The Effects of Mandated 3rd Grade Retention: An Analysis of Florida's A+ Plan

In 2003-2004 approximately 23,000 third graders were retained in Florida under the third grade retention mandate outlined in the A+ Plan. Researchers in previous studies found students who were retained faced difficulty in catching up to their peers, achieving academically, and obtaining a high school diploma (Anderson, Jimerson, & Whipple, 2005; Andrew, 2014; Fine & Davis, 2003; Jimerson, 1999; Moser, West & Hughes, 2012; Nagaoka, 2005; and Ou & Reynolds, 2010).

In a recent study, Jasper, Carter, Triscari and Valesky (2016) evaluated longitudinal data to determine if the A+ plan was effective in helping students achieve on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT and acquire a standard high school diploma. In the study, researchers tracked a cohort of retained third grade students from a large southwest Florida school district. Reading assessment data was evaluated for the Grade 3 Reading FCAT. Then researchers evaluated those same students' scores on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. The scores were then compared. Researchers Also compared that same data for a similarly non-retained group (the control group), who scored at a level 1 but who were not retained. Graduation status and diploma acquisition for both groups was also compared. This is what researchers found:

  • 93% of the retained group in the study remained below a level 3 on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. In addition, 67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. 
  • 41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.
  • The non-retained group were 14.7% more likely to graduate with a standard diploma than the retained group.
  • Between 2003-2013, it cost Florida tax payers approximately $587 million FTE funding for the retained students.
  • Approximately 6% of white students were retained while 20% of nonwhite students were retained. Of the students retained in 2003-2004, 69.8% were on free or reduced price lunch.
  • There was a statistically significant difference between retained students and nonretained students regarding Grade 10 Reading FCAT mean scale scores (.000). There was also a statistically significant difference between ethnicity and Grade 10 Reading FCAT scores (.003).

You can see from the graph below, in 2013, 7 years after retention, 94% of the retained group remained below proficiency. 

Reading levels of retained students 7 years after retention in

2013-2014.

COST: $587 MILLION 

RESULT: 93% REMAINED BELOW PROFICIENCY ON THE GRADE 10 READING FCAT. 

If you would like to read the executive summary or the full study, click the titles below:

Executive summary of my research (Short Version) 

Full Dissertation: THE EFFECTS OF MANDATED THIRD GRADE RETENTION ON STANDARD DIPLOMA ACQUISITION AND STUDENT OUTCOMES: A POLICY ANALYSIS OF FLORIDA'S A+ PLAN