts of the present study seemed to suggest that within their respective curricula, ret ained students were more likely to be proficient in reading than promoted, low achieving students. Student Outcomes by Gender In this study, meeting state reading standards as measured by the FCAT reading test did not vary by gender for the higher achievin g retained students. However, meeting state reading standards was moderated by gender for the promoted, low achieving students in the present study. The c2 was statistically significant, but it is difficult to

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76 determine if this outcome was due to the large samp le size of the group (n = 9,062), or if it was due to clinically significant differences in promoted student outcomes. Similarly, the c2 for the higher achieving retained group may have b een statistically significant if it would have contained a larger sample size. Student Outcomes by Race/Ethnicity African-American students were the most overreprese nted racial group in the higher achieving retained and promoted, low achievi ng groups. In addition, higher achieving retained African-American students attain ed a Level 1 designation on the 3rdgrade 2004 FCAT reading test at a significantly hig her rate than was expected. The logistic regression analysis indicated that higher achieving retained African-American students were significantly less likely to achieve state standards in reading than their Caucasian peers, even after other variables such as gender, SES, and prior reading achievement were controlled. This trend was similar among the promoted AfricanAmerican students. More promoted African-American s tudents did not meet state reading standards on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test than expected. Moreover, A fricanAmerican students were significantly less likely to achieve state standards than their Caucasian peers. These results seem to suggest that African-American students tended to be less likely to achieve state standards in readin g regardless of promotion status. Neither retention nor promotion seemed to improve the readi ng outcomes for African-American students when compared with their peers. The implic ations of this finding for retention policies and future research are discussed later in the chapter. The reading outcomes for Hispanic students seemed to be more encouraging. According to the results of the logistic regression higher achieving retained Hispanic

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77 students were just as likely to achieve state stand ards on the 3rd-grade FCAT reading tests as their Caucasian peers. The results from the c2 statistical procedure indicated that more Hispanic students scored at Levels 3 through 5 (pro ficient in reading) than expected. Given these results, it seems as if higher achievin g retained Hispanic students benefited from the extra year of instruction more so than oth er minority groups, and on the same level as their Caucasian peers. Interestingly, prom oted, low achieving Hispanic students were more likely to achieve state standards in reading than their Caucasian peers when SES, prior achievement, and gender were held consta nt. In addition, more Hispanic students scored at a proficient level on the 4th-grade FCAT reading test than was expected. This seems to suggest that the majority o f promoted Hispanic students outperformed their peers on the 2004 4th-grade FCAT reading test. Based upon these and the previous results, it seems that student charact eristics did contribute to the outcomes of retention. Limitations The present study has a number of limitations, man y of which are present in previous retention literature. The students in the present study were not randomly assigned to the retained and the low achieving, pro moted groups. Therefore, this study was not truly experimental and it was impossible to isolate the effects of retention or student progression on students’ academic achieveme nt. Moreover, the retained students and the promoted, low achieving students took diffe rent versions of the FCAT. Therefore it is impossible to directly compare the 3rd-and 4th-grade 2004 FCAT levels for the two subsamples of students.

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78 A second limitation was the use of the FCAT-Reading test as the sole criteria for reading achievement. The FCAT-Reading test has exce llent technical characteristics (Florida Department of Education, 2002b), yet it ma y not accurately represent the curricula that were delivered to retained and promo ted students in Florida’s classrooms. The study did not account for other methods that ma y be used to demonstrate students’ reading performance (e.g., other standardized achie vement measures, student portfolio, curriculum-based measures). The State of Florida al lows some students to demonstrate reading proficiency through student portfolios and alternative assessment. A third limitation is related to the database that was used. The database contained information from a large sample of retained and pro moted third-grade students. The coding system that was used may have caused errors in the database which may threaten the validity of the study. Inter-rater agreement on the codification of the data was not conducted by districts or the Florida Department of Education. In addition, students’ SES data was determined through eligibility for par ticipation in the free and reduced lunch program defined by the State of Florida. Stud ents who were eligible for free and reduced lunch were coded as low SES. Students who w ere not eligible for free and reduced lunch were considered to not be of low SES. This definition of SES limited the range and the continuous nature of the variable and may not have accurately measured the true socio-economic status of the students. How ever, virtually all educational research studies conducted in the United States that include SES as a variable use this definition. A fourth limitation of the study is that the indep endence assumption required for the logistic regression procedure was violated. The students in the present study were nested within various schools across the State of F lorida. It is likely that different schools

