Kim Englund

Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor



Many regions of the United States retain students who are not performing at grade level, yet a large body of research shows the ineffectiveness of having students repeat an academic year. The United Kingdom practices social promotion rather than retention. This comparative study sought to better understand the practices in these two countries and the research surrounding retention. First, it compared the interventions before and alternatives to retention used by both a North Dakota school district in the United States and two schools in Surrey, England. Second, it outlined a plan for teachers, parents, school administrators, and school policy makers to make better-informed decisions about whether or not to retain students in primary grades. The study responded to the question: Why do educators in the United States continue to retain students when research has shown it is not beneficial to students? This was done through research collected from the following questions:

1. Why do educators continue to retain students when research demonstrates it has a negative effect?

2. What steps are taken before retention is considered?

3. What does retention look like in the schools?

4. What educational best practice interventions are implemented before retention is considered?

I conducted interviews with and observations of teachers and administrators of varying years of professional experiences from a Midwestern suburban school district in the United States and from two schools in England. Interviews for the study focused on participants' beliefs about the practice of retention, alternatives to retention, and their district's policy regarding retention. The interviews and observations were transcribed verbatim and coded for central concepts through a two-cycle process. I also analyzed the retention policies of a variety of schools in the United States and--when available--in England.

Emerging theory from this research concluded that the balance of power and cultural beliefs in the two contrasting educational communities determined whether or not retention was considered as an option for struggling students. The implications of my findings suggest three specific recommendations for North Dakota schools to increase the more effective practice of social promotion: (a) implement best practice interventions; (b) improve teacher accountability; and (c) provide clear, concise information to all of the stakeholders.

Keywords: retention, teachers' beliefs, principals' beliefs, policies, grounded theory