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Kindergarten Redshirting: How Kids Feel About it Later in Life

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More parents are opting to delay their child’s entry into kindergarten. Years later, how do these students and their parents feel about the decision?


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My son has an August birthday. So a few years ago, in the spring before he turned five, my husband and I had to decide whether to send him to kindergarten. Our district website told us our son would qualify for kindergarten that fall, just a few days after he turned five. The cut-off date was September 30, so any four-year-old who would turn five by that date was eligible.

But we had talked to lots of other people—both parents and teachers—and it seemed like more and more families were opting to hold off, to delay their child’s entrance into kindergarten for another year (Bassok & Reardon). At the time, we’d never heard the term “academic redshirting,” but it turns out this is what it’s often called. The term comes from college athletics, where coaches delay some athletes’ participation on a team until their sophomore year, when they are called “redshirt freshmen” and have better-developed skills. The thinking in kindergarten is that this delay will allow the child to grow physically, cognitively, and emotionally, making their eventual kindergarten experience more successful.

The practice is controversial, because it creates significant challenges for schools, who have to differentiate for a wide range of maturity and ability levels, and the results on student success are mixed. This overview of the research on redshirting shows little to no academic advantage to redshirting, and cites other research that redshirted students may have poorer academic and behavioral outcomes than non-redshirted students (Huang).

With so much conflicting information out there, many parents struggle with this decision, as we did. So when I heard about the research of Dr. Suzanne Jones, I was curious. I interviewed her for my podcast to talk more about her findings on how adolescent boys and their families feel—many years down the line—about their decision to redshirt…or not to redshirt.

Study Overview

An interview with Suzanne Jones about her research on academic redshirting.

Dr. Suzanne Jones

In her dissertation, Academic Redshirting: Perceived Life Satisfaction of Adolescent Males, Jones looked at how boys fare in adolescence depending on whether or not their parents opted to redshirt them in kindergarten. Rather than focus on academic success, which has been covered by a number of other studies, Jones wanted to learn about her subjects’ overall life satisfaction—in other words, how happy they were—years after the decision was made.

“Both of my boys were summer birthdays,” Jones explained, “and I was having to make that decision. This was the early years of my doctoral studies, and I latched on to this topic while doing my own research.”

“The reason that most parents who struggle with the decision end up going ahead and sending their child (is) because they do seem ready. And the preschool teacher says that they’re ready, and of course, the district that they’re going in to, if they meet with those teachers, have to say that they’re ready, they’re not supposed to legally ask a student to redshirt. So therefore parents think: ‘OK, they’re ready, I’ll send them on.’ So that’s why my research was done with adolescent boys. I wanted to catch them at a different time, after those early years had already come and gone.”

Jones evaluated 55 families with adolescent boys who had summer birthdays. Thirty of these families had chosen to redshirt their sons back in kindergarten, and 25 opted not to. Using a tool called the Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale, Jones measured each child’s general satisfaction with life as adolescents. After administering the scale, Jones interviewed 20 of the families to collect more in-depth insights. Ten of these were redshirt families, and ten were not.

The Results

On the Life Satisfaction Scale, redshirted students showed significantly higher levels of life satisfaction than those who had not been redshirted. The feelings described by subjects in the interviews offered substantial evidence that redshirted students were happy with the decision their parents made, and those who were not wished they had been. Although this was a small study, it suggests that parents who opt to redshirt their children may be setting them up for a generally more satisfying life later on.

“The non-redshirted students went on and on with their responses,” Jones says. “It went from, of course, there’s the bigger, stronger, more mature aspect they wished they had. The locker-room kind of atmosphere. Some of them mentioned girls—the older kids got the girls. Some of them mentioned, ‘I’m always trying to keep up.'” When talking with the redshirted boys, “They loved it, liked being older, no problem with it, can’t think of any way it’s hurt, it’s only helped.”

Interviews with parents offered similar insights: “The parents of the redshirted students all said they would do it again, no questions asked,” Jones reports. “When I asked: If you had another child today born in the summer, what would you do? Automatically (they said): ‘We would redshirt.’ No considerations whatsoever. The non-redshirted group, seven of the ten said that they would redshirt the next time. Without consideration of anything—how they’re doing at school—they would just automatically, summer boy, we would redshirt.”

In both groups, the parents noted that their decision had a much bigger impact on the boys at their current age, in adolescence, than it did when they were younger. Although this makes the decision more difficult, Jones believes it is worth serious consideration. “As a parent,” she advises, “you should look at more than just what they’re like at that exact age of five”

What Does this Mean for Teachers?

Redshirting can make teaching kindergarten much more challenging. “An entire year difference between five and six is enormous in terms of developmental education aspects,” Jones says. This can make it more difficult for teachers to meet all students’ needs.

One challenge for teachers is determining the difference between maturity and ability. “They’re confusing the two,” Jones says of some teachers, who might assume a more mature student has more ability than one who is simply young. “Often they streamline students into groups and they treat students as if they are at a certain level. Students pick up on this. It’s all based on really more maturity, not ability.”

Even if differentiation for greater readiness is clearly needed, kindergarten teachers may not all be equipped to provide that kind of individualized instruction. “In an upper socioeconomic district,” Jones says, “maybe they have the resources to provide some pull-out, gifted education, or some training for teachers in the gifted range, which does not mean that they are all gifted, but they can at least extend the learning to those students who come to school so far ahead of the others.” But in other districts, particularly those in lower-income areas, the path for redshirted students may not hold the same advantages.

The Socioeconomic Difference

When considering this study, it’s vital that parents and educators note that Jones’ research was done on families in upper-SES populations, where students often have two or more years of high-quality preschool under their belts before setting foot in kindergarten. The positive feelings these students and their families have about the decision to redshirt are likely influenced by the fact that redshirting had no negative academic effects on them.

But when students in lower-SES schools are redshirted, they are often less academically successful later on, which could certainly impact the way they perceive the redshirting experience. Jones speculates that a lack of early services may be the cause. “…(they may be) missing out on some early intervention for speech, or autism, or any kind of red flag that might occur that a preschool or kindergarten teacher would catch. If they’re not in a school environment of some sort, then those things are not being addressed.”

Recommendations for Future Research

Jones hopes more research will be done on the non-academic effects of redshirting. In addition to seeing if her results can be replicated in larger studies, she also believes more study is needed on how redshirting impacts other socioeconomic groups, and how it plays out for girls. “That’s just a whole different phenomenon,” she says. “Girls don’t want to mature as early as boys do. They don’t want to go through those changes first. They don’t want to be the first ones. Boys want that. It’s just totally different.” Knowing more about these specific populations will help parents and educators fine-tune the way these decisions are made and how schools respond when parents do opt to redshirt.

 

Ultimately, we did not redshirt our son. He turned five a few days after starting kindergarten and he absolutely loved it. He is now finishing third grade and so far seems to be doing just fine. If over the years he starts to develop problems fitting in socially, knowing about Jones’ research will provide a piece of that puzzle. Until then, we’ll keep doing what all parents do: using the knowledge we have right now to make the best choices we can for our kids. ♦

 


References:

Bassok, D., & Reardon, S.F. (2013). “Academic redshirting” in kindergarten prevalence, patterns, and implications. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Retrieved from http://cepa.stanford.edu/content/academic-redshirting-kindergarten-prevalence-patterns-and-implications

Huang, F. (2015). Investigating the prevalence of academic redshirting using population-level data. Retrieved from ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279193160_Investigating_the_Prevalence_of_Academic_Redshirting_Using_Population-Level_Data

Jones, S. (2012). Academic red-shirting: Perceived life satisfaction of adolescent males. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1022333185


 

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98 Comments

  1. Tricia Hallman says:

    I just read your Kindergarten “Redshirt” article. I teach third grade (I realize this is your son’s age) where I believe the gap is even wider and the discrepancy between my “older” students and my young boys (especially) who don’t turn 9 until the summer months is quite noticeable. It shows itself in maturity, ability to think deeper and more abstractly and even in writing ability. That year’s growth is so necessary, especially with the demands of curriculum of today. I would recommend “redshirting” to any parent on the fence. I love your page, you have many thought provoking and insightful articles. Thanks!

