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The controversial practice of academic redshirting, or hold-
ing age-eligible children back for a year prior to their enroll-
ing in kindergarten, continues to receive attention in the
popular press (e.g., Ashbrook, 2014; Bronson & Merryman,
2009; Gladwell, 2008; Gootman, 2006; Moyer, 2013; Paul,
2010; Safer, 2012; Wang & Aamodt, 2011; Weil, 2007) and
in academic journals (e.g., Bassok & Reardon, 2013; Datar,
2006; Mendez, Kim, Ferron, & Woods, 2014; Oshima &
Domaleski, 2006). To be eligible for kindergarten, most
states require children to be 5 years of age at a specified
cutoff date in the year that they are enrolling (Bush, 2010).
However, some parents of age-eligible children may opt to
hold their kids back for a year to allow the child more time
to mature prior to kindergarten entry.
Even though redshirting continues to be of keen interest
and concern for parents, teachers, administrators, and poli-
cymakers, there is a dearth of recent, large-scale empirical
data that have been used to investigate this practice. Worries
persist that academic redshirting may be on the rise as ele-
mentary schools become more academically demanding
(Dougan & Pijanowski, 2011). A newspaper editorial titled
“Redshirting’ Kindergarteners Getting Out of Hand” indi-
cated that “in the early 1990s, about 9% of kindergarteners
were redshirted . . . today, the percentage is double that”
(“Editorial,” 2011). Popular news programs, such as 60
Minutes and shows on Fox News, have indicated that “kin-
dergarten redshirting has more than tripled since the 1970s”
(Safer, 2012) and that redshirting is a “growing phenome-
non” (“Parents ‘Redshirting’ Kindergartners,” 2010).
Conventional media outlets such as the New York Times and
the Wall Street Journal have referred to the practice of red-
shirting as the new norm (Paul, 2010; Wallace, 2014).
However, such statements may be based on anecdotal evi-
dence, convenience samples with limited generalizability, or
endorsements provided by individual parents or teachers.
The current study makes use of a longitudinal, large-scale
database to track the prevalence of redshirting over time at
both the student and school levels.
Outcomes Related to Redshirting
Academic redshirting is very much a part of popular cul-
ture and is passed on by generations of individuals (Graue &
DiPerna, 2000). Even though the study of kindergarten entry
age of children and academic outcomes has spanned several
decades (e.g., Baer, 1958; Halliwell, 1966; Huang, 2014;
Langer, Kalk, & Searls, 1984; Spitzer, Cupp, & Parke, 1995;
Stipek, 2002), the practice of redshirting has received
renewed attention, possibly as schools have a greater focus
on ensuring that students meet academic, grade-level
requirements. The practice of redshirting is of practical sig-
nificance to various stakeholders. A few studies have dem-
onstrated some short-term benefits of academic redshirting
(Bedard & Dhuey, 2006; Datar, 2006), although the majority
of studies using either national data sets (e.g., Lincove &
Painter, 2006), experimental data (Cascio & Schazenbach,
2007), or quasiexperimental designs (Jaekel, Strauss,
Johnson, Gilmore, & Wolke, 2015) have shown no particular
Investigating the Prevalence of Academic Redshirting
Using Population-Level Data
Francis L. Huang
University of Missouri
The practice of academic redshirting, or holding children back a year prior to their enrolling in kindergarten, continues to
be a controversial practice. Although most studies investigating redshirting have used small statewide samples or older,
nationally representative data sets, the current study uses population-level data from one state that spans several years.
Findings indicate a downward trend in redshirting rates (3.5% in fall of 2012), and redshirted students were consistently more
likely to be White boys who were not economically disadvantaged. Students with disabilities were also more likely to be red-
shirted. Of the redshirted students, the majority were born in the summer months (>70%). Rates have been stable and lower
than previously reported national estimates, suggesting that the practice is not as widespread as feared.
Keywords: redshirting, delayed enrollment, big data, multilevel logistic regression
590800EROXXX10.1177/2332858415590800HuangRedshirting Prevalence Rates
lasting advantages for redshirted students. On the contrary,
researchers have found that redshirted students, compared to
on-time students, had a higher probability of being placed in
a special education program (Graue & DiPerna, 2000;
Mendez et al., 2014), had a higher prevalence of behavioral
problems and substance abuse (Byrd, Weitzman, & Auinger,
1997; Byrd, Weitzman, & Doniger, 1996; Guagliardo,
Huang, Hicks, & D’Angelo, 1998), were more likely to have
lower earnings as adults (Deming & Dynarski, 2008), or had
higher high school dropout rates (Angrist & Krueger, 1991).
