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Redshirting: Holding Your Child Back on Purpose

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April 23, 2012

It used to be that parents enrolled their child in kindergarten based on the cut-off date. But now they are faced with a big decision … start kindergarten at 5 or wait an extra year and enroll them at 6.

This concept of holding a child back on purpose is called redshirting (the term comes from the practice of holding college athletes back to prolong eligibility) and it is on the rise. Some research shows that if you hold your child back one year they will be more mature – socially, mentally, intellectually, and physically –  than their peers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), redshirting occurs in 9% of kindergarten age children.

Redshirting used to be a practice that parents considered only if their child’s birthday was close to the enrollment cut off date, or if they truly believed their child was not ready to start kindergarten. Now the practice of redshirting has changed and parents are doing it so their kids have an advantage over their peers. NCES has concluded that redshirting is more common in boys than in girls. It gives boys an edge in athletics as they get to the junior high and high school years. It is also more common in white, non-Hispanics and in the rich than the poor. According to the New York Times article Delay Kindergarten and your Child’s Peril,by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt, the enrollment date shift from November 25 in the 1970s to October 14, is making a child who would have been the youngest of a class, now the oldest of the class. This hurts the poorer families the most because every month of additional schooling, for a low-income child, results in closing the gap from more advantaged children by one-tenth.

I have a 4-year-old and have been asked by many parents and friends if I am going to delay starting my son in kindergarten in the fall. It was a decision my husband and I considered for a minute but then realized it was not something we want to do. My son is on the smaller to average size and has a July birthday so I can see how holding him back would be advantageous to him. If he started kindergarten at 6 he would be taller, smarter, and more mature. But the downside is he may get bored being in a class where he already knows a lot of the information. Our plan is to start him in the fall, but I worry that some of his peers may be twice his size and potentially a year and a half older than him.

Redshirting is a practice that needs to be taken seriously because it is not necessarily the most fair to your child or their peers. Research is inconclusive as to whether there is any long-term benefits of holding your kindergartener back. In the Newsweek article Should Children Redshirt Kindergarten a redshirted child is shown to have a 2 point statistical advantage over their peers. Is that enough of an advantage to hold your kid back? This new issue redshirting is a big deal in this day and time when education, athletics, and schooling has become more competitive. If you are considering redshirting, please read all the pros and cons and make an informative decision knowing that this decision will impact the rest of your child’s education.

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