    • Rosie says:

      Maybe you should fight for developmentally appropriate curriculum?

      • Crystal says:

        Teachers always fight for developmentally appropriate curriculum. It is far more complex than you make it sound. As a fourth grade teacher, I agree with ‘red shirting’ a kiddo, if possible. My daughter has an October birthday and I am glad she will be one of the older kids.

      • Alice says:

        Great article! I totally agree with your comment about providing developmentally appropriate curriculum. I have taught first grade and pre-first grade for twenty years, and it is a term rarely heard anymore in district level curriculum discussions. However, I whole-heartedly agree with the concept of red shirting, and have no regrets about doing so with my two. Maturity is critical to academic and social success. I have seen first hand how it is not always a good decision for children in low socio-economic situations where early interventions can be delayed by red shirting. The gender issue is not as clear cut. While some young girls seem to fare well when starting early, I started kindergarten at 4 I struggled to fit in socially. feel I would have been much happier and more successful academically if I had waited.

    • Erica says:

      Thank you for posting this about Grade 3. I am in Canada, and my daughters (both November birthdays) started school when they were still 3 as 4 is the age for Junior Kindergarten. I am still seeing significant differences, and have found grade 3 to be a huge regression for her personality, but the teachers try and reassure me that the age difference shouldn’t be making a difference. My daughter is also in a 3/4 split class, so she has classmates almost 2 years older. Its so tough on her.

    • eileen moffat says:

      I am a nursery nurse in Scotland. I have said for years children in this country go to school far to early. Why should you send a four and half year old child to school where their class mates ar almost a year older than them. They will almost always play catch up to their older class mates. An extra year in nursery lets them develop and mature emotionally while developing and building on skills to support them in school, allowing them to enter school with confidence. I agree with the fourth grade teacher that this is where the gap becomes greater. Also when these young children attend high school their friends are of age to go clubbing and partying while they are still to young to enter pubs. My son has a February birthday, As soon as I heard this I said Yeees he will be 5 and a half before he goes to school. I decided this even before he was born. In Scotland children who have a January or February birthday have the right to wait until the first intake after their 5th birthday before attending school .

    • Rita says:

      I have 4 children. My oldest was in 2nd grade when the teacher Reccomended I hold him back. He was a July baby born premature by 2 months. He was very smart; but, immature. I did. Have him repeat the grade. My second however was an October baby. While I could tell she was very smart,; by 2nd grade her grades did not reflect this. I asked to have her tested, then insisted she be tested. They found her lacking the ability to retain some information. She was put in Special Education status and went for remedial pull out sessions. By 5th grade she was flying. As she moved to Middle school she was told she could stop the pull out sessions ; but, if she ever thought she was slipping she was encouraged to return. She soared from that point. Taking AP classes, participating in 3 sports and keeping her 3.5 GPA. My next was a July baby. He was in a very disruptive situation in K and1st. I decided to hold him back in first. His younger sister was a Novermber baby. Again, I decided to hold her back in 1st. While the ones I held back were not always happy with my decisions, they are wonderful adults. They were able to do things with classmates I might not have allowed had they been younger, like drive to school their senior years. They were more mature for sports and excelled there. My oldest is an electrician in his old school district, the second is a PE Teacher, the third is a Firefighter and my youngest works in a doctors office. All are productive, happy adults.
      I must admit, I was a 5 year old September baby in 1st grade. My mom was told I would fail and repeat a class. As the 8th of 10 children I am sure it was nice to have me at school rather than underfoot. Problem was, I never failed. I did not excel. I was one of those “Brown Birds” you hear do much about from the 50/60/70’s. But, I tell you, I am smart. I am a visual learner. I can watch it first and get the job done. I have had many different work opportunities.
      I think I wanted my kids to have that extra I was not given so they could excel. And they have.

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    Thank you for sharing this research! I like that the study explored success criteria beyond academic achievement. I wonder if the research would prove the same for girls? My youngest daughter has an August birthday, so she will be one of the youngest in her grade. I appreciate hearing about your personal decision! Thank you for your candor!

    • Sarah says:

      I had an August birthday (August 19th) and HATED being one of the youngest in my grade. I felt as though I was constantly playing catch up in math, but did okay in literacy. Friendships were difficult for me but I did okay. I related more to the grade younger than me.
      I am currently a kindergarten teacher and HIGHLY recommend redshirting. My students with summer birthdays are all behind the other students. I didn’t put the two together until about a month ago when I decided to look at when their birthdays were. Literally every single one of my kinders that has a summer birthday is in a lower reading group. Not on purpose but based on data that I have collected throughout the school year.

  3. What a great post. Thank you!

  4. Really? Is there nothing else to “worry” about??? This is so petty!! I missed Kindergarten due to my birthday being THREE DAYS 72 hours after the official cutoff date. Did we whine? NO! Did we protest? NO! Did we write to the administrators and say that it will affect me later on in life? NO! I mean, REALLY NOW, COME ON!! STOP BEING SO RIDICULOUS, PEOPLE!! It’s not the end of a childs’ life!! Boys or girls will NOT fail in life over this…this is silly! Instead of my parents keeping me back, they took me to another school and registered me for FIRST GRADE…end of story.

    • Jana F says:

      Thank you Marlene for your comments! We have a borderline kid and made the decision to continue is growth as that was what we thought best. He is in first grade now and doing great. However, reading this article makes me think “great – another poor decision that set my kiddo up for failure.” just like my decision to NOT give him peanuts until after one and now research says if I would have introduced those foods, he would not have an allergy. Good grief – it’s nice to have research but if everyone “redshirts” then aren’t we just pushing all kids to start at 6-7 years old?

      • Rosie says:

        Yes, the whole concept is ridiculous. In some ways, it is cheating. Unless there is a learning disability or emotional issues, then all kids are ready for kindergarten because it is kindergarten. We need to demand developmentally appropriate curriculum rather than keep our kids in pre-school or daycare for another year.

        • Linda says:

          Rosie, thank you for mentioning disability. That can be a very strong factor. Our granddaughter has a July 20 birthday. She has several disabilities: Cerebral Palsy, Brain damage due to birth trauma, ADHD, and some unusual anxieties. Her Special Ed preschool teacher said she was ready for kindergarten, even though she had just turned 5. However, she has struggled with every subject, especially Math and Reading. Her reading and comprehension level are at 6th grade, and she is in 4th. She can verbally discuss what she reads, demonstrating a high level of comprehension. But her executive functioning problems keep her from being organized enough to formulate answers, book reports, research reports, etc. I think she would have done better if she had been given another year to mature in these areas. I am a retired elementary teacher, so I spend afternoons and evenings reteaching the material presented. Even with the school intervention team helping her, she is performing below grade level in all areas. So sad.