Martin (2009) compared redshirted and on-time high school
students and indicated that old-for-grade students were more
disengaged, had lower homework completion rates, and per-
formed at lower levels academically compared to younger
students, who valued school more, had higher positive inten-
tions, and had better attendance rates.
Redshirting has several repercussions for the schools as
well. Teachers must accommodate for a wide range of matu-
rity and skills as a result of redshirting (Noel & Newman,
2003) and may adopt developmentally inappropriate teach-
ing practices as a result (Shepard & Smith, 1986). Redshirting
has been suggested as one of the factors for increasing the
academic demands in kindergarten, resulting in curriculum
escalation (Cosden, Zimmer, & Tuss, 1993; Shepard &
Smith, 1988). Increased pressure may be placed on parents to
redshirt as a result of concerns that their child may not be able
to cope with the increased demands of kindergarten (Stipek
& Byler, 2001). As more children are redshirted, parents may
begin to demand a more advanced curriculum (Meisels,
1992; Moyer, 2013), and a vicious cycle emerges. As a result,
kindergarten has often been referred to as “the new first
grade” (Deming & Dynarski, 2008; Paul, 2010; Tyre, 2006).
Variation in Redshirting Rates
In the United States, kindergarten entry age requirements
have increased, resulting primarily by state-driven legal
changes to school entry age requirements (Deming &
Dynarski, 2008). Redshirting studies that have used county,
state, or school division samples have yielded large levels of
variation. For example, Graue and DiPerna’s (2000) study
using a statewide sample in Wisconsin showed an average
redshirting rate of 7%, although district-level redshirting
rates varied from a low of 3% to a high of 94%. A study in a
single county in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1988
and 1991 showed that girls had a redshirting rate of 3.7%,
whereas boys had a much higher rate at 19.3% (Bellisimo,
Sacks, & Mergendoller, 1995). In a study, however, of three
school districts in Southern California, which had a
December cutoff date for kindergarten entry, Cosden et al.
(1993) reported relatively more modest redshirting rates of
10% to 11%. In Winsler et al.’s (2012) study of Miami-
Dade’s public school system in Florida with an at-risk sam-
ple of children, only 62 out of 13,191 (0.5%) students were
redshirted. Overall, evidence suggests that there is a large
amount of variation in redshirting rates that may be sample
and location specific, although trends cannot be gauged
without the use of data over several years.
Trends in National Redshirting Rates
Several nationally representative surveys have been used
over the past several decades to estimate the prevalence of
redshirting. Using data from the National Education
Longitudinal Study (NELS) of 1998, Lincove and Painter
(2006) estimated that redshirting rates in the late 1970s to be
approximately 9%. Byrd et al. (1997) analyzed data from the
1988 Child Health Supplement to the National Health
Interview Data and indicated that the prevalence of redshirt-
ing rates from the ’70s to the ’80s was on average 12% (range
10% to 14%). Years later, data from both the 1993 and 1995
National Household Education Surveys (NHES) showed that
9% of first and second graders were redshirted (Zill, Loomis,
& West, 1995). Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal
Study (ECLS)–Kindergarten Cohort of 1998–1999, Datar
(2006) stated that delayed entry rates ranged from 5% to 7%,
depending on the calculation method used and source of
information (e.g., parent or school reported). Based on an
analysis of the same data set, Bassok and Reardon (2013)
estimated redshirting rates of first-time public school kinder-
garteners to be 5.5%. Using the ECLS–Birth Cohort, Bassok
and Reardon reported lower redshirting rates in 2006 at 4%.
Based on the School Readiness Survey of the NHES in 2007,
O’Donnell (2008) reported that on average, 7% of parents
were planning to delay their child’s enrollment in kindergar-
ten. Finally and most recently, the ECLS Class of 2010–2011
data showed that 5.6% (or 5.9% if retained students are
excluded) of kindergarteners who attended public school
experienced delayed entry (Snyder & Dillow, 2013).
Generally, national redshirting rates have been declining.
