Do grade configurations affect student academic performance? To bring new evidence to this question, I use recent district-by-grade data for nearly the entire United States that contain measures of test score achievement and rates of school switching induced by grade configuration. Past research has found that student performance, is, on average, relatively low following switches due to grade configuration, but in fact students perform relatively better in the grades just prior to these switches. In the national data, I find that this so-called top dog/bottom dog pattern appears for all terminal grade choices among grades 3 through 8, is geographically widespread, and is robust to controlling for grade-specific effects of a rich set of covariates. Thus, I establish that the top dog/bottom dog pattern is a very pervasive phenomenon in American education. I explore potential mechanisms and discuss policy and research implications.

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