        • Lillian C. says:

          Ridiculous until it is your own child who has an August birthday and who you know deep in your bones is not socially ready to attend school. Though peers her same age may be ready. Such was my daughter, and when she did begin school, she had confidence and positive social experiences with her peers. Not to mention, she is consistently among the top students academically and is being recruited for the gifted and talented program. I don’t call this cheating but informed and conscientious parenting.

        • Olivia says:

          I agree, the US is one of the very few countries that starts substantial education so late, why push it back any farther? The sooner they get into a social and academic environment, the easier it is for them to pick up on and continue with. I was born in late June, and I’m so glad my parents didn’t “redshirt” me. I graduated high school at 17 with a 3.9 GPA.

          • Maggie says:

            Research and studies are beneficial for helping us make decisions in addition to using our best judgement child to child. That said, Olivia, I don’t know which state or what grade you graduated from, but the cut-off has changed through the years. When I started school in California during the 80’s the cut-off was in December. My husband who was born in November was the youngest in his grade. Even though he was incredibly bright, his 4th grade teacher recommended retention. Also, as Dr. Jones mentioned there hasn’t been thorough studies done on the effects of redshirting girls. It may very well have the opposite effect.

  5. Heidi says:

    Thanks for another great article! My son has a July birthday. Academically, he was ready, but his maturity level was not developed enough to handle full days of school without meltdowns. We decided to red-shirt him (although I didn’t know that term when we decided). He still struggled with Kindergarten and 1st grade, coming home with so many “red” and “yellow” days! I can’t imagine what it would have been like if he was trying to keep still and learn a year younger! 2nd grade has been so much better this year–his maturity is catching up a little bit to his academic ability, and he has a teacher who understands the difference between ability and maturity. We are so glad that we red-shirted! We would make that same decision if we had to do it all over again. I think each parent needs to look at each child and make that determination. For example, we will not be red-shirting our daughter; she doesn’t need it. It’s good for parents to know that red-shirting is an option, though.

  6. Delva says:

    Our daughter has a late August birthday; we chose to keep her home for another year. She was a good student with no behavioral problems throughout her K-12 career. The extra year was beneficial for her as a college student since she started as a 19 year-old instead of an 18 year-old. Both of our older children graduated from high school as an 18 and 19 year old, and our two younger children graduated as a young 18 year-old (February and March). One of our regrets was not keeping the younger two at home the extra year after the positive experiences that their older siblings had in college opposed to their college struggles. The benefits of being an older student may not pay off until after high school.

  7. Catherine Takayoshi says:

    I am a 20 year Kindergarten teacher. I have been trained in administering the Gesell Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, which measures developmental age. Developmental age can be different than chronological age. The Gesell can help parents with this kind of decision. This is such an individual issue. Most summer birthday kids are ready, but some are simply not. The children showing young development struggle. They don’t fit in socially, and can “bother” the other children. They may have immature fine motor development, making cutting and writing tasks overly difficult. I would recommend having a Gesell done if a parent feels their child’s development is on the young side. It’s hard to make a blanket statement because each individual person develops in their own unique way and time. I was a late Aug birthday. I did well academically, but socially I was one of the youngest in my class. I wonder if I would have had more confidence and been more of a leader if I had started older. In general, the leaders in my classroom are the older students. Malcolm Gladwell had an interesting piece on professional hockey players in Canada. They were nearly all older students in school. If one is on the fence, find a person to administer the Gesell. It can give you a little more information about your child’s readiness. Also, we haven’t discussed the fact that our academic expectations in Kindergarten have been raised over the last 30 years. That’s another thing to think about. Parents need to remember that young development doesn’t reflect a lack of anything and is not a negative about your child.

    • Helen says:

      Well put. I’m going to recommend the Gesell to our K teachers.

      • Kathy says:

        Gesell is an excellent resource for all teachers. I was a Gesell trained preschool and elementary teacher. I adhere to their philosophy as I saw how many students benefited from the extra year.

        Catherine, I am also very pleased to know teachers are still seeking guidance and training from Gesell. Thank you for posting your thoughts and advocating for sensible child development.

    • Krista says:

      I agree. I have been teaching kindergarten or pre-k for15 years.. We administer the Gessell test for incoming kindergartners and it gives us the information we need. I highly recommend holding on to a child for an extra year when they are not ready. Children learn to talk and walk at different ages and the same is true for when they are developmentally ready for kindergarten. Every child is different and must be considered individually. Do your child a lifelong favor and wait if they are not ready.

  8. teachermomoftwo says:

    Not sure I agree that teachers would have to differentiate any differently for the red shirt students. If the parents with children of summer birthdays chose not to red shirt then these students would be the youngest in their class presenting the same problem, but in reverse. As a teacher for 29 years, there will always be disparity among students whether it be cognitive, physical, social or emotional. The other issue is that in my state, about 13 years ago, gave school districts 3 years to implement a new August 1 cut off date. Children must be 5 by August 1 to attend public school. The district where we lived was enforcing this the first year to hold off growth until they could build a new school to accommodate the housing boom in the area. That first year, our child was turning 5 in mid August. We couldn’t send our child to the public school in the fall, but we were leaning towards parochial school and they had a Sept. cut off date. We still decided to wait because we didn’t want school to more difficult than it needed to be and thought that giving our child more time to develop would ultimately be in her best interest. Also, other parents who were sending their children to public school were having to hold their August and September birthday children and these are ultimately the students our child would be compared with on state/national tests, athletics, college, etc. More importantly, as a teacher of middle school students and a parent of two teenagers, I have noticed the effects of immaturity of both boys and girls at this level. Girls who start school earlier are often just as successful academically as their older peers, however, socially and emotionally younger students struggle. When other girls and boys are entering puberty and having growth spurts, often the younger students are behind physically and this can effect self esteem and increase chances of bullying by their peers. However, I will say that working the last ten years with middle school gifted students, that red shirting a child would not be in his/her best interest and could lead to underachievement. Each child is different and the “whole” child needs to be taken into consideration as well as considering where the child will be developmentally in five or six years. Whole grade acceleration is a possibility for children who are off the charts academically, but has it’s draw backs. However acceleration is not as detrimental as retaining a student. As long as a child stays on pace with his/her peers then chances are they will be successful, however, if a child begins to lag and/or appears unchallenged then early intervention is best. There is not a once size fits all approach, however, parents who really understand and know their child and not just doing what other parents are doing will do what is in their child’s best interest.

  9. Kris Vincent says:

    Another consideration in making the redshirt decision is athletics. My oldest two were “redshirted” because our district had a developmental test similar to that mentioned above that recommended that they hold off another year for Kindergarten (the school district provided pre-Kindergarten in its place). As a result, they were physically bigger earlier than their classmates, and the difference showed in athletics. My son was able to play at the varsity level starting in his sophomore year of high school which has helped broaden college opportunities and college funding for us, while my daughter shines at her middle school sport which has expanded her social network and contributed to her confidence level. I don’t know how much of a difference that one year made, but it’s one more thing to think about.

    • Rosie says:

      That basically sounds like cheating.

      • These kinds of parenting decisions are incredibly complex and difficult to make. Calling the decision cheating is awfully close to name-calling, in my opinion. If a student is assessed for developmental readiness and is advised to wait a year, then happens to benefit from some athletic advantages as a result, I don’t have a problem with that. If parents decide to redshirt ONLY to gain an athletic edge, that will definitely not sit well with lots of people. But in the end, each child has his or her own set of unique gifts, and every parent wants to set them up for success, to maximize whatever their gifts happen to be.

