The Effect of Retention Under Mississippi’s Test-Based Promotion Policy

Authors: Kirsten Slungaard Mumma and Marcus A Winters

Project Summary

This study examines the impact of Mississippi’s test-based promotion policy, adopted in 2013 as part of a comprehensive statewide effort to improve early literacy. The authors employ a research design that allows them to estimate the causal impact of third-grade retention under the policy on test scores and non-test-score outcomes in the sixth grade. The findings contribute to our growing knowledge of how elementary-level test-based promotion policies influence students’ educational outcomes and experiences over time.

Key Findings

  • For students who were in the third grade in 2014-15, being retained under Mississippi’s policy led to substantially higher ELA scores in the sixth grade.
  • The magnitude of this causal effect is very large relative to other educational interventions, including test-based promotion policies in other states.
  • The positive effect on ELA scores was driven by positive effects for Black and Hispanic/Latinx students in particular.
  • Retention under the policy had no significant impact on other outcomes in sixth grade, including math scores, absences, and special education identification.