Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Barbara A. Calabro


Reading is one of the primary goals of the early elementary grades. When students start to struggle with this complex skill, educators and parents search for solutions to rectify quickly mounting gaps before a child falls too far behind. In the State of Oklahoma, lawmakers have passed a law requiring mandatory 3rd grade retention for students who do not pass the state reading test. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine the perceptions of stakeholders who had experienced implementation of mandated student retention in early childhood. The study is informed by Bourdieu's cultural capital theory of social distinctions, Bloom's taxonomy theory, and Festinger's social comparison theory. Seventeen participants, including 2 parents, 8 teachers, and 7 administrators, took part in face-to-face interviews and focus groups to provide data on 3rd graders in 4 schools in an Oklahoma district. Responses from interviews and focus groups were audiorecorded, transcribed, and coded for themes. Nine themes emerged from data analysis. These themes reflected participants' concern for the potential damage to students' self-esteem, an increase in dropout rates, and that the 3rd grade is too late for retention. On the positive side, participants indicated mandatory retention permitted retention that had been previously refused, and provides time for maturity, as well as the opportunity for success for struggling students. However, study participants also opined that mandatory retention created new challenges for students, teachers, and schools. Findings guided the development of a policy recommendation to create social change within the participating district, empowering educators to help parents better understand this law and prepare their children for the 3rd grade assessment by outlining a plan for early identification and creating programs for struggling students.