Redshirting—holding a child back a year from entering kindergarten—is not an uncommon practice, but there are pros and cons for parents to consider before making such an important decision for their child.
Amos Hatch, a professor of education in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, is an expert on the debated topic. In Hatch’s recent book, Reclaiming the Teaching Profession: Transforming the Dialogue on Public Education, he critiques current educational reform efforts that lead parents to resort to strategies like redshirting.
“The practice is controversial because it can create challenges for schools when large numbers of parents opt to wait an extra year for their children to enter; but it can also prove to be beneficial to certain children who need more time to develop,” he said.
Redshirting refers to the practice of postponing entrance into kindergarten in order to allow extra time for socioemotional, intellectual, or physical growth. Parents with children whose birthdays fall near the cutoff date for entering kindergarten are most likely to redshirt to avoid having them be one of the youngest in their class.
“The positive I see in redshirting kids entering kindergarten is if they are close to the age cutoff and are developing at a slower pace than their peers,” said Hatch. “Some children naturally mature at a slower rate and will benefit from the gift of time, allowing them to develop cognitively, socially, and emotionally to a place where they can feel comfortable and be successful in today’s heavily academic kindergarten.”
But redshirting for purposes other than maturity level could prove to be detrimental to a child’s educational experience.
He explains that most children who are close to the entry age cutoff date will be fine in school, making an extra year unnecessary. It’s not their chronological age but their maturity level that should determine what is best for the child.
“The main negative I see in redshirting kids who are perfectly capable of being successful in today’s kindergarten is that we are in effect perpetuating the opportunity gap and the achievement gap,” said Hatch. “A lot of parents who choose to redshirt their child may do so in hopes that their child will gain a competitive advantage on the other children in the class. So parents with lots of resources and savvy about working the system redshirt their kids to help ensure their child is the biggest, smartest, most capable child in the classroom. Parents without these advantages don’t hold their kids back, and the gaps between these two groups widen.”
“Someone will always be the youngest in the classroom,” said Hatch. “Oftentimes, too many parents are doing all they can to ensure their child is not that someone.”
At the end of the day, Hatch says, the choice to delay a child’s entrance into kindergarten is a personal one, and one that parents should consider carefully before making a decision.
Tyra Haag (865-974-5460, firstname.lastname@example.org)