Degree Name

Education Specialist (EdS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Larry Janes


This study was conducted to investigate the practice of grade retention in Illinois public schools with a combined 7th and 8th grade enrollment of at least 100 students and a district student population of less than 1700 students. A sample population of schools was obtained by dividing Illinois into three geographic areas and randomly selecting 30 schools from each area. The northern area consisted of schools north of Interstate 80. The central area consisted of schools between Interstate 80 and Interstate 70. The southern area consisted of schools south of Interstate 70.

Principals in each of the sample schools were surveyed and asked to supply information concerning the number of 7th and 8th grade students their schools retained during the 1995-1996 school year, and the success of these students during the 1996-1997 school year in terms of grades earned, attendance, and school behavior. The principals were also asked to report information about the existence and efficacy of formal intervention programs for retained students in their schools.

It was found that 51% of the schools in the sample retained no students during the 1995-1996 school year. However, the practice of retention at 7th and 8th grades was relatively common. Forty-nine percent of the schools that participated in the study retained at least one student during the 1996-1997 school year. Thirty-two percent of the schools retained at least 1% of their 7th and 8th grade enrollment, and 12% of the schools retained more than 3%.

Building principals reported that over 40% of retained students showed improvement in each performance criterion during the second year at the same grade level, and only a small percentage of students were perceived to perform worse during the same period of time.

It was determined that fewer than one in three schools had formal intervention programs in place to assist retained students. It was found that schools with formal intervention programs were less likely to retain students than schools without formal programs. Also, a greater percentage of retained students in schools with formal intervention programs were perceived to show improvement in grades and attendance than retained students in schools without such programs. The most common intervention programs to assist retained students were summer school, faculty tutoring, before and after school programs, counseling, and classroom accommodations.

It was recommended that school personnel consider retention coupled with formal intervention services as an option when working with students who fail to meet the criteria for entry into the next grade level. It was also recommended that the study be replicated in other locations to corroborate the findings.