Is Grade Retention Effective?

End-of-the-year parent-teacher conferences might reveal that your child is recommended to repeat their grade in the following school year. Grade retention has been a long-debated topic in child education. It only makes sense that a child who fails to learn to read and write correctly should repeat it until they get it right…right? Wrong. Most research does not support the effectiveness of grade retention for struggling readers and/or writers.

There are many ways public schools struggle to help children with literacy issues. Notre Dame sociologist Megan Andrew studied and proved “that kids who repeat a year between kindergarten and fifth grade are 60 percent less likely to graduate high school than kids with similar backgrounds, and even 60 percent less likely to graduate high school than siblings in the same family” (Barshay, 2016). Her study didn’t even take into account children with learning disabilities! Can you imagine how much more damaging holding a child back with a learning disability could be? Grade retention will not benefit your child, especially if your child’s struggles are caused by dyslexia or another learning disability.

Research has also shown “that promotedpicture of elementary school classroom students ha[ve] higher academic achievement, better personal adjustment, and more positive attitudes toward school than retained students d[o]” (David, 2008). Promoting your child forward will keep them with their friends and peers, make them feel capable and keep morals high. That doesn’t mean their struggles just disappear, though. So what do you do?

Instead of trying something over and over again expecting different results, try something different to begin with! Learning disabilities affect 1 in 5 people and those with a learning disability need to be taught using a very different approach than how normal readers are taught. Decades of research, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and The International Dyslexia Association all recommend a Structured Literacy (Orton-Gillingham) method.

Lexercise provides online Structured Literacy therapy that incorporates an expert therapist, daily practice, and parent involvement to guarantee your child’s success. If your child is still struggling and you suspect they might have a learning disability you can screen them in 10 minutes for free HERE.


Barshay, Jill. “New Research Suggests Repeating Elementary School Grades — Even Kindergarten — Is Harmful.” Education By The Numbers. Hechinger Report, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

David, Jane L. “What Research Says About… / Grade Retention.”Educational Leadership: Reaching the Reluctant Learner: Grade Retention. ASCD, Mar. 2008. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.


Davis, B. (2021). Holding Students Back – An Inequitable and Ineffective Response to Unfinished Learning, The Education Trust. 

Goos, M., Pipa, J., Peixoto, F. (2021).  Effectiveness of grade retention: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Educational Research Review,  34, 100401.

NASP Position Statement: Grade Retention and Social Promotion 5 © (2022). National Association of School Psychologists

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Marie Lunney

Marie struggled with reading, writing and spelling as a child and knows the frustrations of finding and receiving language therapy. She has since overcome her childhood struggles and recently graduated Cum Laude from Elon University with a BS/BA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Marie is enthusiastic about helping families find convenient, personalized and effective language therapy.