05 SES 06, Overcoming Disengagement and Preparing Students for the Future
The transition processes from Primary to Lower and Upper Secondary Education are key stages that may determine future academic and professional success. Specifically, the transition from Primary Education (PE) to the first year of Compulsory Secondary Education (CSE) is one of the most complex changes due to important differences between both stages. Among these differences are the increase of school hours, subjects and homework, and the adaptation to methodological changes and higher academic demands. These changes cause that some students experience a decrease in their academic performance, that in some cases, triggers grade repetition (Folgar, Rey, & Lamas, 2013; Im, Hughes, Kwok, Puckett, & Cerda, 2013; Shoshani & Slone, 2013).
Grade repetition consists on remaining in the same grade for an additional school year. This practice, besides individual effects, it is considered a costly policy since it requires greater expenditure on education and delays students’ entry into the labour market (OECD, 2016).
There are enormous differences in the incidence of grade repetition across countries, ranging from countries where it is minimal to other where at least 30% of students have repeated a grade at least once in primary or secondary education by the age of 15, far from the average of 12% for OECD countries (OECD, 2016). Spain is in this group, with 31% of grade repetition. This high percentage of repeating students in Spain has its highest peak in the first year of CSE, going from 3.6% in sixth grade of PE to 11.4% in the first year of CSE (MEyFP, 2018).
Causes and consequences of grade repetition have been widely studied. Considering causes, studies about grade repetition attribute this fact to academic and to non-academic causes. Academic factors are mostly considered in studies that analyse, from a broader perspective, the process of transition from Primary to Secondary Education: increase of school hours, subjects, homework and academic demands (Holas, Huston, 2012; Mullins, Emmett, Irvin, 2000). Complementary, non-academic factors (personal characteristics, family and friends) are mostly considered in studies about Early School Leaving. Amongst these factors are the psychobiological changes experienced during adolescence, being male, being from a foreign country, as well as, students who have been rejected by their peers, are consumers of drugs, have low academic performance or have little support from family members (Cerezo et al., 2018; De Witte, Cabus, Thyssen, Groot, & van den Brink, 2013; Tukundane, Minnaert, Zeelen, & Kanyandago, 2015).
Considering consequences, although grade repetition is used by educational policies as a remedial measure to help the student to successfully complete studies, studies show that positive effects are short-term and decline over time, while negative effects of grade repetition prevail. Amongst detrimental effects are more negative attitudes towards school, lower academic self-concept and more probability to drop out (Allen, Chen Willson, & Hughes, 2009; Jacob & Lefgren, 2004; Manacorda, 2012; OECD, 2016; Peixoto et al., 2016). Consequently, grade repetition, a measure adopted to help the student, turns out to be one of the indicators of early school leaving together with absenteeism (Peixoto et al., 2016; González-Rodríguez, Vieira, & Vidal, 2019).
Taking into account the multivariate nature of causes that affect grade repetition and the effects that this measure may have on Early School Leaving, the aim of this study is to identify the key factors perceived by Spanish teachers that explain grade repetition in the first year of CSE.
This study is part of a broader research project that seeks to identify risks factors of Early School Leaving (ESL) perceived by teachers using a survey methodology. The survey design followed several phases. For more details, see the study González-Rodríguez et al. (2019) about the perception of Primary and Secondary School teachers about the variables that influence ESL. A questionnaire was designed based on 160 variables found in a systematic meta-review on the factors that influence ESL. This questionnaire was validated by university professors, secondary education teachers, educational counsellors, as well as primary education teachers. The revised questionnaire was piloted before administration. The questionnaire was administered on-line following a snowball sampling. The sample of this study is made of a total of 134 Spanish teachers: 65 in Primary Education teachers and in 69 Lower and Upper Secondary Education. Open questions on grade repetition were answered by 113 respondents. Those respondents provided a total of 188 answers to the open question. This study is based on the answers to the questions: • About grade repetition, you consider that: 1) it occurs less that it should be, 2) grade repetition is adequate, 3) it occurs more than it should be. • What are the key factors that explain grade repetition in the first year of Compulsory Secondary Education? Answers have been analysed by means of content analysis technique, using MAXQDA software package. Responses to open questions have been categorised following a two-phase inductive procedure. Firstly, responses were assigned to the content structure made of groups and subgroups found in the literature review. Secondly, when the content of the open responses did not fit this content structure, a new category has been added. These categories have been grouped, from more to less cited, in three groups: characteristics of the student, of the new academic stage, and of the family.
