Outcome: Children and youth are academically successful


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Retention rates by grade level


Significance of this indicator: When students are not successful in school, they may be retained and therefore have to repeat the same grade level.  Retention is a strong indicator that a student is not likely to succeed in school. Students who are older than their grade-level peers are more likely to be retained again or simply to drop out of school.


How we are doing on this indicator:  Overall, grade level retention rates are significantly higher in grades 9 through 12. The retention rates in high school are often times higher than before high school because promotion from one grade level to the next is determine solely by the number of classes successfully completed whereas promotion in elementary and middle school is based on many factors. 


†Rust, J. O., & Wallace, K. A. (1993).  Effects of grade level retention for four years. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 20, 165-170


what the data tell us


Definition: The retention rate of students between kindergarten and Grade 12. Retention refers to a student who in the fall of the given year was enrolled in the same grade level as the last six-week period of attendance in the previous year.

Data Source: Grade Level Retention in Texas Public Schools 2008-2009, Texas Education Agency, 2010

Data Considerations:   The TEA Division of Accountability Research publishes an annual report on grade-level retention in Texas public schools. Data on retention are provided by student characteristic and program participation. In addition, student retention and promotion data are reported with data on the performance of students in Grades 3-10 on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading and mathematics tests. A supplement to the report presents grade-level retention data at the district level.


The Story Behind the indicator


In elementary and middle school grade-levels retention generally happen when educators believe that a student is not performing on grade-level and is far enough behind that they are likely to not succeed the next year if promoted.  Retention is also mandated by the Texas Legislature. The current Texas Education Code stipulates that students in Grades 5 and 8 must pass TAKS Reading and Math in order to be promoted to the next grade level (previously, Grade 3 students had to pass TAKS Reading also).  It should be noted that these students have three separate opportunities to pass both TAKS and the statute requires students to receive accelerated instruction supports if they fail TAKS.  If a student has received accelerated instruction and still fails a TAKS three different times, the student is not automatically retained.  A campus Grade Placement Committee makes the final decision after reviewing a student’s academic performance and receiving input from teachers and parents. 


Retention is expensive because a retained student is educated for an additional year, and recent research has found that grade-level retention may cause more negative than positive results (Goldberg, 2004; Texas Education Agency, 1996; Tuck, 1989). 


Goldberg, M. F. (2004).The high-stakes test mess. Education Digest, 69(S), 8-15.

Texas Education Agency. (1996) Comprehensive biennial report on Texas public schools: A report to the 75th Texas legislature. Austin: Texas Education Agency.

Tuck, K. (1989, April). A study of students who left: D. C. public school dropouts. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco.



Some local efforts to improve this indicator

  • All Central Texas school districts are working to make sure students are successful, including providing academic supports for students who have failed TAKS or failing classes, providing ways for students to earn course credits after school or during the summer, and working with community-based organizations (e.g., Communities in Schools) that provide other support services designed to help a student focus more on school.


A Closer look at the story behind the indicators

Definition: Retention rates by grade level, excluding special education students.

Data Source: Academic Excellence Indicator System, District Level Data, Texas Education Agency

Data Considerations:   The retention rate, reported in the Profile section, shows the percentage of students in Texas public schools who enrolled in the fall of 2009-10 in the same grade level as their grade level in the last reported six-week period of the prior year (2008-09). It is calculated as follows: total students not advanced to the next grade level divided by total students advanced to the next grade level + total students not advanced to the next grade level. Special education retention rates are calculated and reported separately from the rates of non-special education students because local retention practices differ greatly between these two populations of students. The AEIS report only shows retention rates for grades K-8. Retention rates for all grade levels can be found in Grade-Level Retention in Texas Public Schools, 2008-09, available from TEA.

The following individuals/organizations contributed to the development of this indicator.

  • Contributors
Workforce Solutions - Capital Area United Way Capital Area (UWCA) Community Action Network