Does Taking One Step Back Get You Two Steps Forward? Grade Retention and School Performance in Rural China
Abstract: Despite the rise in grade retention in China recently, little work has been done to understand the impact of grade retention on the educational performance of students in China. This paper seeks to redress this shortcoming and examines this impact on 1649 students in 36 elementary schools in Shaanxi province. With a dataset that was collected from a survey designed specifically to capture school performance of students before and after they were retained, we use Difference-in-Difference, Propensity Score Matching and Difference-in-Difference Matching approaches to analyze the effect of grade retention on school performance. Although the descriptive analysis shows that grade retention helps to improve the scores of the students that were retained, somewhat surprisingly, the results from the multivariate analysis consistently show that there is no significant positive effect of grade retention on school performance of the students. In fact, in some cases (e.g., for the students who repeat grade 2), grade retention is shown to hurt school performance.
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