Even though earlier studies have shown a large amount of
variability within states (e.g., Bellisimo et al., 1995; Cosden
et al., 1993; Graue & DiPerna, 2000), national-level multi-
variate analyses indicated that differences in redshirting rates
between regions (i.e., South, Midwest, West) were not statis-
tically significant (Bassok & Reardon, 2013), suggesting that
variability between states is not that large.
Factors Associated With Redshirting
At the student level, redshirted students were more likely to
be White boys with parents of higher levels of socioeconomic
backgrounds (Bassok & Reardon, 2013; NCES, 2013; Winsler
et al., 2012). Based on the NHES 2006–2007, 9% of White
parents and 8% of those living above the poverty threshold had
planned to redshirt their children (O’Donnell, 2008). This is in
contrast to the only 2% of Black parents and 3% of economi-
cally disadvantaged families who planned to delay
Redshirting Prevalence Rates
kindergarten entry. In addition, parents may also choose to
delay kindergarten entry for their children if they suspect that
their child has developmental problems (Jaekel et al., 2015).
Although several studies have presented student-level
profiles of redshirted students, virtually little is known about
the factors at the school level that may be associated with the
practice. One hypothesis is that student-level variables
aggregated to the school level may have an association with
the likelihood of redshirting. Aggregate measures are often
used in school effectiveness studies and commonly include
the percent of non-White students enrolled at the school and
the percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-price
meals (FRPM), an often-used proxy for socioeconomic sta-
tus. Bassok and Reardon (2013), in one of the few studies to
specifically look at school redshirting rates, indicated that as
school-level socioeconomic status (SES) levels increased,
so did redshirting rates. However, that association ceased to
be statistically significant once race-/ethnicity-related vari-
ables were entered in the model.
Another possible factor is how likely a school is to retain
or hold back a student (see Safer, 2012). Research has shown
that young-for-grade students, typically children born in the
summer months, are more likely to be retained in kindergar-
ten (Huang, 2014), and parents who would want to avoid
having their child retained may opt to delay enrollment
instead (see Mendez et al., 2014, for a comparison of retained
and redshirted student characteristics). Redshirting and
retention are likely linked in practice and important to con-
sider together (Winsler et al., 2012). Delaying kindergarten
entry has been seen as a way for educators to mitigate the
harmful effects of retention practices (Frey, 2005). As a
result, schools with high retention rates may also have high
Finally, a school’s reputation for having redshirted stu-
dents may also be a signal that redshirting is an acceptable
practice, as redshirting is “promoted through informal com-
munication and folk wisdom” (Graue & DiPerna, 2000, p.
531). Redshirting may be recommended by school officials
and teachers as older children are likely to be more mature
and have more advanced academic skills (Deming &
Dynarsky, 2008; Dougan & Pijanowski, 2011). From the
perspective of school administrators, redshirting may be
viewed as a free or low-cost way of addressing school-
readiness concerns (Graue & DiPerna, 2000). Consequently,
the prior year’s redshirting rates may be associated with the
current year’s redshirting rates. If redshirting is seen as the
norm at the school, more parents may be willing to engage in
the practice (Paul, 2010), and some may even be pressured
by others to do so (Safer, 2012).
The Present Study
Early studies on redshirting were largely based on conve-
nience samples that limited the generalizability of findings
(see Graue & DiPerna, 2000, and Uphoff & Gilmore, 1985,
for lists of studies). More recent research on redshirting has
used older, nationally representative data sets—such as the
ECLS—or large, state-level samples to look at a single snap-
shot in time (Bassok & Reardon, 2013; Graue & DiPerna,
2000; Lincove & Painter, 2006). The current study adds to
the growing body of knowledge on redshirting and addresses
some limitations of prior research by making use of a longi-
tudinal, population-level data set of kindergarteners from
one state. We asked the following questions: (a) What was
the prevalence of academic redshirting, and has the rate of
redshirting changed over the years? (b) Did the prevalence
of redshirting differ based on student demographic informa-
tion? (c) Were school-level variables associated with the
student-level likelihood of redshirting? Answering these
questions will provide additional information on the preva-
lence and practice of redshirting that goes beyond the use of
anecdotal evidence or samples collected more than a decade
The current study adds to prior research on redshirting in
several important ways. First, the last large-scale, statewide
analysis of redshirting was conducted more than a decade
ago (i.e., Graue & DiPerna, 2000), and the academic environ-
ment has changed since then. Second, the use of population-
level data provides more reliable information on the
prevalence of redshirting and reduces the potential measure-
ment errors associated with sample-based studies. Third, we
revisit the demographic characteristics of students who expe-
rienced delayed enrollment, and results are not hampered by
sampling error. Fourth, school-level factors associated with
redshirting have not been explored in more depth. Finally, the
use of longitudinal data allows the current research to detect
overall trends over time and allows us to see how prior red-
shirting or retention rates at the school level may be associ-
ated with future redshirting rates. To our knowledge, no other
peer-reviewed study has used state-level, population-level
data to investigate the phenomenon of academic redshirting,
let alone data spanning several years.
