A controversial 2009 law in India outlawed the practice of holding failing students back and making them repeat the entire year of school in classes 1 through 8. In India, it’s called “detention” and at least one student union staged a protest this Spring to bring detention back, arguing that automatic promotion undermines academic quality and standards. But the Times of India published a story June 4, 2013 showing that automatic promotion might be working. It showed that average test scores were rising in states that had been following an automatic promotion policy prior to 2009, but falling states that were still holding kids back. The national drop out rate also fell by almost 30 percent after the law went into effect.
In the United States we call it “retention” and the practice is similarly controversial. A 2012 Wall Street Journal story by Stephanie Banchero cited studies by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. According to Banchero, it found that retained students did no better in later years than students who had nearly identical academic achievement but were promoted. Retained students also were more likely to have dropped out.
Nonethess, there’s still a big push to hold kids back, especially in 3rd grade, when they aren’t up to snuff in reading.