Grade Retention and Academic Performance in Spain. an Approach By an Pseudo-Panel.
Mauro Mediavilla, Javier Valbuena, Álvaro Choi & María Gil.
Grade retention is widely applied in the Spanish educational system, where almost 4 out of every 10 students have repeated at least one course by age 16. Spain can be classified among those countries with a comprehensive educational system where grade retention is applied as the main policy for levelling the performance of students.
Grade retention policies are justified on the basis of several arguments: it provides students some extra time for maturing; it is a policy that applies equally to all students; it may enhance overall performance as it transmits students a culture of effort. On the other hand, those who stand against grade retention emphasize its inefficacy, high cost and negative impact on the student’s level of motivation.
However, while most of the empirical evidence available for other countries –many of which have lower rates of repeaters- shows the scarce effectiveness of grade retention for enhancing academic performance, this exercise is still to be performed for Spain. Most studies analysing the Spanish case cannot estimate precisely the effect of grade retention on academic achievement due to the lack of data rich enough for tackling methodological issues such as reverse causation. In this paper, we attempt to overcome this limitation creating a pseudo-panel that combines microdata from PIRLS-2006 and PISA-2012. The richness of these international assessments, that provide relevant information for students from the same cohort and use a similar sample design, allows us to implement this novel empirical approach. Using a sample of students aged 15/16 we will focus on their reading skills (PISA-2012) taking into account their predicted score at age 9/10 (PIRLS-2006).
Key Words: Academic performance, Grade retention, Pseudo-panel, Spain.