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79 had different reading curricula to prepare students for the FCAT. It is also possible that schools had differing educational policies, resourc es, and services that may have differentially affected students FCAT scores. In ot her words, the FCAT-Reading scores of students who attended the same elementary school may not be independent of each other. Therefore, the fidelity of the logistic regr ession procedure may have been compromised and should be interpreted with caution and with supplemental evidence (e.g., previous research, c2 analyses). The final limitation is that the present study onl y examined the short term student outcomes within the context of Florida’s student pr ogression plan. It is impossible to determine if the academic gains that were demonstra ted by the retained and promoted, low achieving groups will continue. The research th at was previously mentioned (Fine & Davis, 2003; Jimerson et al., 2002; McCoy & Reynold s, 1999) has indicated that the effects of grade retention are long-term, and the s hort-term effects may distort the later outcomes for students. Delimitations The results of this study may be generalized to th ird-grade students in the State of Florida who scored within a narrow band (248-269) o f 2003 3rd-grade FCAT scaled scores. The results of the study may not generalize to students who were retained or promoted in different grades, or third-grade studen ts who were retained and promoted in third-grade but achieved an FCAT-reading scaled sco re of less than 248 and greater than 269. Additionally, the results may not generalize t o states that do not have educational policies that mandate academic remediation of retai ned students, or require individualized academic support plans for retained students.

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80 Implications for Florida’s Student Progression Poli cy This study evaluated Florida’s student progression policy by examining the academic outcomes of retained and promoted third-gr ade students. The results suggested that Florida’s policy was associated with increased rates of reading proficiency for a select group of higher performing retained and prom oted, low achieving students. Students who scored at the higher end of the Level 1 designation cutoff (248-258) seemed to benefit (in the short term) from the mand ated academic remediation that was provided during the retention year. The majority of higher performing retained students not only met the minimum state standards for readin g achievement, but many of these students were also proficient readers by the end of the retention year. Over 60% of the retained students moved from a Level 1 designation in 2002-2003 to Level 3 designation or higher in 2003-2004. These results seem to sugge st that the policy to retain these students was supported at least initially. Unfortunately, Florida’s retention policy did not b enefit all students equally. Male students and minority students, especially AfricanAmericans, were retained at disproportional rates. African-American males were the most likely group to be retained under the current retention policy. Reasons for thi s may include the criteria for which retention decisions are made. Florida uses the FCAT Reading test for retention decisions. Fewer African-American students may be retained if there was more flexibility within retention decisions. The use of alternative forms o f assessment in conjunction with the FCAT Reading test such as curriculum-based measures increased use of portfolios to document reading proficiency, attendance, and other norm-referenced reading achievement tests may reduce the number of minority students retained in third grade.

