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This study examines the causal impact of grade retention on high school attainment outcomes. We use administrative data on New York City public school students and a regression discontinuity design based on test score cutoffs used to determine retention eligibility. Grade retention reduces high school credit accumulation and the likelihood of taking math and English Regents exams. For middle school students, we also find that retention increases dropout and reduces the likelihood of completing Regents exam graduation requirements. We also explore potential mechanisms and find that retention increases placement into special education and makes future retentions less likely.

This research was conducted by RAND Education and was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305E120006 to the RAND Corporation. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

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