Retention and special education referral practices before and after the implementation of high -stakes testing

Sue L Buslinger-Clifford, Florida International University


The rewards and sanctions associated with high-stakes testing may induce educators to participate in practices that will ensure the elimination of the scores of low-achieving students from the testing pool. Two ways in which scores may be eliminated is through retention or referral to special education. This study examined the use of these practices at 179 elementary schools in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the 4th largest school district in the country. Between- and within-subjects designs were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance to compare retention and referral to special education practices over a five-year period of time, two years prior to and two years after the implementation of Florida's high-stakes test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, FCAT. Significant main effects for referral and retention over time were demonstrated. The use of retention steadily increased over the first three years, with its usage maintained during the fourth year. While the use of referral actually decreased from the first to second years, a significant change occurred after the implementation of the FCAT. Examination of the use of these practices according to student and school characteristics revealed significant differences. Increases in the use of referral across time was significant for Black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic students, all limited English proficiency population categories, medium and low socioeconomic status category schools, all grade levels, and for schools with accountability grades of A. C, D and F with the most striking absolute increase occurring for F schools. Increases in the use of retention across time were significant for all ethnic groups, limited English proficiency categories, and socioeconomic status categories, for grades kindergarten through four and by gender. Significant increases occurred for schools with accountability performance grades of C, D and F; however the most dramatic increase occurred for the F schools. A direct relationship between performance category grade of school and their use of retention was demonstrated. The results suggest that schools changed their use of referral and retention in response to the implementation of the FCAT.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Elementary education|Special education

Recommended Citation

Buslinger-Clifford, Sue L, "Retention and special education referral practices before and after the implementation of high -stakes testing" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3151967.