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81 The State of Florida could also reduce the number o f minority students retained in third grade by ensuring that these students have equitabl e access to evidence-based core and supplemental instruction before the retention year. By doing so, Florida may preve nt the retention of students with moderate reading problem s and the costs that are associated with it. The majority of higher achieving retained and promo ted, low achieving students achieved state standards on the 2004 FCAT reading T est. However, African-American students in the present study faired much worse on the 2004 3rd-grade FCAT-Reading test than their Caucasian peers. The State of Florida sh ould ensure that all students have equal access to supplemental and intensive academic servi ces during the retention year. A hypothesis for why retained African-American studen ts did not perform well on the 2004 FCAT was that these students may not have received high-quality remedial instruction and interventions during the repeated year. Schools may not have had the resources to closely monitor the academic progress of low SES Af rican-American students. Additionally, schools may not have had the resource s to provide evidence-based instruction at the level of intensity that was requ ired for these students. Funds, training, and staff should be equitably distributed according to student needs if the State of Florida expects high academic standards from all students. Overall, Florida’s retention policy also seemed to benefit the promoted, low achieving students. The majority of these students met state standards in reading, however, only a minority were considered proficient in reading at the end of fourthgrade. If this subsample would have included studen ts who attained scaled scores higher than 269, it is likely that more students would hav e scored at Level 3 or higher on the

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82 2004 4th-grade FCAT-Reading test. Interestingly, prior FCAT scores were a significant predictor of achieving state standards for the prom oted, low achieving students. This was not expected given the restriction placed on the 20 03 FCAT-Reading scores (259-269). Promoted, low achieving students who scored at the low end of this range were significantly less likely to meet state standards f or reading. This may indicate that cutoff score for retention decisions was not high enough, and some of the promoted students may have benefited, at least initially, from servic es provided in association with grade retention. African-American and male students were overrepres ented in the promoted, low achieving group, continuing the trend that was obse rved in the retained group. They also were less likely to achieve state standards for rea ding. This adds credibility to the argument that the current service delivery of AIPs does not seem to be as effective with this population of students. Florida should ensure that all low achieving students have equitable access to evidence-based reading instruct ion and interventions. In summary, many researchers agree that retention and social promotion are not sufficient for addressing the needs of students who do not demonstrate adequate yearly academic progress (Jimerson, et al. 2002). Educatio nal policies should focus on preventing academic difficulties before they occur. Florida’s student progression policy may have achieved this goal by pressuring school ad ministrators, principals, teachers, and parents to focus on reading achievement before stud ents reach third-grade. By providing early intervention services to students, fewer stud ents will require supplemental academic instruction, and will be less at-risk for retention Third-grade students who are at-risk for retention should receive differentiated instruction and additional academic learning time

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83 to catch up to their peers. It is possible that stu dents with reading difficulties may benefit from being retained in reading, but not in grade. I n this scenario, students receive reading instruction in a third-grade classroom and still be nefit from fourth-grade instruction in content areas other than reading. Implications for Future Research Although the results of the present study indicate that a majority of both the retained and promoted, low achieving groups achieve d state standards the subsequent year, future research is needed to directly compare the reading achievement of both groups. This would provide for more definite conclu sions of the impact of retention versus promotion on reading outcomes under the prov isions of Florida’s student progression policy. Additionally, a longitudinal de sign would be beneficial to determine if positive academic effects are sustained over tim e after the retention year. Previous research has consistently indicated the negative lo ng term effects of retention; however, no study has examined the long term effects of rete ntion within the context of a state wide retention initiative. Future research question s should determine if a large scale retention policy, such as Florida’s, affects studen t drop out rates, and post-secondary education enrollment. Due to the exploratory nature of this study, there are many variables that were not controlled. These included the integrity of AIPs, e arly intervention services, and quality of core instruction. Future research should attempt to determine the moderating effects of these variables on the outcomes of retention (Does the quality of an AIP during the retention year predict successful academic outcomes ?). In addition, the impact of early intervention services and an evidence-based core in struction on the rates of student