      • Kris says:

        In my case, I didn’t really have a choice – I wasn’t about to go against the district’s recommendation – with an October birthday, my son wouldn’t even have been considered for kindergarten in many districts. In the case where a parent may factor physical size/athletics into a delay decision, among other things, however, I wouldn’t call cheating. Every parent has their own reasons and their own perspective on how to set their children up for success; I don’t judge. My only point is it is one more factor to think about and research.

      • Dee says:

        Sorry but how is it cheating? I am born in November so in Melbourne I was not permitted to start school until the following year (I am now 28). In school athletics I was required to compete against the above grade (therefore being one of the youngest of the cohort), or in final year of primary and high school against others in my grade who were also born in my year. This was the same in inter-school athletics. I fail to see any advantage whatsoever.

        • Andrea says:

          it is cheating because 19 and 20 year old boys should NOT be in high school competing in athletics against younger boys.

      • Andrea says:

        agreed! it IS cheating. which is why so many schools are now not allowing parents to hold their kids back at will. In club sports you play with groups according to your birthday. no way to cheat the system there.

  10. Rosie says:

    Here is an idea: let’s make kindergarten developmentally appropriate for 5 year olds again! Teachers DO NOT make any effort to differentiate, in my experience. Instead, my normal 5 year old was compared to children who were WAY more than one year ahead of him. Even if there were no red-shirting, a child with a late birthday will be in class with kids nearly a year older but when you have parents hold their kids back, it makes things even worse. I have yet to understand why parents want a grown 19 year old in 12 grade anyway.

  11. Lisa says:

    Interesting article. As dynamics typically play a part in all groups, what would happen if all boys entered K at 6 instead of 5? Are the ‘red-shirted’ boys ‘successful’ because there is a portion of the class that are ‘trailing behind’ the red-shirted? OR In a class of all 6 year olds, would ALL the boys be more successful because they are more mature and capable one year older?

    • Jen says:

      I thought the same thing–being older is an advantage if you have a lot younger, if all the same age, then the advantage would be lessened. As someone with a late Oct. birthday–just making the Nov. 1st cut off, I’m glad I was not held back. Some of the red-shirted people in grades below me, yet were older than me felt bad and felt that they were “behind”–I had thought many had failed an earlier grade and had to redo it.

  12. James says:

    Isn’t part of this discussion predicated upon accepting an overly cognitive and skills-based view of schooling? And the comments from the kids imply a competitive point of view regarding the social structure. So often in the discussion of what other cultures are doing, it’s pointed out that, in Finland, for example, elementary school begins at a later age and is has a much shorter day length? I am curious how adherents of the “free school” movement or Montessori-style education would view this question. Might the bigger question be about how we run our schools and not on individual choices of start date?

  13. Ruth says:

    My daughter turned 5 in December so she was not allowed to start kindergarten in public school. But I, as her mother who knows her best, felt she was ready so I took her to a private school where she was tested and deemed ready for kindergarten. She has not had academic or behavioral problems. The only “problems” so far (she is about to graduate
    College), are that her friends got to drive and drink before she did.
    I think the solution is for the public schools to test the child’s readiness for school and not simply go by age.

    • Cayhleen says:

      That’s funny, I had the same problems in high school. I graduated at 17 and so had to wait longer to drive too. I thought it was fun being one of the youngest in my group (I think I had one friend who was even younger than me by a couple months) and I had friends who were 18 or almost 19 when we graduated from high school together. I didn’t even turn 18 until a month into my first semester at college.

      I never really thought about the age gap. Looking back I can say I was probably slightly more immature than my older friends but it never hurt anything.
      I feel like it’s just up to the parents and if they feel their child is ready. I agree that it shouldn’t be about age but if the child is ready for the social and academic challenges of school.

    • doetwin says:

      I don’t think the drinking is anything to worry about. People who are nerdy to go to college are probably going to be too nerdy to care about drinking. In-fact, take at look at these statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_104.20.asp Most people never even graduate from college which means that those who do are highly ambitious. Usually, the more academically ambitious, the more socially introverted. I’m not saying that this is always the case, but it is the general trend. So people who are nerdy enough to make it to their junior year of college are probably going to be too nerdy to care for social activities such as bar-hopping. I think it’s a win-win situation.

  14. Nope says:

    First of all this post seems to be saying “sons” and “children” as if they’re synonymous. Daughters exist so it would have been nice for the study to include all children. And the socio-economic luxury of delaying formal schooling, again based on this post not necessarily the study itself, is enormous. Of course wealthier parents can delay easier than parents in poverty. Skirting over that is ludicrous. This mostly seems passively selfish. I’m glad to see there’s no real advantage, maybe folks will stop delaying kindergarten.

    • Suzanne Jones says:

      This was a dissertation that focused on one set demographic of students. In this study, it was boys in upper SES districts where this trend is growing. In this study, the children are boys which is why they are interchangeable. I never advocate for red-shirting and only offer a way to look at it that has never been studied before.

  15. NEB says:

    I wonder why the study chose to narrow it down to only twenty families and those families happened to all support the idea that one choice was better with no exceptions? Seems highly unlikely to be accurate. Especially given other studies that have shown long-term advantages to younger students compared to red-shirted ones.

    • Suzanne Jones says:

      It was a dissertation and I was happy to create a study with a large enough sample for statistics significance. The only studies that show younger children doing better in any area are those that lump all “overage students” into one group instead of those who were red-shirted. I never tried to generalize any of the results to any population, just to say it is a piece of the discussion. Much more research is needed in many areas of this growing phenomenon.

  16. Why is it that we need to have such a strict age cut-off–and why is it that we group children into narrow one-year age bands? Children develop at different rates, and everywhere in life but school, we interact with people of different ages. The problem of red shirting only arises because of the narrow one-year age bands that are typical of most schools, whether for kindergarten or in high school. What if we question that very approach to grouping children, and instead enabled them to mix across ages?

    In Montessori, with mixed-age classrooms, redshirting is just not a decision parents need to make–and that’s a good thing!

    Here’s a whole post I wrote on the topic of redshirting a few years ago: https://www.leportschools.com/blog/dont-redshirt-for-kindergarten-eliminate-fixed-timeline/

  17. Many years ago, I wrote an essay in Babble about all the pressure exerted on me to redshirt my August birthday son. I didn’t do it. He’s now 12 and the youngest and the smallest in his 7th grade class, and doing great in all areas, he’s happy and we’re happy. Here’s my question: isn’t the “youngest” in a class a moving target? Because if schools moved the cutoff date so everyone in the summer had to wait to enter kindergarten, then wouldn’t the new youngest be the ones who appear least mature? Someone will always have to be the youngest, and because of their short lifespans, a year makes a huge difference — the kids who are the youngest, no matter when the cutoff date, will be the least mature. Instead of endlessly debating when to send them, why don’t schools make kindergarten more flexible to accommodate kids of different ages and abilities?

    • Kasey says:

      Yes!!! Totally agree with you and wondering how someone has not come to this conclusion before.

    • Shannon says:

      Do you have a link to your essay? I have two boys (an August birthday and a September one), so this is obviously a decision we will have to face twice. My husband and I don’t want to redshirt.

  18. Silicon Valley says:

    Tiger moms in silicon valley have caught on to this and tried to red shirt their kids to have an academic advantage. The practice was recognized and forbidden.

