Document Type

Working Paper


Fall 11-2016


Grade Retention, Promotion Policy, New York City, Public School, Regression Discontinuity Design




Working Papers Series


Educational Sociology | Education Policy | Public Affairs | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


Performance on proficiency exams can be a key determinant of whether students are retained or "held back" in their grade. In New York City, passing the statewide proficiency exam essentially guarantees promotion, while roughly 13% of those students who fail the exam are retained. Using regression discontinuity methods, we find that female students are 25% more likely to be retained in their grade due to exam failure than boys. Hispanic students are 60% more likely and Black students 120% more likely to be retained due to exam failure (relative to White students). Poverty and previous poor performance also increase the likelihood of retention, while being young for grade or short does not. We conclude that "patterned discretion" exists in how standardized test results are utilized.



Additional Information

Working paper no 198

The author thank the New York City Department of Education and Office of School Wellness Programs for providing the microdata. Financial support from the National Institutes of Health, Award #5 R01 HD070739 (Schwartz) and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award #SES-0847329 is gratefully acknowledged (Almond) by the authors. They are grateful to Siddhartha Aneja and Meryle Weinstein for assistance with the data.

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