Philip J. Cook (Duke University)
"The School-Entry-Age Rule Affects Redshirting Patterns and Resulting Disparities in Achievement"
Since, other things equal, older children do better in school, the extent and pattern of delayed entry affects observed patterns in academic performance. This paper provides three new sets of relevant findings, utilizing comprehensive data on birth cohorts of children who enrolled in first grade in North Carolina public schools.: (1) Delayed entry (redshirting) reduces the male-female achievement gap by 11%; (2) For each of 6 groups defined by sex and race/ethnicity, the likelihood of redshirting is strongly inversely related to academic ability; and (3) A recent shift in the cut date to earlier in the calendar year reduced redshirting, and provided clear evidence that parental decisions are tied to the absolute age of the child rather than age relative to classmates. The adaptation of redshirting to changes in the cut date is an important mechanism by which such changes affect patterns in academic outcomes.