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Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Russell F. West

Committee Members

Russell O. Mays, Ronald A. Lindahl, Cecil N. Blankenship


The purpose of this study was to investigate students’ perceptions of the affective consequences of grade retention and to uncover possible social and academic effects of grade retention on students’ subsequent elementary school experience. The participants were kindergarten through eighth grade students from a county in a rural area in Northeast Tennessee who had been retained for at least one year. A total of 36 students participated in the study, along with principals, school counselors, and teachers from each of the nine schools involved in the study. Information was collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews and the data were analyzed inductively using constant comparative analysis procedures.

As a result of the analysis of student interview data, 10 areas of influence emerged related to students’ perceptions of the retention process. This evidence was further substantiated through extended conversations with principals, school counselors and teachers. The areas of influence were categorized into six thematic areas: Theme 1: Conditions of Acceptance; Theme 2: Importance of Timing in the Decision to Retain; Theme 3: Negative Consequences of Retention for Older Children; Theme 4: Lack of Preparation for the Retention; Theme 5: Inadequacy of Support Services After the Retention; Theme 6: Far-reaching Effects of Retention.

Based on the findings, the investigator reached the following conclusions: (1) Regardless of their initial reaction to the retention decision, most students eventually accepted the decision. Parental involvement and support was wanted and needed. (2) Retention appeared to be an appropriate intervention for students whose problems stemmed from being chronologically and/or developmentally behind their classmates. (3) Retention appeared to be least appropriate for students who were dealing with behavior problems, learning disabilities, or other problems in their lives. (4) School personnel rarely prepared the child for the retention decision and rarely provided services to make sure the repeated year was successful. (5) Retained students socialized well with other students, but the retention process had negative effects on students’ self-esteem and attitude toward school.

Due to the significant impact of making the wrong promotion/retention decision, grade retention should be researched from every possible angle. New approaches to curriculum development, school restructuring, and individualized student instruction should become the focus of efforts to improve student success, and “ensure that no child is left behind.”

Document Type

Dissertation - restricted


Copyright by the authors.