Admittedly this is not the first time I have written about “redshirting”, the practice holding kindergarten-age children back for a year as an attempt to give them a leg up on peers. But considering 1 in 11 children will be electively held back from kindergarten this year, this issue is decidedly not going away.
An opinion piece in The New York Times last month, by Sam Wang (an associate professor of molecular biology at Princeton) and Sandra Aamodt (a former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience) posits the idea that the practice of “redshirting” gives children neither an academic nor social advantage –maybe at the beginning, but certainly not in the long run.
Wang and Aamodt report:
“Teachers may encourage redshirting because more mature children are easier to handle in the classroom and initially produce better test scores than their younger classmates. In a class of 25, the average difference is equivalent to going from 13th place to 11th. This advantage fades by the end of elementary school, though, and disadvantages start to accumulate. In high school, redshirted children are less motivated and perform less well. By adulthood, they are no better off in wages or educational attainment — in fact, their lifetime earnings are reduced by one year.”
The authors insist that it is the children who are sent to school at the ripe old age of 5 are the one’s who both have the advantage, as well as the long-term results. “In a large-scale study at 26 Canadian elementary schools, first graders who were young for their year made considerably more progress in reading and math than kindergartners who were old for their year (but just two months younger). In another large study, the youngest fifth-graders scored a little lower than their classmates, but five points higher in verbal I.Q., on average, than fourth-graders of the same age. In other words, school makes children smarter.” What this evidence might prove is that it is not about “being ready” for kindergarten that makes all of the difference, but being challenged in a demanding environment and being allowed to make errors and mistakes. In essence, learning is largely social and, as the authors attest, delaying that social exchange may lead to social and learning delays down the road.
Does this argument sway you any which way? Has anyone opted to “redshirt” their child and found themselves regretting it down the line? Can you champion the practice of “redshirting”?