  19. Treva says:

    I have three boys that have summer birthdays. My oldest turned 5, five days before school started. He was ready. They wanted to move him to first. I was against it because of his age and size. My second son’s birthday is the end of July. He has had a no issues as well academically or sports or making friends (girlfriends). Now my third son is a July birthday as well. I knew he wasn’t ready for kindergarten, but everyone told me he was. He kept having issues and hated school. Finally in third grade after all the fights with administrators they allowed us to hold him back. It was the best thing for him. Things fell into place for him. He is currently in eighth grade and is doing wonderful. So, I would say you know your child. If you believe the extra year will help them, keep them out that extra year. My two oldest hated that all the boys matured faster than them. They hated about the drivers license. And I am telling you sending a 17 year old to college is hard no matter how mature they are!

    • doetwin says:

      Parents who don’t want their children going off to college at 17 should just have their kids take a gap-year after high school. Who says they have to go to college right away? Besides, how do you know that a 4-year-old will even want to go to college? College isn’t for everyone. It’s crazy to make a decision about a 4-year-old for post high school reasons. You have no idea what things will be like then. Then question should be, “Are they ready for Kindergarten now?”, not “Will they be ready for college 13 years from now?”.

  20. Marissa says:

    We did this with our middle child. He had some issues with pottying and separation. He was also quite small for his age. We sent him to a private half-day preschool at age five and kindergarten at age six. Emotionally, I think it was the right decision for him. Socially, we found that his kindergarten peers were behind him and it was very disturbing to him. Every day, he would tell me he didn’t have a good day because “eight people were on red today.” Later on, we have found that he tests far higher than his peers academically, but since enrichment was only available starting in fourth grade, school has been a bit of a drag for him. The issue we had with our older son was similar — he was more than ready for school academically, but not ready socially. Not ready to sit still and be quiet for long periods. We did not red shirt him and he remains one of the youngest and smallest in his class. Combine that with late puberty, and I feel sorry for him!
    We need a different solution, for boys in particular.

  21. We did not “redshirt” our son who has a September 3rd birthday. He is the youngest in his grade in Texas because we started him in Arkansas. He has been very successful academically, and he is happy socially. He has a sort of “grit” that other students lack because he is used to being challenged. I am so glad we opted to send him to kindergarten instead of pre-school again. He would have been bored and there were nothing but sub-standard pre- k programs where we moved from. His elementary teachers had issues with his age, but ultimately we made the right decision.

  22. Rachel says:

    My son was born May 25, and we didn’t hold him back. He’s one of the largest kids in his class and he has been since early on. He is also among the top 3-4 smartest.

    He has high functioning Autism (formerly Asperger’s), and I agonized over this, but honestly? I knew he was incredibly smart and I knew he was large and would be so out of place with kids a year younger. He is often bored in school and helps teach other kids who are having issues with their schoolwork. He’s held as a model of honesty as well as always giving 100% to his peers. He has 100% average in math and also has 99% in science. I feel holding him back would’ve been such a disservice to him and to his teachers and to his peers.

    To the teachers who say they recommend it across the board. How can you do that? It’s certainly an individual child decision.

    • Suzanne Jones says:

      Most of the teachers in my study felt it would not hurt a child and therefore it was an easy recommendation to make. They felt that there was a chance being young could hurt them, but of course there are many examples of young students who do perfectly fine. So it seemed to be a matter of odds.

  23. Kaylene says:

    TSorry, the advent of all day sit and produce paper work kindergarten is just not developmentally appropriate for many kids in this age range. If it works for your kid, great. I’d love to see the whole thing changed to be much more targeted to individual kids – to be able to target individual maturity, emotional, and academic levels. You’d find parents would be much less tortured about sending a young, busy kid to kindergarten.

    I had a boy who was old for grade – Oct birthday with Sept 1 cutoff. We never thought of pushing him ahead. Discovered he was highly to profoundly gifted in kindergarten. And was “bad” because he was high energy and bored in school. He may have been a little more academically challenged a year sooner, but he would have been even busier. We ended up pulling him to homeschool in 1st. He is 15 now, is definitely NOT ADHD but had some asynchronous development tendencies, and has high, college ready scores on the ACT starting in middle school. But in no way has the executive function to be ready to excel in a college setting yet.

    How about schools teach the kids that come into their room in a way that make sense for them and not try to fit every kid into the same nice square box. The whole thing is broken. FWIW – in the GT community, I know a number of parents who regretted having their kid pushed up a grade once their kid got to a place where older kids were going through puberty. Or their child went through a lag when suddenly their executive function didn’t match their academic levels. I think it can go both ways in terms of regret.

  24. Teacher says:

    I think you need to look at each kid. My birthday was late November and I made the cut off as did my friends (who where in the top 10 of my class in highschool) whose birthdays were in September and late December. The problem with holding summer kids back so they can be as one parent said, “at the top of their class” is that the kids are often bored and become behavior issues. Also, it is like putting a first grader in kindergarten. If everyone did that, then the date would then be moved back to April to get ahead. Where does it end? Yes, a few kids are to immature and not academically ready, but most are. If a child knows his letters send him. My son started first grade like I did as a five year old who turned six 4 months later because he made the cut off where we lived. He is doing great and I can’t imagine having him miss that year.

  25. Maria says:

    My son has a June birthday, and on the advice of his preschool we sent him to K at 6. He was able to go to a wonderful play-based program that was mostly half-days except one afternoon a week. It was like what K was when I was a kid – and what it should still be, but isn’t. He’s now 15 and finishing his freshman year in high school. Like the parents in the article, I would make the same decision in a heartbeat. I’ve never met anyone who regretted it.

  26. Bob Hill says:

    My mother began college at 16. My father began college at 17. My brother began college at 17. My daughter began kindergarten at four as she was already reading and spending another year in preschool would have been a waste of time. She is now in the fifth grade and the top of her class even though she should be in the fourth grade. Even though she should be in the fourth grade. So this trend towards redshirting might be more of a reflection on Parenting that it is on the needs of children.

  27. missy says:

    My entire class went to a TK program before coming to my K program. They would have been the kids who had to wait to start older in K. We give them a special start when they’re younger and then when K starts they’re all turning six instead of five. It’s great to see what they can do and how ready they are to learn. We don’t have to rush because they have the basic skills already in place. I’ve had many kids who have waited to start with only positive outcomes. I’ve seen parents push their kids forward too soon and regret that later. Know your child and choose the right program.

  28. JenSmith says:

    I guess I have different experiences with differentiating. My daughter’s school does an excellent job of meeting the needs of all students. I taught kindergarten for 6 years before going to 3rd grade and at times having such a variety of maturity levels/academic levels can be difficult when planning small group instruction in literacy/math centers. Not to mention 10 year old 3rd graders know WAY more about the world then 8 year olds (sex, cussing, ect.) We are a top performing school that has won national awards. I believe our focus on student growth and differentiation is why we are so successful. That being said, it’s important to remember that teachers DO NOT have a say in the standards that are taught. Curriculum is the delivery or way the standards are taught. The same standard can be taught a hundred different ways. So many standards are developmentally inappropriate and parents need to reach out to legislators asking for them to be revised. I get frustrated when I see parents blame teachers for things that are completely out of our control.

    I think it’s important to remember that in Finland and highly ranked countries formal education doesn’t even start until 6 or 7 years old. From 3-6 years old those children are encouraged to play, explore and enjoy the world. By 3rd grade they are reading the same or even higher levels then average US kids. My July birthday daughter will start kindergarten in August. I am not worried about the right now, but I am concerned about the future. I am not worried about the academics, but the social and emotional. We will support her and pray that what ever challenges she has will help develop her into a stronger person with strong character. We want her to learn to have a strong work ethic. It’s such a hard, personal decision. I do think if she was a boy would might consider holding her out a little harder. Good luck parents!