Data for the current study come from the Virginia
Department of Education (VDOE) administrative records.
Student demographic data from school years (SY) 2010–
2011, 2011–2012, and 2012–2013 were analyzed and com-
prised over approximately 80,000 students per year who
attended full-day kindergarten. There were around 1,000
schools in each of the years examined (see Table 1). Schools
that provided services primarily to students with disabilities
(i.e., special education centers) or had a small kindergarten
enrollment (i.e., <15 students) were excluded from the
Student level. In SY 2012–2013, 49% of kindergarteners
were White, 23% were Black, 16% were Hispanic, 5% were
Asian, and 6% were of another race/ethnicity or of two or
more races. In terms of SES, 44% of students were eligible
for FRPM, a commonly used proxy for SES. Forty-nine per-
cent of kindergarteners were girls, and approximately 7%
had an identified disability. Prior year’s demographic char-
acteristics were relatively similar as well (see Table 1). In
comparison, nationally, the kindergarten population in the
fall of 2010 was 51% White, 14% Black, 25% Hispanic, and
5% Asian, and 6% were of some other or two or more races/
ethnicities (NCES, 2013).
School level. At the school level, on average, 85.98 (SD =
37.24) kindergarteners were enrolled per school in 2012–
2013. The percentage of students eligible for FRPM was
46.14 (SD = 24.72), and the percentage of White students
enrolled was 53.43 (SD = 28.97). School-level demographic
have remained relatively stable over the years as well (see
Table 1). The percentage of students with disabilities
decreased from 9.8% in 2010–2011 to 7.3% in 2012–2013.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a child must be 5 years
of age on or before September 30th of the SY to be eligible
for kindergarten (VDOE, 2012). Excluding children who
were retained and using the state-mandated cutoff date
together with the child’s birthday, we determined if a child
was redshirted, enrolled on time, or enrolled early. Several
checks were made to review the quality of the data.
Considerable effort was spent retrieving, cleaning, convert-
ing, joining, and aggregating the different sources of data,
which were inspected prior to analysis (e.g., duplicate
records were removed, date of birth was reviewed).
Individual-level data were aggregated to form school-level
composites (e.g., percentage of White students in kindergar-
ten). All data management and analyses were done using
The first part of the analyses focused on presenting
descriptive population prevalence rates for the three SYs.
Comparisons were made with students who were redshirted,
enrolled early, and enrolled on time using student demo-
graphic characteristics, including race/ethnicity, gender,
FRPM eligibility, and disability status. As the study focused
on first-time kindergarteners, students who were retained in
prior years, who are more often older as a result, are excluded
from the analyses as these children may be different based
on a variety of characteristics (Mendez et al., 2014). In addi-
tion, the month of birth of redshirted students is examined in
more detail to assess whether students born in the summer
months were consistently and disproportionately redshirted
over the years.
Student- and School-Level Descriptive Statistics by School Year (SY)
SY 2010–2011 SY 2011–2012 SY 2012–2013
Female 48.35 48.75 48.57
White 50.41 49.60 49.19
Black 24.76 24.09 24.04
Hispanic 14.81 15.31 15.79
Asian 5.06 5.60 5.42
Two or more races 4.97 5.40 5.56
With a disability 9.76 9.08 7.32
Eligible for FRPM 46.26 46.87 44.13
Kindergarteners/school 81.94 38.74 86.20 38.41 85.98 37.24
% FRPM 48.83 23.47 49.16 24.47 46.14 24.72
% With disability 11.48 6.58 10.68 5.88 8.67 4.92
% White 54.22 29.04 53.72 28.60 53.43 28.97
% Retained 4.29 5.28 3.97 4.91 3.67 6.01
% Redshirted 3.49 3.48 3.44 3.30 3.33 3.32
Number of schools 1,020 1,009 1,000
Note. FRPM = free or reduced-price meals.