Considering teachers’ perception about the incidence of grade repetition, half of them consider that occurs less than it should be (50%), a quarter considers it adequate (26%), and other quarter considers that occurs more than it should (24%). In summary, despite high repetition rates in Spain, the majority of teachers (76%) consider repetition rates as insufficient or appropriate, compared to a low percentage of teachers who consider this practice as excessive. Firstly, more frequent answers related to the student are: student’s age linked to lack of maturity, on the one hand, and to the adaptation to adolescence, on the other; previous low academic level; poor self-study habits; lack of motivation to study, and learning difficulties. Teachers have also highlighted the mother tongue and school absenteeism. Secondly, in a group with less responses are the characteristics of the first year of CSE. This grade is considered a challenge due to changes in teaching methodologies, increase of subjects, hours, teachers and students-teacher ratio, and lack of coordination with PE. To a lesser extent, teacher and school characteristics have been considered: lack of coordination among teachers, poor motivation, bad relationship between classmates or unclear school rules Finally, the group with the least responses relates to the family: lack of parental support and the effect of unstructured families. In summary, key factors perceived by teachers that explain grade repetition are the previous experience as student, getting into adolescence and the organisational characteristics of the CSE stage, followed by characteristics of the teachers, school and family. These findings have implications for practice both at political level (e.g. conditional progression, limited number of repeated years, in-service teacher training) but also at school level (e.g. better diagnosis of the academic and personal characteristics of incoming students, smooth methodological adaptation or modification of timetables).
Allen, C., Chen, Q., Willson, V., & Hughes, J. (2009). Quality of Research Design Moderates Effects of Grade Retention on Achievement: A Meta-analytic, Multi-level Analysis. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 31(4), 480-499. Jacob, B.A. and L. Lefgren (2009), The Effect of Grade Retention on High School Completion, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(3), 33-58. Manacorda, M. (2012), The Cost of Grade Retention, Review of Economics and Statistics, 94(2), 596-606. Peixoto, F., Monteiro, V., Mata, L., Sanches, C., Pipa, J., & Almeida, L. S. (2016). To be or not to be Retained … That's the Question! Retention, Self-esteem, Self-concept, Achievement Goals, and Grades. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1550. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01550 Cerezo, F., Méndez, I., & Ato, M. (2018). Grade repetition in secondary education and associated risk factor. Educación XXI, 21(1), 41–62. doi:10.5944/educXX1.13717 De Witte, K., Cabus, S., Thyssen, G., Groot, W., & van den Brink, H. M. (2013). A critical review of the literature on school dropout. Educational Research Review, 10, 13–28. doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2013.05.002 Eurydice (2011). Grade retention during Compulsory Education in Europe: Regulation and Statistics. Brussels: EACEA. Folgar, M., Rey, C., & Lamas, M. (2013). La transición de la Educación Primaria a la Educación Secundaria sugerencias para padres. Innovación Educativa, (23), 161–177. González-Rodríguez, D., Vieira, M. J., & Vidal, J. (2019). La percepción del profesorado de Educación Primaria y Educación Secundaria sobre las variables que influyen en el Abandono Escolar Temprano. Revista de Investigación Educativa, 37(1), 181–200. doi:10.6018/rie.37.1.343751 Holas, I., Huston, A. C. (2012). Are Middle Schools Harmful? The Role of Transition Timing, Classroom Quality and School Characteristics. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(3), 333–345. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9732-9 Im, M. H., Hughes, J. N., Kwok, O., Puckett, S., & Cerda, C. A. (2013). Effect of retention in elementary grades on transition to middle school. Journal of School Psychology, 51(3), 349–365. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2013.01.004 MEyFP (2018). Sistema estatal de indicadores de la educación 2018. Madrid. OECD. (2016). PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for successful schols, PISA. Paris: OECD. doi:10.1787/9789264267510-en Shoshani, A., & Slone, M. (2013). Middle School Transition from the Strengths Perspective: Young Adolescents’ Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and School Adjustment. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1163–1181. doi:10.1007/s10902-012-9374-y Tukundane, C., Minnaert, A., Zeelen, J., & Kanyandago, P. (2015). A review of enabling factors in support intervention programmes for early school leavers: What are the implications for Sub-Saharan Africa? Children and Youth Services Review, 52, 54–62. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.02.011
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