Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Michael J. Curtis, Ph.D.


Assessment, Achievement, Remediation, Academic, Policy


Literacy is a growing national concern that has resulted in federal legislation (e.g., the No Child Left Behind Act) instituting higher accountability for states and schools with regard to reading instruction and remediation. As a result, Florida's statewide measure of achievement, the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT-Reading) is now tied to retention decisions for students in the third grade as part of the pupil progression plan for the state. In its first year of implementation (2003), 23% of third-grade students failed the FCAT and over 28,000 were retained. Though failure rates are decreasing, (i.e., 6% of third grade students failed in 2006), tremendous numbers of students continue to be affected by this policy.

Research has consistently shown retention to be a negative experience for children; even when academic gains are made, their subsequent achievement is equal to or lower than that of both same-grade and same-age regularly promoted students within two to three years. However, these findings cannot be generalized to the current student progression plan in Florida, which mandates remediation activities and diligent progress monitoring during and after the retention year. Therefore, holding negative beliefs about the third grade retention policy in Florida is premature as only preliminary research exists to date evaluating the outcomes of the plan. The present study examined the student progression plan in Florida as it relates to performance on the FCAT-Reading and mandated third-grade retention.

More specifically, this study examined the relationship between reading performance outcomes and various student characteristics (e.g., retention status, gender, SES, race/ethnicity) as well as school-related variables (e.g., school-wide SES status, school size, Reading First status). This study also explored fifth and sixth grade performance on the FCAT-Reading of low-performing students who were promoted through good cause exemptions. Descriptive analyses revealed that of 12,685 third-grade students retained in 2003, 40% scored at Level 1 in 2006. With regard to students who were promoted due to a good cause exemption, findings indicated that a higher proportion of those who demonstrated reading proficiency through an alternative assessment procedure (67%) or through student portfolios (58%) achieved success in 2006 compared to those who did not demonstrate proficiency (13%-19%). In addition, retention status was significantly associated with scores on the 5th grade FCAT-Reading, but that association varied by student gender.