This one again is from the journal "Psychology in the Schools" (Vol 31, January 1994). It's available for $30 at this link.
"Kindergarten retention and Transition Classrooms: Their Relationship to Achievement"
Here's the abstract:
This study examined the relationship between extra-year programs and later school achievement. Ninety-five children were identified as being either retained in kindergarten, placed in a transition classroom, recommended for an extra-year program but went into first grade, or as being in a control group of children who went from kindergarten to first grade without reservation. Results indicated that children retained in kindergarten performed significantly lower on a standardized achievement test than did children in the other three groups. Despite an extra year of schooling, children placed in transition classrooms did not differ significantly in their performance from children who were recommended for an extra year but went onto first grade and children in the control group.
from the following page:
In review of the research literature on the effects of extra-year programs, there is overwhelming agreement that retention seldom aids student achievement and has been shown to have negative effects on students' social and personal adjustment
A popular test administered to kids to determine placement is the Gesell test. A rundown on problems with the Gesell can be found in this paper beginning on page 6. (This is paper number 39 I mentioned above, I'll give that paper its own blog entry at another time.) The short version is that it isn't a very reliable exam. It purports to gives a effective-age of kids, and suggests placement based on that determined age. The Gesell system strongly discourages "over placement", that is: putting young kids K or 1st before they are deemed ready by the Gesell test.
Getting back to paper XX:
May and Welch (1984) also examined the relationship between early school retention and children's later academic achievement. The purpose of their study was to determine whether early retention based on Gesell developmental placement affected later school performance on standardized tests. The children in the study were classified as "Traditional" (those who tested developmentally mature), "Overplaced" (those who tested developmentally immature but did not take an extra year because of parental request), and "Buy-a-Year" (those who did take an extra year). Thus, the Buy-a-Year children were one year older than the other children at the time of testing. Despite this extra year, these children did not do as well on the achievement measures as did the other two groups of children. May and Welch concluded that the Overplaced children were not suffering the learning difficulties predicted by the Gesell theory. Once again, research contradicted the philosophy that providing students with an extra year to mature improves academic performance.
"Buying a year" comes at a high price:
Although retention is not seen to be an aid to achievement, it does appear to be related to having a negative selfconcept. For example, a number of studies have shown that retained children see themselves as failing and experience stress and disappointment associated with the failure (Elkind, 1987; Niklason, 1984; Shepard & Smith, 1987). In retrospective interviews with parents, Shepard and Smith (1988) found that parents of retained children reported that their children were teased by peers, felt like failures, and were bored.
Remember that, in practice, holding a kid back is usually done for social reasons--the kid needs time to mature socially. So, an academically advanced or capable kid is damaged doubly: First by not being challenged academically and being bored by the tedium of repetition or classes with programs meant for younger kids. Second by losing self esteem, believing themselves to be failures, and opening the kids up to a school career of being teased.
The paper does some of its own research and divides kids up into 4 different groups:
2 years of kindergarten + 1st, (KK1)
kindergarten + transition class + 1st, (KT1)
kindergarten + 1st + 1st again, (K11)
or kindergarten + 1st.(K1)
They administered a bunch of different academic exams to see how the groups fared. What they found were scores like this:
Reading: KK1 = 88.47, KT1 = 99.10, K11 = 99.27, K1 = 104.69
Math: KK1 = 89.21, KT1 = 99.13, K11 = 98.14, K1 = 102.29
Language: KK1 = 91.42, KT1 = 96.80, K11 = 104.47, K1 = 105.89
You can see how detrimental KK1 is, and how preferable K1 is.
This is from the conclusion:
In fact, the results indicate that retention actually hurt their achievement when compared to the children who were recommended for retention but went onto first grade anyway.
...The results from this study do not support the assumption that holding a child back will facilitate later achievement. To the contrary, it appears more advantageous to move the child along and promote the child directly to first grade.