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Peer Contexts: Do Old for Grade and Retained Peers Influence Student Behavior in Middle School?


by Clara G. Muschkin, Elizabeth Glennie & Audrey N. Beck — 2014

Background: Many school systems have ended social promotion by implementing accountability systems where students who fail academic assessments are retained in grade. Additionally, some parents have delayed their children’s entry into school, believing that older students have an advantage. While research has examined outcomes for students who were retained or old for grade, it is not clear whether the presence of old for grade or retained peers influences the behavior of other students in the school.

Purpose: This study analyzes the association between the presence of old for grade and retained peers and the propensity for seventh graders to engage in deviant behaviors and receive an out-of-school suspension. Then, we examine whether some students are more vulnerable to peer influences associated with having retained and older peers.

Subjects: This study employs administrative data from the 2000-2001 academic year on all seventh-grade students in North Carolina traditional classrooms in traditional middle schools with a grade range of 6 to 8.The sample is 79,314 seventh-grade students in 334 schools in 94 districts.

Research Design: We use a logit framework to analyze dichotomous outcomes: whether students had ever been reported for committing an infraction, and whether students had ever been suspended over the academic year. Then, we use negative binomial models to examine the number of infractions students committed. We employ fixed effects estimation models for both the logit and the negative binomial analyses to account for unmeasured covariates at the district level.

Results: Seventh-grade students who attend school with many old for grade or retained peers are more likely to commit offenses and be suspended. Retained and old for grade students are more vulnerable to these peer influences than other students. Girls and White students are more vulnerable to peer effects of having retained and old for grade students in their grade.

Conclusions: We find an increase in negative behavior across all students who have higher levels of retained and old for grade peers. Increased opportunities to interact with deviant peers can influence the behavior of youth who do not share the same risk factors for deviant behavior. Thus, grade retention and delayed school-entry policies can influence the entire school community. Policies that help students stay on track academically have the potential not only to benefit students who are at risk for academic failure, but also to enhance the positive behavior of other students in the grade.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 4, 2014, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17405, Date Accessed: 8/28/2014 7:04:09 AM

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About the Author
  • Clara Muschkin
    Duke University
    E-mail Author
    CLARA G. MUSCHKIN is an assistant research professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, Associate Director for Undergraduate Studies in the Center for Child and Family Policy, and Director of the North Carolina Education Research Data Center at Duke University. She is a sociologist and demographer with an interdisciplinary research focus. In her research, she asks how education policies that influence the composition and organization of educational institutions can influence student outcomes. Recent publications include: “The Negative Impact of Starting Middle School in Sixth Grade,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (with P. J. Cook, R. MacCoun, and J. L. Vigdor); “Distinguishing Spurious and Real Peer Effects: Evidence from Artificial Societies, Small-Group Experiments, and Real Schoolyards,” Review of Law & Economics (with P. S. Malone); and “Multiple Teacher Ratings: An Evaluation of Measurement Strategies,” Educational Research and Evaluation.
  • Elizabeth Glennie
    RTI International
    ELIZABETH GLENNIE is a senior education research analyst at RTI International. Much of her work focuses on high school reform and programs to enhance opportunities for postsecondary educational access. Recent publications: “Addition by Subtraction: The Relation Between Dropout Rates and School-Level Accountability,” Teachers College Record (with K. Bonneau, M. Van Dellen, and K. A. Dodge); “Opportunities to Play the Game: The Effect of Individual and School Attributes on Participation in Sports,” Sociological Spectrum (with E. Stearns); and “Expanding the Start of the College Pipeline: Ninth Grade Findings from an Experimental Study of the Impact of the Early College High School Model,” Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness (with J. Edmunds, L. Bernstein, F. Unlu, J. Wilse, A. Smith, and N. Arshavsky).
  • Audrey Beck
    San Diego State University
    E-mail Author
    AUDREY N. BECK is a postdoctoral research associate in the Center for Health Equity Research and Policy and a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at San Diego State University. Her research focuses on child well-being and racial and ethnic disparities in health. Recent publications include: Beck, A. N., & Muschkin, C. G. (2012). “The Enduring Impact of Race: Understanding Disparities in Student Behavior and Achievement,” Sociological Perspectives (with C. G. Muschkin); and “Age at Immigration and the Adult Attainments of Child Migrants to the United States,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (with M. Corak and M. Tienda).
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