  29. Anne H. says:

    Were any girls at all included in this study? If not, shouldn’t the title be ‘Kindergarten Redshirting: How BOYS Feel About It Later In Life’? It’s long past time for academics to start ensuring and insisting that the perspective of girls and women is accounted for in our knowledge base.

    • Suzanne Jones says:

      The dissertation title is: “Academic Redshirting: Perceived Life Satisfaction of Adolescent Males.”

  30. Dwro says:

    As an elementary school teacher, high school soccer coach AND parent of an autistic child I’d like to weigh in. If parents are just “red-shirting” because they want that extra year’s eligibility, growth, strength and all that goes with being a year older than peers, then I think there’s a huge problem when parents have that goal to only get their child the athletic scholarship or pro-contract (in reality only very, very few athletes have either of those opportunities). Another point being is that by “red-shirting” your child you end up with a legal adult (18) amongst minors at high school. This can create a litany of issues especially if you have a senior dating a junior (which is very common at many schools). I know that many students want to be with friends their own age and whether or not we retain them, they still grow at their own pace. Boys at 12 are VERY different from boys that are 13 and the same with girls. Lastly, parents should do what’s BEST for their child and if they have a child who’s significantly smaller, behind academically or cognitively then you may have a great case for holding them back, but always get feedback on this due to the fact there may be different behaviors at school than home. Hopefully parents are deciding on what’s best for the child, not what’s best for the parents.

  31. Braxton says:

    We red-shirted our now Kindergartner. Her bday is August 28th and the cut of was September 1st. For us it was the best decision we have made to date. She had an amazing year in kindergarten. She has learned so much and we are very thankful we let her do two years of Pre-K. I think it’s up to the parents and teachers. We had our daughter tested at her private school and she was 50/50. Meaning she passed 50% of the Kindergarten readiness tests and the other 50% she struggled with. She has now passed all sections with flying colors and is reading on first grade level. Proud Mama here!

  32. Jim Bova says:

    The article states that Jones evaluated 55 families, 30 who redshirted and 25 who did not.

    In the results section or this article, it is stated that 7 out of 10 parents in the non-redshirt group said they would redshirt if they had another summer boy.

    What about the parents of the other 15 non-redshirted children? How did we go from a study of 25 non-redshirted children to 10?

    • Suzanne Jones says:

      This dissertation used mixed methodology. The interviewing portion was 10 redshirted boys, 10 non-redshirted boys, 10 parents who redshirted, and 10 parents who did not. The sample size of 55 was used for the quantitative piece and those students were all given the MSLSS which did show statistical signifcance.

  33. Tom I says:

    To me, it is interesting that people feel the answers given point to “redshirting” being the correct answer. If you think about what they are saying, either way could be right. What BOTH groups seem to want is an even playing field. Think about this… All of the redshirt boys liked being the older, bigger students. But if EVERYONE chose redshirting, they would no longer be the bigger, older students.
    I truly believe this decision needs to be based on who is ready and who is not, academically and socially. If the student is ready, they should enter Kindergarten. If the student is not academically ready, or not socially ready, they should not enter Kindergarten. There is no right answer that fits everyone.
    My wife and I have 4 boys. Birthdays in late May, mid June, early October, mid October. We have only “redshirted” one. Our boys are now 13, 11, 8, and 6. We do not regret any of the choices we made.

  34. Kelsy says:

    My third born son is a march birthday. We have been considering red shirting him because with all the other red shirting going on he will more than likely be one of the younger kids in his class. I know March children aren’t typically considered for red shirting but we want to do what is best for our son. Academically he is ready, socially he is doing well also. But I think the benefits of him being an older child versus a younger child would be massive for him. Especially considering his birth order and being the second youngest at home. Every teacher I have talked with about this says it will only benefit him. I worry about him being a March birthday… But then again what’s three months (off of a summer birthday)?

  35. Brittany says:

    I find this article very interesting because as an adult looking back I feel I might have really benefitted from being red-shirted when I wasn’t. I grew up thinking I was just slower than everyone else, and now have a bit of a complex thinking I’ll never be smart enough, when in fact I was likely a whole year behind my classmates both mentally and physically. I have a September birthday so I would have just made the cut. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this in his book Outliers about studies that show an large amount of professional athletes tend to be born in January, February and March, which proves the theory that at a young age, they would have been perceived as more “talented” and moved into higher streams of sports where this phenomenon would have compounded their “talent” when really at a young age, they were likely almost a year older than other players. I think he mentioned some school districts adopted a program where students get divided by birth month in order to even out this advantage/disadvantage. I can’t remember what country they adopted it in. It would be interesting to see what effects the change has had.

  36. Isabelle says:

    Here in BC kids have until December 31st to turn 5 to start kindergarten. I teach grade 1 and I noticed that most of the students born in October, November and December are less mature and have more struggles to learn how to read and right. Each child is different, but I think in some cases it’s better to keep the kids at home or in day care one more year before kindergarten. It can make the entry in writing and reading easier later in grade 1.

  37. Amy Suggs says:

    My son Has a late August birthday and I am a teacher and I “red shirted” him without hesitation. I knew because of my experience in the classroom that he would benefit greatly by waiting another year. He is bright and he would have fine in elementary but I knew that junior high and high school would be the place where his age and immaturity would emerge. He is now a freshman in college at the age of nineteen and excells beyond my expectations. I cannot imagine leaving him in the dorm at seventeen! We have no regrets.

  38. What’s the difference between redshirting and having a kid who’s birthday falls a few days in the other direction? Someone who turns 5 the week after the cutoff? They have the same issues/advantages. Teachers have to deal with developmental differences that occur naturally–kids are born all through the year!

  39. April says:

    My daughter was born on November 28. When she was four, turning five that November, I put her in kindergarten because she was so smart he hated to keep her home. For the first few years I felt like I made the right decision, because she excelled in school through 10th Grade, then struggled 11th and 12th grade, though she made A’s B’s and C’s. She turned 19 last November, during her second year of college. She’s making straight A’s in college. I’m very proud of her. But I have to say, if I had to do it all over again, I would not put her in kindergarten until she was five turning six. Even though she was smart enough to be top in her class while youngest in her class, she is socially immature. I didn’t notice it until high school, and it’s very noticeable since she’s been in college.

  40. Kathy says:

    This is an important discussion to have. Thank you for posting such a provocative article. It certainly has engaged a wide range of thoughts. Not much in the way of this discussion has changed from my time as a preschool teacher 30 years ago. Parents are still concerned about youngness, being left behind, not being challenged, etc. It’s a testament to how so much changes but so much stays the same! However, one thing that has changed is the co-opting of the use of the term “red shirting” from the college based term used to describe athletes who have been held off a team so they won’t lose their team eligibility or lose a year’s worth of scholarship now passed down to a term for the very youngest who are not entering school on a prescribed date regardless of their developmental growth. How can a child be “red shirted” if they’ve never been held back from a team? I strongly urge all parents and educators reconsider the use of this term as in my mind it implies something negative. This is a term that when used to describe our very youngest will follow them throughout their school years. Let’s drop that term and just recognize that all 4 or 5 year olds aren’t ready to start school on a specific date and that they aren’t being held back. They are being given time to grow so they can engage in the FORMAL learning atmosphere schools require. We push our kids enough into adult supervised programs which deprive them of their play and informal learning. Let’s not label them with a term like red shirting, another adult term now thrown on our very youngest. When these youngsters are 17 and graduating high school, they may just be red shirted when they go onto college or the military, so wait til then when it’s not so uncommon.

