Resolution on Mandatory Grade Retention and High-Stakes Testing

Approved by NCTE Members Voting at the Annual Business Meeting for the
Board of Directors and Other Members of the Council, November 2014

Ratified by a Vote of the NCTE Membership, February 2015


Grade retention as a major element in education and reading policy has been adopted by at least 14 states, with 32+ states linking reading intervention to high-stakes testing (Rose, 2012). These policies ignore four decades of research on the negative consequences of grade retention and the significant body of research on effective and supportive literacy instruction.

Grade retention, the practice of holding students back to repeat a grade, does more harm than good:

As such, grade retention represents a system of ill-advised policies increasingly based on misleading advocacy resulting in a recursive cycle of punishment for young people, diminishing their sense of belonging, and reducing their opportunity for educational equity.

The academic benefits of retention are limited, short-lived, and far outweighed by the negative consequences on students’ development in reading, writing, and all other aspects of literacy. In fact, negative social, emotional, and academic effects of grade retention, at every level, are ongoing and persist into adulthood. Educators, policymakers, and political leaders must oppose the practice of retention.

The current pattern of political and public embrace of grade retention as a significant element in reading policy ignores decades of research refuting grade retention. Be it therefore


Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English strongly oppose legislation mandating that children, in any grade level, who do not meet criteria in reading be retained.

And be it further resolved that NCTE strongly oppose the use of high-stakes test performance in reading as the criterion for student retention.

This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.