Executive Summary

Ohio third-grade students who were retained as part of the state’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee showed substantially higher test scores in English language arts (ELA) and math in grades 4-7 than academically similar third-grade students who were promoted.

The Ohio Education Research Center (OERC) looked at how academically similar third-grade students performed on Ohio’s ELA and math tests in each following grade up to seventh grade. The study compared the future performance of third-grade students scoring just above the cut score (who were not retained) to students scoring just below the cut score (who were retained). The analysis starts with third grade students during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years and uses state test results through the 2018-19 school year.

The research had three major results:

  1. Retained students score higher in ELA and math in grades 4-7. Third-grade students who were retained performed better than similar students who originally scored just above the cut score in ELA and math in every grade studied, fourth grade through seventh grade.
  2. The gap between retained and non-retained students is substantial. In fourth and fifth grade, for instance, the average retained student scored at least one performance level better than a similar non-retained student. The retained students performed better; however, the gap between retained students and non-retained students decreased each year.
  3. Retained third-grade students improve quickly. In retained students’ second time through third grade, 90% increased their score on the ELA test, 53% increased an entire performance level, and 21% achieved proficiency. It is worth noting that 90% of retained students scored at the very bottom test level – Limited. It is possible to miss the improvement of our lowest-performing students by just looking at proficiency rates and not considering student growth.

Click here to read the full report.


June 1, 2023