Redshirting Prevalence Rates
School-level redshirting rates were then investigated. The
distributions of redshirting rates were also examined over
the years. As SES is often cited as a driver of redshirting, we
broke out redshirting rates of schools based on the school-
level SES quartiles based on the percentage of students at the
school eligible for FRPM, with lower percentages indicating
Finally, to account for both student- and school-level
characteristics, we ran a series of multilevel logistic regres-
sion models with students nested within schools (i.e., a
random-intercepts model using a hierarchical generalized
linear model with a binary outcome using a logit link func-
tion). The model predicted whether a student was redshirted
or not (1 = yes, 0 = no) based on student-level demographic
variables (i.e., gender, race/ethnicity, disability status, eligi-
bility for FRPM) and school-level variables. School demo-
graphic variables (i.e., percentage of White students,
percentage of students eligible for FRPM, number of kinder-
garteners enrolled, and percentage of students with disabili-
ties) were grand-mean centered. Prior year’s redshirting
rates (i.e., SYs 2010–2011 and 2011–2012) and retention
rates were left uncentered as a number of schools had neither
redshirted students (~20%) nor retained students (~15%).
We included SY as a fixed effect. Multilevel models were
conducted using SAS PROC GLIMMIX.
As with logistic regression models, results are shown
using odds ratios (ORs) and a 95% confidence interval for
the OR. A statistically significant OR of more than 1 signi-
fies a positive association with the independent variable and
a higher likelihood of being redshirted. An OR of less than 1
signifies a negative association and a lower likelihood. In
addition, we provide approximations of Cohen’s d, using
Chinn’s (2000) computation (i.e., d3 OR
categorical variables and used Cohen’s (1992) guidelines for
interpreting d as an effect size, in which .20 = small, .50 =
moderate, and .80 = large.
Prior to computing the redshirting rates per SY, we
excluded retained students. The numbers of kindergarteners
retained were 3,519 (4.21%), 3,231 (3.72%), and 3,006
(3.50%) students for SY 2010–2011, SY 2011–2012, and SY
2012–2013, respectively. Retention rates had declined over
the years of the study.
Redshirting Rates Across the Years
Table 2 presents the prevalence rates for kindergarteners
who were enrolled early and on time and were redshirted.
Only a very small percentage of students (~0.20%) enrolled
early, whereas the majority (96%) were on-time enrollees.
Over the years, redshirting rates have dropped from 3.55%
in fall 2010 to 3.36% in fall 2012. In SY 2011–2012, 2,957
kindergarteners were redshirted compared to 2,785 kinder-
garteners a year later.
In terms of the sociodemographic characteristics of the
redshirted students, Table 3 summarizes the results over the
three SYs. Based on race/ethnicity, the proportions of red-
shirted students remained relatively stable with only slight
changes over time. In fall 2012, the percentage of White stu-
dents redshirted (5.09%) was lower than in both prior years.
As a result, in fall 2012, White students were approximately
4 times more likely to be redshirted compared to Black stu-
dents (1.29%). Based on the descriptive statistics in SY
2012–2013, boys (4.53%) were more than twice as likely to
be redshirted compared to girls (2.12%). In terms of SES,
using eligibility for FRPM as a proxy, students who were not
eligible for FRPM were redshirted at much higher rates
(4.72%) compared to students who were eligible for FRPM
(1.63%). Based on disability status, students with an identi-
fied disability were more than twice as likely to be redshirted
(7.34%) compared to students without an identified disabil-
ity (3.04%). Notable is the general consistency of the trends
over the years. Even though there were some fluctuations
over time, redshirted students were more likely to be White
boys from higher-SES backgrounds with an identified
Month of Birth of Redshirted Students
A closer inspection of the birth dates of redshirted stu-
dents indicates that the majority of redshirted students had
summer birthdays (see Figure 1). Over the three SYs, more
than 70% of all redshirted students had birthdays in July,
August, and September. Notable is that approximately 40%
of redshirted students every year were born in September, or
the cutoff month by which they had to turn 5 to qualify for
kindergarten. A very small proportion of redshirted students
(<4%) were born in October to December. In terms of over-
all whole-day, first-time kindergarteners, there were fewer
than 100 students out of almost 83,000 students who had fall
birthdays (<0.001%). As a result, even though redshirting
may potentially widen the age gaps in the kindergarten class-
room, where the youngest student just turned 5 by the cutoff
date and the oldest child could be almost 7 years old, such
cases were not common.
