Students may be retained in grade if they lack the required academic or social skills to advance to the next grade. However, research has shown that student retention is financially costly to school systems. In addition, students who are retained and students who are suspended from school are at risk of dropping out of school (Baker et al. 2001). In 2003, some 10 percent of public school students in kindergarten through grade 12 had been retained (i.e., repeated a grade since starting school), while 11 percent had been suspended (i.e., temporarily removed from regular school activities, either in or out of school), and 2 percent had been expelled (i.e., permanently removed from school with no services).
In 2003, some 17 percent of Black students had been retained, a higher percentage than that of White, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islander students. The percentage of Hispanic students (11 percent) who had been retained was higher than the percentage of White students (8 percent) retained, while the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students (5 percent) was lower than that of Whites. Similarly, a larger percentage of Black students (20 percent) had been suspended than was the case for their American Indian/Alaska Native (11 percent), Hispanic (10 percent), White (9 percent), or Asian/Pacific Islander (6 percent) peers. In addition, a higher percentage of Black students had been expelled (5 percent) than was the case for White (1 percent), Hispanic (1 percent), and Asian/Pacific Islander students (less than 1 percent).
There are differences between males and females when examining rates of retention, suspension, and expulsion. In 2003, about 12 percent of male students had repeated a grade, compared to 8 percent of female students. Additionally, for both Black and White students, a larger proportion of males than females had been retained. A similar pattern emerged for suspensions. Overall, twice as many males as females had been suspended (15 vs. 7 percent) and the same ratio existed for White and Hispanic males and females. The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander male students were who had been suspended was 10 times that of Asian/Pacific Islander female students (11 vs. 1 percent). Additionally, among White and Black students, as well as among students overall, the percentage of males who had been expelled was twice that of their female counterparts.