  41. Sam says:

    I “red shirted” a daughter and son with summer birthdays. They are in 8th and 9th grade and we couldn’t be happier. My husband and I were both older in our class and saw the advantages in our own lives. I always recommend it.

  42. EM says:

    I am now in my mid-60s. I was pushed into school early even though I have a mid- October birthday because they said I was “ready,” an entire year too early. I used to wonder why I was in the lowest math group – and my parents thought I was not as bright as my brother. That was not the case at all. I was just two years younger than some of the other kids. I would never recommend that for anyone.

  43. Nicole says:

    My twin boys will be 5 in the summer. We have decided to red shirt them. They are very smart and catch on quickly but they are not ready maturity wise. Every child is different and each parent knows what’s best for their child. Not all children learn the same regardless of curriculum. I’ve spoken to a lot of people including family, friends and acquaintances because this is not a decision I made lightly. A lot of them actually said they wished they had held their kids back. One mom said her child had a terrible time with social and math skills, another with reading and writing, and so on and etc. One mom told me she believed a lack of maturity, social and learning skills made her son hate school. He struggled with math and reading and coupled with the fact that he was shy and lacking in social skills he got to where he cried not to go to school.

    My boys will be attending a Pre-K class till they start Kindergarten plus I will be working with them at home with workbooks and flash cards. If you don’t like the idea of red shirting then don’t do it but I’m not going to not do something that might help my children based on someone else’s opinion. At the end of the day we all just want what’s best for our kids.

  44. Kathy says:

    Again, I beg of everyone could we please refrain from using the term “red shirt” to label 4 and 5 year olds who aren’t ready for school by a date that has no correlation to student’s developmental age. Red shirt is an old college athletic term used to label college freshman who are held back a year from participating on their athletic team. How about we use “readiness year” like it used to be called way back 30 years ago if it’s so important to use a label. Better yet, why do these kids even need a label that will follow them the rest of their k-12 years?

    On another note, many youngsters who are 4 when they enter Kindergarten often take a year off at some point. Maila Obama is taking a “gap” year before attending Harvard. She will be 17 when she graduates this June. She turns 18 on July 4. Regardless of status or gender, the youngest kids do make up time at some point.
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/malia-obama-will-attend-harvard-university-after-gap-year/

  45. Eric says:

    We held back two of our three kids, and it has benefited them greatly. We “red-shirted” them for all the same reasons that college athletes delay their entrance onto a sports team–to gain an advantage from being older (which is why it’s the perfect term in my opinion). And it has conferred all kinds of benefits on them.

    And while we are comfortable that we are meeting our obligation to our kids, we wonder what this means for society and the educational community; where it will end? Are we going to be seeing most kids turning seven in kindergarten?

    We created a gap year at age 5, instead of at age 18, and therefore found ourselves looking for an educational experience that isn’t part of the normal process. For one child, an extra year of pre-school worked best. For another, repeating kindergarten worked best. But in both cases we handed the educator an extra challenge; they were forced to adapt to having an older child in their class.

    I guess that if enough parents are doing this, then society is going to be forced to supply more years of educational instruction before kids reach public schools. At some point this may become disadvantageous to the whole system. In economics we would call this a “tragedy of the commons”.

  46. This was a very interesting interview, thank you! My daughter was one of the oldest in her year because of her birth date (not because of red shirting) and she struggled, particularly once she hit middle school with being more mature than the other girls. She always felt she didn’t fit and it led to a fair bit of depression. When we moved back to the southern hemisphere we pushed really hard to get her placed with her age group and she was SO much happier. It was like night and day!

  47. mplo says:

    I was born in the early 1950’s, in February, and I was red-shirted, due to the fact that, due to developmental problems, I was not emotionally mature enough to start school with other kids in my age group. Being almost two years older than many, if not most of my classmates was painful, and I think it helped isolate me socially, but failing a grade and having to repeat it would’ve been far more painful…and humiliating.

  48. Cynthia says:

    I asked my son today who has an August birthday and is in the prime of adolescence whether or not he wished he was held back so school was easier and he was bigger and stronger like some of the kids on his lacrosse team who are 12-14 months older than humans in the same grade. He said no way. It’s not even on his radar that those kids are that much older than him. What I can say observing the kids that are older is that some of the younger smaller kids are just as skilled in their sport,they work harder and are nicer teammates who don’t talk down to other kids. Learning to work hard is going to get my son further in life than things always coming easy for him. Red shirting is another symptom of the helicopter lets protect our kids from everything hard so they can be happier generation. Our parents didn’t think twice about it. My other son who is on the older dude of his class with a winter birthday struggles way more in school than my older. He was reading at age 4 but he Can’t sit still, is impulsive, and school is just harder for him. The study is silly. Just another thing on Facebook to make parents insecure about their decisions. There is so much wrong with our public school system. The article that popped up on my feed right below this one was the one that says kids who aren’t redshirted are more successful in life they learn to work harder and are smarter and more resilient. Go figure.

  49. Lynn says:

    My son went to kinder this year he has a july 26th birth and in Texas the cut off is Sept. 1st. We thought he could automatically be retained but his teacher and the principal would not allow it. We even sent a grievance that was denied. So now our options are that he goes to a private school for a year and we bring him back or he goes to 1st grade at his current school. He has an older brother and we dont want to take him out of his current school but long term I think it will help him. I am struggling with him thinking something is wrong with him if he goes to another school and if he will be bored since his reading skills are half way through first grade. Thanks in advance for the help.

  50. Kimbers says:

    For the record, whenever I speak of redshirting, it’s in the context of typically developing kids, not kids on the spectrum or who have special needs. That said, I have eleven-year-old twin boys born in the Fall of 2016. They are in the sixth grade and likely the very youngest of their large middle school class at their Silicon Valley school. They did struggle a bit with fine motor and focus a bit in the early grade school years but I saw lots of non-redshirted kids struggle just the same (and those kids didn’t have the same young-for-their-grade excuse!). Everything seemed to level out by fourth grade, just like the experts said.

    I had put my boys in kindergarten on the early side after much contemplation, polling other parents and teachers and reading on the Internet. One thing to keep in mind is that most blog posts, comments and articles on the topic are written from the perspective of those who redshirted and were happy. There are many non-redshirted fall birthday kids who enroll in kindergarten but then that’s that. Their parents don’t write about it — there’s nothing to prove. So I think it happens more frequently than we all think. It’s just not written about it. Somehow, it seems like parents who did redshirt feel the need to tell everyone how effective that strategy was for their child; those who didn’t don’t make a bit deal of it.

    So here we are at the end of sixth grade (first year of middle school). One of my sons struggled with turning in assignments on time. The other sailed through his year with all A’s. So yes, being young for one of my kids might have been a detriment insofar as learning to be organized but again, I see lots of other older kids with this same issue.

    But the big, big difference between being old and young for their grade in middle school has not been academic, of course. It’s not even really been about being on-task or focused in school. The two big differences have been these: athletics and teen behavior. The older kids seem to become curious about “dating,” vaping, swearing, and generally asserting their dominance over other kids via shock value tactics. So my kids’ old-for-their-grade friends suddenly veered off this year into risky teen behavior, leaving my kids alone to play with their Lego and nerf guns and such.