School-Level Redshirting Rates
Approximately 20% of schools (around 200 schools
annually) did not have redshirted students. In each of the
SYs examined, only one school each year had redshirting
rates that were in excess of 20%, and it was the same school
in two out of the three instances. Only two schools out of
over 1,000 schools had redshirting rates over 20%, and of
those schools, the population was primarily White (>90%)
with students who were not economically disadvantaged
(<4% eligible for FRPM). When broken down into SES
quartiles, the schools with the highest SES had an average
redshirting rate of 5.5% compared to the lowest-SES schools
with a redshirting rate of 1.8% (see Figure 2).
Multilevel Logistic Regression Models Results
Although prior analyses presented profiles of redshirted
students, regression models were used in order to control for
the different predictors simultaneously. Based on student-
level characteristics, logistic regression results (see Table 4)
were consistent with all of the prior descriptive findings
even when controlling for observed student- and school-
level characteristics. Non-White students (ORs = 0.40–0.62,
ps < .001) and students eligible for FRPM (OR = 0.56, p <
.001) had a much lower likelihood of being redshirted com-
pared to White students and students not eligible for FRPM.
In addition, students with disabilities had odds of being red-
shirted that were higher by a factor of 2.11 compared to stu-
dents with no identified disabilities. Effect sizes for student
demographic variables can be considered small to moderate
in size based on Cohen’s (1992) guidelines (ds =
At the school level, the proportion of White students and
kindergarten enrollment size were both not statistically sig-
nificant (ps > .05). Prior year’s retention rate was also not
predictive of redshirting, contrary to our hypothesis (OR =
1.00, p = .41). Further inspection indicated that the correla-
tion between school-level redshirting and retention rates was
negligible and not statistically significant as well (r = –.04,
p > .05). However, the proportion of students eligible for
FRPM (OR = 0.994, p < .001) and students with disabilities
Enrollment Status of First-Time Kindergarteners in Virginia by School Year (SY)
SY 2010–2011 SY 2011–2012 SY 2012–2013
Enrollment Status N%N%N%
Enrolled early 175 0.20 172 0.22 158 0.19
Enrolled on time 77,039 96.23 80,611 96.26 80,027 96.45
Redshirted 2,845 3.55 2,957 3.53 2,785 3.36
Total 80,059 83,740 82,970
Percentage of Redshirted Students by Race/Ethnicity, Gender, Economic Status, and Disability Status by School Year (SY)
Characteristic SY 2010–2011 SY 2011–2012 SY 2012–2013
White 5.20 5.36 5.09
Black 1.47 1.28 1.29
Hispanic 1.98 1.76 1.51
Asian 2.74 2.69 2.78
Other/two or more races 2.69 2.70 2.77
Male 4.59 4.69 4.53
Female 2.44 2.32 2.12
Eligible for FRPM 2.12 1.88 1.63
Not eligible for FRPM 4.59 4.99 4.72
With an identified disability 7.23 6.54 7.34
Without an identified disability 3.16 3.23 3.04
Note. FRPM = free or reduced-price meals.
Jan Feb MarApr MayJun JulAug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
FIGURE 1. Percentage of redshirted kindergarteners by birth month and school year.
FIGURE 2. School-level redshirting rates by school year and socioeconomic status (SES) quartiles.
PR = percentile rank. SES measured by the percentage of students at the school eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Lower percentages = higher SES.
(OR = 1.016, p < .001) were predictive of student-level red-
shirting. Finally, the prior year’s redshirting rates were also
predictive of student-level redshirting (OR = 1.034, p <
.001). As an example, a student in a school with a 5% prior
redshirting rate had higher odds of being redshirted (OR =
1.18) compared to a student in a school that did not have any
students redshirted in prior years.
The prevalence rates in the current study were lower than
the national rate reported by O’Donnell (2008) and more in
line with the estimates of Bassok and Reardon (2013; i.e.,
4.0% to 5.5%). Findings indicate that, contrary to reports in
the popular media, redshirting rates, at least in Virginia, are
not as high as many may be led to believe. In addition, red-
shirting rates have not risen in recent years but have actually
In terms of student-level characteristics associated with
redshirting, findings are consistent with prior studies report-
ing that redshirted students are more likely to be White boys
who were not economically disadvantaged (Bassok &
Reardon, 2013; NCES, 2013; O’Donnell, 2008; Zill et al.,
1997). Findings were also relatively consistent over the three
SYs. Parents who can afford another year of child care prior
to entering their child into kindergarten may be choosing to
do so, whereas parents from economically disadvantaged
homes may not have that luxury (Winsler et al., 2012). In
households where both parents have to work, delaying kin-
dergarten may be too expensive an option (Frey, 2005).
