I have never been one to advocate for or against holding students back. I don't know if I'm for or against it, I only know that I am for whatever is right for a particular student. Often, this is not an easy thing to decide. There are many different reasons why it might be best to hold a student back: social uneasiness, not being able to cope at grade level, feeling too much stress because of not understanding what's happening in class and more. Of course, it can cause some uneasiness for students much later on, it's better that they get a solid education that will teach them how to deal with such uneasiness, rather than force students through if they're not ready.
That being said, I'm also against holding students back when it's unnecessary. Every student is not going to seem to excel at every single subject, and identifying that students are coping with even subjects they struggle in indicates that, regardless of grade, they are ready to move on. I'm also against holding back students for no good reason, but that should be obvious. However, in the 90s, this was a big problem in many schools, especially todays minorities.
Why do I bring this up today? Because I just read an article that tells us that the rate of students being held back has dropped to 1.5%. It used to hover around 3% for many, many years. There isn't an issue with this, but there is a curiosity. The question becomes: why?
Grade retention, as we call it, was expected to go up with the No Child Left Behind Act. But, many schools know that students that must stay behind are less likely to graduate, and it costs the school much more money, so it's more likely that they don't force the issue. Additionally, there is a strong movement against social promotion--which is the idea that students should be kept with similar age peers so their psychology in school will not be affected. Also, special tracks for students that may struggle are being started earlier and earlier, which might mean they are being helped before they get lost.
I don't know where to stand on this matter. I think it's great that students are progressing--if that's what they're really doing. This is why testing each child based on skill and knowledge, as well as passion for school first, before looking at age, is important for getting them on the right track to a successful school career!