Does grade retention affect achievement? Some evidence from PISA
Grade retention practices are at the forefront of the educational debate. In this paper, we use PISA 2009 data for Spain to measure the effect of grade retention on students’ achievement. One important problem when analyzing this question is that school outcomes and the propensity to repeat a grade are likely to be determined simultaneously. We address this problem by estimating a Switching Regression Model. We find that grade retention has a negative impact on educational outcomes, but we confirm the importance of endogenous selection, which makes observed differences between repeaters and non-repeaters appear 14.6% lower than they actually are. The effect on PISA scores of repeating is much smaller (-10% of non-repeaters’ average) than the counterfactual reduction that non-repeaters would suffer had they been retained as repeaters (-24% of their average). Furthermore, those who repeated a grade during primary education suffered more than those who repeated a grade of secondary school, although the effect of repeating at both times is, as expected, much larger.
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