Even though prior studies have shown that students born
in the summer months are more likely to be redshirted
(Graue & DiPerna, 2000; Uphoff & Gilmore, 1985), our
findings indicate that only a relatively small percentage of
students actually have birthdays that would make them
almost 2 years older than the youngest child. As a result, the
large age gaps between redshirted students versus on-time
students may not be as inflated, as over 70% of redshirted
students may be older than the naturally oldest child in the
classroom by only 1 to 3 months.
Since the birth dates of redshirted students are quite close
to the cutoff dates, this may suggest that parents redshirt stu-
dents to avoid or mitigate any disadvantages associated with
being the youngest in the class (Bracey, 1989). Several stud-
ies have shown the various disadvantages that the youngest
child in the class generally faces (Huang, 2014; Dhuey &
Lipscomb, 2010; Evans, Morrill, & Parente, 2010).
Interestingly, decades ago, it may have been a source of
parental pride to report that children had skipped a grade and
were ahead in school (Ashbrook, 2014), but in more recent
times, early kindergarten enrollment is not a common phe-
nomenon, with less than 0.20% enrolling early.
Of interest as well is that students with disabilities were
more likely to be redshirted. However, parents who are red-
shirting their children to allow them more time to mature
should carefully consider that early intervention may address
the child’s needs better than redshirting alone (Jaekel et al.,
2015). Jaekel et al. (2015) indicated that delaying formal
instruction and not providing special education services dur-
ing a key developmental period may be detrimental to
Multilevel Logistic Regression Results (N = 162,391)
Model A Model B
Variable OR 95% CI OR 95% CI d
Female 0.50*** [0.47, 0.53] 0.50*** [0.47, 0.53] .38
Black 0.35*** [0.32, 0.39] 0.40*** [0.36, 0.45] .50
Hispanic 0.45*** [0.41, 0.51] 0.48*** [0.43, 0.54] .40
Asian 0.50*** [0.44, 0.58] 0.53*** [0.46, 0.61] .35
Other 0.60*** [0.52, 0.68] 0.62*** [0.54, 0.71] .26
Eligible for FRPM 0.52*** [0.48, 0.55] 0.56*** [0.52, 0.61] .32
With a disability 2.13*** [1.97, 2.29] 2.11*** [1.95, 2.28] .41
% of White students 1.00 [1.00, 1.00]
% eligible for FRPM 0.99*** [0.99, 1.00]
% with disabilities 1.02*** [1.01, 1.02]
Kindergarten enrollment 1.00 [0.99, 1.01]
Prior year’s redshirting rate 1.03*** [1.02, 1.04]
Prior year’s retention rate 1.00 [0.99, 1.00]
Note. OR = odds ratio. CI = confidence interval. FRPM = free or reduced-price meals. School year is included as a fixed effect.
***p < .001.
Redshirting Prevalence Rates
children with special needs, given that redshirting does not
necessarily bestow an academic advantage.
Even though there is a large amount of variation in terms
of school-level redshirting rates, having rates over 20% is
not at all common (see Figure 2), and redshirting rates of
94%, such as reported by the early study of Graue and
DiPerna (2000), are unheard of (though Graue and DiPerna
stated that the high rate was not typical and was a result of a
small district with only one kindergarten class). Again,
though, SES is associated with the prevalence of redshirting
at both the student and the school level.
Prior year’s retention rates were not predictive of redshirt-
ing and actually had no correlation with redshirting rates.
Even though theoretically and conceptually, redshirting and
retention are related as they both involve holding children
back a year and are often studied together (Mendez et al.,
2014; Winsler et al., 2012), our findings did not support that
relationship. However, the prior year’s redshirting rates were
predictive of redshirting and have a similar effect compared
to school-level FRPM. Although it may not be surprising that
schools that have been known to allow redshirting are also
the schools with the higher redshirting rates, such a relation-
ship has not been empirically shown. Some school districts
(e.g., Chicago Public Schools) have set age caps in which if a
child turns 6 by a particular cutoff, the student will have to
enroll in first grade instead of kindergarten at certain schools
(Dizikes, 2011). In such an instance, if a child is older than
necessary, he or she will be placed in first grade instead of
kindergarten. In cases where some schools have previously
allowed redshirted students, this may be a signal to parents
that redshirting is an acceptable practice.
