Effect of retention in elementary grades on dropping out of school early

Jan N. Hughes, Qian Cao, Stephen G. West, Paula Allee Smith, Carissa Cerda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This study investigated the effect of grade retention in elementary school on dropping out of school by age 16. Participants were 538 (54% males) ethnically diverse, academically at-risk students recruited from Texas schools into a longitudinal study when they were in first grade (mean age = 6.58). Propensity score weighting successfully equated the 171 retained students and the 367 continuously promoted students on 65 covariates assessed in grade 1. Fifty-one students dropped out of school by age 16 and 487 persisted. Retention (vs. promotion) led to an increased early dropout rate (odds ratio = 1.68), even after controlling for 65 covariates associated with school achievement, retention, or both. Implications of findings for dropout prevention and grade retention policies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-27
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of School Psychology
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Early school leaving
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Grade retention
  • Propensity score analyses
  • Prospective study
  • School dropout

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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