Delaying Kindergarten aka “Academic Redshirting”: What the Experts Say
In Lillian Katz’s article, “ Academic Redshirting and Young Children (ERIC Clearninghouse), she states that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports just 9% of kindergarten-age children are redshirted. Katz also states it is more common in affluent communities, where many children attend private schools. Boys are more likely to be held back that girls. The NCES report indicates that white, non-hispanic children are more than twice as likely as black, non-hispanic children to have entered kindergarten later than birthdays allowed (Katz; U.S Dept. of Education). According to Katz, delayed entry is usually in response to higher curriculum demands placed on children.
Long Term and Short Term Effects. Observe any first grade classroom and the disparity in children’s ages is obvious. In my son’s first grade classroom, one first grade student was eight years old. Others were seven. Some were six years of age. Scholars have studied the effects of academic redshirting and many studies have been inconclusive on its impact. West, et al conclude that in the short term, children do raise academic achievement at the same level as younger classmates and exhibit more confidence, but they may feel alienated from younger classmates. I personally observed this first hand at the tetherball pole when I casually overheard a boy teasing my son’s eight year old classmate about being “smart enough” to pass kindergarten. There is also some evidence that those children who were held back required greater use of special education services than those who were not held back. (Graue & DiPerna, in press; May et al., 1995). The experts conclude that the effects of delayed entry seem to be short lived.
In another study Katz cites, the long-term effects of holding a child back were observed. Byrd, et al conclude that those who are held back exhibit more social and behavioral problems than other classmates. (Byrd, et al 1997) It has led to speculation among some educators that behaviors tagged as “immaturity” required another treatment or intervention other than delayed entry. Lastly, Katz concludes that the evidence of its long -term effects is inconclusive. The benefits are short-term and may be disadvantageous in the long term (Spitzer, et al, 1995; Graue & Diperna, in press).
Making the Decision
The minimum age to enter kindergarten is five years of age (Conroe ISD). Since school districts allow delayed entry, parents must make the final determination on holding back a child for an additional year. You may consider the following suggestions when deciding on your child’s readiness:
· Conference with your child’s preschool teacher. A preschool teacher can provide valuable feedback on your child’s kindergarten readiness.
· Visit the school and speak with a kindergarten teacher. Ask to see kindergarten screening tests, if possible.
· Inquire about a typical day in a kindergarten class. Are the children required to sit at a desk and work on worksheets? Or, are there interactive learning centers where children learn by doing? Boys, in particular, are not “wired” for rote learning practices such as ticking off answers on worksheets for several hours at a time.
· Handpick your child’s teacher, if possible. Talk with the principal. Talk with other parents of first and second grade children to get unbiased teacher reviews. Express your views to the principal to ensure the best possible match with your child.
· Check greatschools.org to get unbiased parent reviews of schools and teachers.
· Advocate for your child. Stay in close contact with teachers and administrators concerning your child’s progress. Volunteer at the school, if possible.
· Be confident about your decision. This will help your child adjust to kindergarten or kindergarten transition class.
Kindergarten is one of the most formative years in a child’s education. Whether entry is delayed or children are sent at the designated age, an informed decision will help parents and children cope with the transition from preschool to kindergarten.
Byrd, R. S., Weitzman, M., & Auinger, P. (1997). Increased behavior problems associated with delayed school entry and delayed school progress. PEDIATRICS, 100(4), 654-661.
Graue, M. E., & DiPerna, J. (in press). Redshirting and early retention: Who gets the "gift of time" and what are its outcomes? AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL.
Katz, Lillian G.  Academic Redshirting and Young Children. ERIC CLEARINGHOUSE ON ELEMENTARY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCTION. 2000.
Kundert, D. K., May, D. C., & Brent, D. (1995). A comparison of students who delay kindergarten entry and those who are retained in grades K-5. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS, 32(3), 202-209. EJ 517 406.
May, D. C., Kundert, D. K., & Brent, D. (1995). Does delayed school entry reduce later grade retentions and use of special education services? REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION, 16(5), 288-294. EJ 510 039.
Spitzer, S., Cupp, R., & Parke, R. D. (1995). School entrance age, social acceptance, and self-perception in kindergarten and 1st grade. EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH QUARTERLY, 10(4), 433-450. EJ 516 737.
West, J., Meek, A., & Hurst, D. (2000). CHILDREN WHO ENTER KINDERGARTEN LATE OR REPEAT KINDERGARTEN: THEIR CHARACTERISTICS AND LATER SCHOOL PERFORMANCE. (NCES No. 2000-039). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.