Although a large, statewide, longitudinal data set was
used in the analysis, several limitations must be kept in mind
when interpreting results. First, the study was limited to one
state, although the race/ethnicity compositions of White and
non-White kindergarteners were comparable to national
averages. The pattern, though, of redshirting rates by race/
ethnicity in the current study was approximately the same as
those found using national data (Snyder & Dillow, 2013). In
addition, redshirting rates within a state may vary widely
(e.g., Graue & DiPerna, 2000), but average redshirting rates
between regions in the United States may not be that differ-
ent (Bassok & Reardon, 2013). However, Virginia (in 2009–
2010), compared to 49 other states, had below-average
public school teacher salaries and state and local per-pupil
funding for preK–12 students (Joint Legislative Audit and
Review Commission [JLARC], 2013). Based on the National
Assessment for Educational Progress (2014), fourth-grade
math and reading scores for Virginia in 2013 were higher
than the national average. For a more detailed comparison of
the similarities and differences of Virginia to other states on
different indicators (e.g., population, percentage living
below the poverty line), see JLARC (2013). Second, even
though redshirted students could be identified, the motiva-
tions for redshirting are unknown. More qualitative studies,
such as that of Noel and Newman (2003) could shed light on
the actual reasons behind redshirting. Finally, even though
we had population-level data, this also limited the type of
data that could be included in our analysis. Other measures
that may be associated with redshirting, such as socioemo-
tional skills, could not be evaluated. Winsler et al. (2012)
showed in their study that redshirted students had lower cog-
nitive, behavioral, language, motor, and social skills. Despite
these limitations, however, the current study adds to our
understanding of statewide trends in redshirting and the pat-
terns of the practice over time.
Although alarming headlines may indicate that redshirt-
ing has become the new norm and is on the rise, the opposite
may actually be true. Using recent, longitudinal, statewide
population-level data, the current study shows that the aver-
age redshirting rates in Virginia have hovered around 3.5%
from 2010 to 2013 and have gotten slightly lower over time.
Even a review of redshirting rates using national data sets
has suggested that redshirting rates have been on a down-
ward trend. However, what the popular press may likely be
reporting on are atypical schools with a very high percentage
of parents who may choose to delay kindergarten enroll-
ment. In those cases, schools are more likely to be high-SES
schools with a greater percentage of White students.
However, citing high rates of redshirting may wind up pro-
moting the practice, as this suggests that redshirting is a very
common practice (e.g., “Everyone is doing it anyway”)
when in actuality, schools with high prevalence rates are
actually not the norm (e.g., one out of 1,000).
Although the widening age differences in the classroom
resulting from redshirting may be a cause for concern, most
redshirted students (>70%) are born in the summer months,
indicating that the age difference between the naturally oldest
child and the majority of redshirted students may be only 1 to 3
months. In particular, approximately 40% of redshirted students
had birthdays in September that would have made them the
youngest child in the class, which suggests that parents may
be delaying entry to avoid the problems associated with being
the youngest in the classroom. However, this is not to say that
the unnatural age spans in a classroom are not a cause for con-
cern, but school policies that promote or discourage redshirting
are likely associated with the prevalence of the practice.
This paper was prepared using data provided under a contract with
the Virginia Department of Education. The content does not neces-
sarily reflect the views or policies of the Virginia Department of
Education, the Virginia Board of Education, or the Commonwealth
of Virginia. Consequently, the Virginia Department of Education,
the Virginia Board of Education, and the Commonwealth of
Virginia are not responsible for the paper’s content or any loss suf-
fered due to the use of such content. Moreover, the mention of any
trade names, commercial products, or organizations in this paper is
not an endorsement of any of these entities by the Virginia
Department of Education, the Virginia Board of Education, or the
Commonwealth of Virginia.
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FRANCIS L. HUANG, PhD, is an assistant professor in the
Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology Department at
the University of Missouri and teaches quantitative methods
courses in the Educational Research Methods and Analysis pro-
gram. His research focuses on the use of applied quantitative meth-
ods, the analysis of large datasets, and the development and valida-
tion of empirically supported measures and scales.