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84 retention should be examined. Some research questio ns may include: (1) Are retention rates lower for school districts with Reading First grants?, (2) Do evidence-based early intervention services for reading lower the number of students who are at-risk for grade retention?, and (3) Does a tiered model of service delivery impact number of students retained? The present study focused exclusively on the academ ic outcomes of retention. However, retention may have other potentially impor tant effects on students. Previous literature has suggested that retained students are more at-risk for mental health difficulties, poor attendance, and behavioral and s ocial problems (National Association of School Psychologists, 2003a) Future research should examine the impact of grade retention on the social and emotional outcomes of s tudents within the context of a statewide policy of retention. Conclusion The current educational climate in the United Stat es has recognized the importance of reading for the educational outcomes of students. Florida has responded to this emphasis by enacting policies to help ensure t hat all students have pre-reading and reading skills by the end of the third grade. Stude nts that do not meet state standards for reading at the end of third grade are retained and are provided with systematic interventions in the form of academic improvement p lans (AIPs). In this study, higher achieving third-grade students who were retained we re likely to succeed in the following year. These results suggest support for retention p ractices within the context of mandated academic remediation. However, more research is nee ded to determine the long-term academic and social impact of retention practices i n Florida before more unequivocal

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85 recommendations are made. Additionally, the retenti on policy did not seem to address, in an equitable fashion, the academic needs for certai n groups of students (AfricanAmericans, Males). These groups of students were id entified as at-risk for repeated failure. More information about these groups of stu dents should be gathered to identify, analyze, and develop solutions for this problem.

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86 References Abidin, R.R., Golladay, W. M., & Howerton, A. L. (1 971). Elementary school retention: An unjustifiable, discriminatory, and n oxious policy Journal of School Psychology, 9, 410-414. Alexander, K., Entwisle, D., & Dauber, S. (1994). On the success of failure: A reassessment of the effects of retention in the pr imary grades New York: Cambridge University Press. Aronson, J. Zimmerman, J., & Carlos, L. (1998). Imp roving student achievement by extending school: Is it just a matter of time? Ret rieved October, 11, 2003 from http://www.wested.org/online_pubs/timeandlearning/ 1_intro.html Canales, J., Frey, J., Walker, C., Walker, S., Weis s, S., & West, A. (2002), No state left behind: The challenges and opportunities of ESEA 2 001. Denver, Colorado: Education Commission of the States. Clinton, W. (1999). State of the Union Address (January 1, 1999) Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Coyne, M., Kame’enui, E., & Simmons, D. (2001). Pre vention and intervention in beginning reading: Two complex systems. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16 (2), 62-73. Dawson, P. (1998). A primer on student grade retent ion: What the research says. Communique, 26 (8), 28-30.

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87 Denton, D. (2001). Finding alternatives to failure: Can states end social promotion and reduce retention rates? Atlanta, Georgia. Southern Regional Education Board. Donahue, P., Finnegan, R., Lutkus, A., Allen, N., C ampbell, J. (2001). The nation’s report card: Fourth grade reading 2000. National assessment of educational progress. National Center of Educational Statistics. United S tates Department of Education. Donnelly, B. (2000). Making sense of reading Austin,Texas. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, 20 U. S. C. Sec. 401 (1975). Ferguson, P., Jimerson, S. R., & Dalton, M. (2001). Sorting out successful failures: Exploratory analyses of factors associated with aca demic and behavioral outcomes of retained students Psychology in the Schools, 38 (4), 327-342. Fine, G. J., & Davis, J. M. (2003). Grade retention and enrollment in postsecondary education. Journal of School Psychology, 41 401-411. Florida Department of Education. (2002a). Student Progression. Retrieved October 10, 2003 from http://www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mod e=Display_Statute& search_String=&URL=Ch1008/SEC25.HTM&Title=