    The other significant observation I will say from my sixth grade perch is that the athletic kids who are a year older than mine start winning all the atheltic awards. The kid who is among the oldest in sixth grade is the track star. The big group of sporty kids have formed a big group and they all seem to be old for their grade.

    So when I see that older kid’s mom posting on Facebook about how her son won all of these athletic awards, in my mind, I’m always saying, “But he’s a year older than lots of kids!” In my mind, I’m thinking, “You gamed the system!”

    Sometimes I wish that school sports would go by age and not be grade, just to level the playing field.

    To sum up my personal experience, not redshirting is more common than what an Internet search will lead you to believe, the academic differences tend to level off in fourth grade, redshirted kids might zoom into teendom earlier than their younger peers and and redshirted kids might dominate unfairly in sports.

  51. Kimbers says:

    Oops, this should read, “born in the fall of 2004.” Not “2016.”

  52. Mandy says:

    I wish this article touched on the fact that it is very difficult for girls to be the biggest and most mature in the class. It made for a very difficult childhood for me and I hated the fact that my parents held me back in preschool. My self-image was destroyed. Junior high is hard enough! Maybe it is ok for boys to be the biggest, but that is not something most girls will deal with well.

  53. Danieka says:

    The thing is though that there is a year difference in age built in naturally into every class. The kids that are right over the cut off date are a year older than those right below it. So if you have a summer birthday kid they might be a month or so off from that but everyone makes a huge deal about it. Please parents leave the decision alone and don’t bring it up constantly that my July kid is so old. It is such a frustrating thing. I was always the youngest as an Aug birthday and was ok but my only child was not ready. People can be so rude. And no our child does not play sports either 🙂

  54. Mira says:

    I started school at four. I loved being the youngest in my grade up until college. Everyone thought I was a genius, especially after I entered Gifted in the second grade. I’ll be honest, I recently graduated HS and I’ll tell you now that the kids who got redshirted in kindergarten, who are a year or two older. In junior high and high school, most of the kids assume you’re slower than the rest. It’s the opposite if you were a year younger, like myself. Everyone assumed I skipped a grade or two and lots of people assumed my friend who was a year above the norm, had failed a year. It’s a different situation if your child is more developed at a younger age. Like myself, redshirting would have made no sense. In the second grade, I read at a sixth grade level and I was in gifted math until HS. I was more mature, I disliked childish games and treated education seriously. I never believed in Santa or the Tooth Fairy. When I was six, my mother asked me what I wanted Santa to get me and I told her that only kids believed in a magical man who made toys for free.

    I’ll be truthful, whether you redshirt or not, it won’t ruin your kids lives. It doesn’t matter unless your child is truly not ready or is actually farther ahead. Your child being the oldest in the class or the youngest is irrelevant. That isn’t whats inportant, whether they like it isn’t important. Any kid would be happier procrastinating entrance into school. You should align your child’s academic abilities and maturity to his/her proper grade. Don’t put a five year-old with the academic skills of a seven year-old in kindergarten. No child wants to learn the things they already know. If he/she can run through a Bad Kitty book in an hour, don’t put them in a class that’s learning what letters are. I’ve read some comments about kids who had to play catch up, which is mind-boggling. Like I said, if your child isn’t ready don’t push them. It’s better to play slow down than catch up. And don’t skip a bunch of grades, believe me, it throws off everything.

  55. David Hochheiser says:

    I have two bits to add here. 1) I’m wondering if anyone can speak to research and experiences with kids in states like NY that use the calendar instead of the school year for cut offs, something that I believe is done to get low SES kids into school ASAP. Conversations there are about red shirting November/December kids, so your summer babies become very middle of the grade all of a sudden. Knowing that kids end up fine in these states, I’m wondering if it’s truly a developmental issue or is it all about relative age and the way schools address kids’ needs. 2) to make it personal, we moved from NY to MA after my son (October birthday) finished kindergarten. We tried to put him through K again, and he was okay with it, but the school’s talked us out of it after two days. He was just so far ahead of everything. I wish he would’ve had a multi-age program to go into, but only our local charter school, which we couldn’t get into) offers that. I’m wondering if anyone has experience with multi-age rooms and how they may help younger, yet academically accelerated, kids.

  56. TG says:

    My son was born in October and we sent him off to kindergarten when he was four. Today he is a sophomore in high school, over a 4.1 GPA, plays three sports, one at varsity level and is well like by his peers. So, really it depends on the child and how high of an opinion you have of the pre school teacher telling you that they are ready. I wouldn’t choose just because of when their birthday is on the calendar.

  57. Catherine says:

    I live in the UK and have a summer born son. Keeping him back a year is not an option here, however I felt strongly at the time he would have benefited from further opportunities to experience the Reception Class curriculum as he was not ready for the Year 1 curriculum. He has had to work hard to keep up with his peers and with the support of an amazing teacher in his final year at Primary School and again in his last year of Secondary, he did OK in his GCSE exams last year. All his peer group have been able to get part-time jobs nearly a year before him and start learning to drive and I know he has found this particularly tough.
    As parents it is always going to be hard to make these decisions for our children but sometimes there is no choice available to us and we must have faith that they will all get there in the end. It is how we support them through their journey that matters most.

  58. Andrea says:

    So many parents are red shirting their kids here in our white upper socio economic area its a problem. And guess what? SOMEONE has to be the youngest. All these parents are doing is displacing the “youngest” burden onto other kids like my daughter who has a late May birthday. There have been youngest and oldest kids for eons, this is NOT a new problem. The problem is with helicopter parents who don’t want their kids to experience any displeasure or difficulty in school so they hold them back. Now we have boys in 6th grade that are 1-2 years older than their peers that are HUGE. Your kindergartner may seem a little behind at 5 but they will have caught up developmentally in just a few years. But in high school football teams, being a year or two older is a HUGE (and unfair) advantage. There are parents that are intentionally holding their kids back to have an edge in sports now. it is beyond ridiculous! Luckily such shenanigans don’t cut it in club sports where kids play by their birthday.

  59. I’m thankful for all the discussion in this thread and to the author and her dissertation, because from what I’ve found there is not a lot of cumulative information out there. My personal interest in delaying kindergarten is solely based on my belief that a 5 year old should not have to sit at a desk for formal schooling for 6 hours a day. All the school systems in the world that produce higher academic achievement than the U.S. don’t begin formal schooling until closer to age 7. Sure, a child may be “gifted” and perceive in later years that they succeeded, but were they able to play during those imaginative years? Did they have a childhood filled with free play, or a childhood filled with too much academic pressure before it was really necessary? This of course becomes a socio-economic issue as many families don’t have the luxury to delay school, but perhaps the question should be asked on a more universal basis of at what age is it most appropriate to begin formal education.

  60. Ed Palmisano says:

    I would love a follow up study on those who were pushed forward / grade advanced.

  61. Lori Earl says:

    I found this article and research helpful–we “redshirted” our son, with a September 10 birthday. What I would add to the study, however, is an evaluation of the child’s perceived readiness level in making this decision. I would venture that part of the reason lower SES redshirted kids might do more poorly academically is that those kids for whom this decision is made ALREADY show some signs of issues…evaluating those kids later would need to take into account whether this group of kids was already facing some learning issues, therefore resulting in decisions to redshirt them.

  62. Amanda says:

    Thanks for sharing such a great article on a hot topic. Now that state VPK programs are allowing older children to use the vpk voucher (delaying the start of Kinder), pre k teachers now have classes of children spanning ages 3 to almost 6. There are multiple implications to the practice.

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