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88 Florida Department of Education. (2002b). Techinical report: For operational test Administrations of the 2000 Florida Comprehensive Assessessment Test. Retrieved October 11, 2003 from http://www.firn.edu/doe/sas/fcat/pdf/fc00tech.pdf. Florida Department of Education. (2003). FCAT readi ng SSS. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test Retrieved October 11, 2003 from http://www.firn.edu/doe/sas/fcat.htm. Florida Department of Education. (2004). Third grad e reading 2003 state reading Profile. Retrieved January 7, 2004 from http://www.firn.edu/doe/commhome/pdf/3statesum.pdf Gottfredson, D. C., Fink, C., & Graham, N. (1994). Grade retention and problem behavior. American Educational Research Journal, 31 (4), 761-784. Graue J., & DiPerna, E. (2000). Redshirting and ear ly retention: Who gets the “gift of time” and what are its outcomes. American Educational Research Journal, 37 (2), 509-534 Gredler, G.R. (1997). Intervention programs. Psychology in the Schools, 34, 161-169. Greenwood, C. R., Maheady, L., & Delquadri, J. (200 2). Classwide peer tutoring programs. In M. Shinn, H. Walker, & G. Stoner, (Ed s.), Interventions for academic and behavioral problems II: Preventative and remedial strategies. (pp. 611-649) Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

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90 Jimerson, S.R., Kaufman, A. M., Anderson, G. E., Wh ipple, A. D., Figueroa, L. R., Rocco, F. & O’Brien, K. M. (2002). Beyond grade re tention and social promotion: Interventions to promote social and cog nitive competence. Manuscript submitted for publication. Jimerson, S. R., & Kaufman, A. M. (2003). Reading, writing, and retention: A primer on grade retention research. The Reading Teacher, 56 (8), 622-635. K-20 Education Code, 48 FL. Gen. § 1008 et seq. 2003. Lennon, J. E., Slesinski, C. (1999). Early interven tion in reading: Results of a screening and intervention program for kindergarte n students. School Psychology Review, 28 (3) 353-64. Linn, R., Baker, E., & Betebenner, D. (2002). Accountability systems: Implications of Requirements of the NCLB Act of 2001. CSE technica l report. California. Lord, F. M., & Novick, M. R. (1968). Statistical theories of mental scores. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Mann, D., & Shakeshaft, C. (2003). In God we trust; All others bring data. School Business Affairs, 69 (1) 19-22. Mantzicopoulos, P. V. (1997). Do certain groups of children profit from early retention? A follow-up study of kindergartners with attention problems. Psychology in the Schools, 34, 115-127. Mantzicopoulos, P., & Morrison, D. (1992). Kinderga rten retention: Academic and behavioral outcomes through the end of the second grade. American Educational Research Journal, 29 182-198.

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An exploratory analysis of the effects of a statewide mandatory grade retention policy and student academic achievement
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ABSTRACT: The literacy skills of students have become a significant concern among legislators and educators. The federal government has responded to this by enacting legislation that increases state accountability to provide evidence-based interventions to struggling readers. In response, the State of Florida has mandated mandatory retention for third-grade students who are at risk for reading failure. Third-grade students who do not pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test-Reading (FCAT) are retained. Students who score at Level 1 are retained, and students who scored at Levels 2 through 5 are promoted. Research has indicated that retention has been an ineffective intervention to improve academic performance. However, it is difficult to compare research findings with Florida's current retention plan. Previous research has not delineated the intervention strategies that were utilized during the retention year. Florida requires that all students are provided evidence-based read ing remediation. The purpose of this study was to explore the association of Florida's model of student progression and academic achievement. More specifically, the study investigated the academic outcomes of third-grade students who scored within 10 scaled score points below the student progression achievement cut-off, attained a Level 1 designation in 2003 and were retained, and students who scored within 10 scaled score points above the student progression achievement cut-off, attained a Level 2 designation in 2003 and were promoted to fourth grade. Results indicated that 87% of the higher performing retained students subsequently scored at Level 2 or higher in 2004 while 67% of the promoted, low achieving student scored at Level 2 or higher in 2004. Furthermore, gender, SES and race were significantly associated with the reading outcomes of higher achieving retained and promoted, low achieving students. This study contributes to the literature by examining the outcomes of a retenti on model within a framework of academic remediation. In addition, the utility of high stakes testing and retention decisions were also examined. Future implications for research include direct comparisons of retained and promoted students, a longitudinal research design to examine the long-term effects of retention, and the identification of more effective services and intervention strategies to target at-risk students.
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