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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

IEL FAQ: What Are the Effects of Academic Redshirting? About

What is redshirting?

Academic redshirting for young children refers to the practice of postponing the entrance of age-eligible children into kindergarten in order to allow extra time for social, emotional, intellectual, or physical growth. In Illinois, a child 5 years old on or before September 1 of the kindergarten year may begin kindergarten. (By law, a child must begin school if he or she is 6 years old on or before September 1.) Parents often choose to delay the enrollment in kindergarten of an age-eligible child if the child has a birthday so close to the cut-off date that he or she is likely to be among the youngest in the class. These parents believe that older children are more successful in coping with the social, emotional, and academic demands of kindergarten than younger children.

How often does redshirting occur?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that, nationally, during the 2006-2007 school year, 7% of children had parents who planned to delay their entrance into kindergarten. This statistic included a higher percentage of boys than girls and a lower percentage of children living in poor households compared with nonpoor households (O’Donnell, 2008). According to researcher M. Elizabeth Graue, studies suggest that “redshirting is a relatively low-incidence practice that clusters in certain communities. Although the average tends to be about 7%, it ranges from 0 to much higher in certain schools” (personal communication, February 24, 2009; also see Graue & DiPerna, 2000).

What are the effects of redshirting?

Research on the effects of redshirting on children has shown mixed results. It is difficult to establish a direct link between being redshirted and doing well or poorly in kindergarten and beyond. Some older studies related to redshirting suggested that redshirted children were likely to achieve at a comparable rate to age peers who entered on time. According to some of the older studies, social outcomes for oldest and youngest children in a class were similar; however, other research suggested that older children showed more behavior problems (Graue & DiPerna, 2000, pp. 512-513). One Wisconsin study in 2000 examined 8,000 students’ school records to discern patterns related to school entry age, promotion/retention, receipt of special services, and achievement in school. The authors reported that redshirted children in the younger half of their age cohort (that is, those with spring or summer birthdays) were more likely to receive special education services than peers who were typically promoted (Graue & DiPerna, 2000, p. 527). Another study of 116 kindergartners and first-graders in California found few entrance-age-related differences in self-reports of school adjustment, loneliness, perceptions of competence, or maternal and peer acceptance (Spitzer, Cupp, & Parke, 1995, p. 433).

An analysis of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study regarding children’s achievement in reading and math found that redshirted children showed slightly higher reading knowledge and skills when tested at the end of first grade than did children who started kindergarten on time. In mathematics, however, redshirted children’s scores were somewhat behind those of children who had started kindergarten on time (Malone, West, Flanagan, & Park, 2006).

Another recent study, related to early or late school-age entry cutoff dates nationwide rather than to redshirting, suggests that students who are older than peers in their grade score higher on achievement tests and are less likely to repeat a grade or to be diagnosed with learning disabilities than younger students in the same class (Elder & Lubotsky, 2006). These findings may be misleading when applied to children who begin kindergarten earlier or later due to redshirting (Elder & Lubotsky 2006, p. 28).

Some writers have pointed out that an elementary-age child who starts school older than other children in his grade (unless he or she has a learning disability) may score higher than others in his grade on tests, but this does not prove that starting school later has improved his learning. Rather, it shows only that he is older than others in his grade taking the test at the same time, at a point in his life when a few months of difference in age can translate into significant differences in experience and cognitive skills (Deming & Dynarksi, 2008). Other findings based on national statistics suggest that when the age of school entry rises, so does the high school dropout rate (Deming & Dynarski, 2008, p. 2).

Some researchers have speculated that redshirting may also have short-term and long-term economic effects. Delaying school entry can cost a family an additional year of child care or preschool, or it can result in the loss of a parent’s income for an additional year if that parent stays at home with the child. In the long term, delaying kindergarten also delays the students’ completion of their education and entry into the workforce (Elder & Lubotsky, 2006).

What should parents consider when deciding whether or not to delay their child’s kindergarten entry?

Because the research is inconclusive about the effects of redshirting and Illinois children are not required to begin school the year they turn 5, parents are usually the ones who make the decision about whether to keep their child out of kindergarten for an extra year. The following are some points for parents to consider in making a decision (Katz, 2000, p. 2):

  • Clearly identify the specific characteristics of your child that cause you to be unsure about his or her readiness to begin kindergarten with age-mates. In other words, don’t delay entrance into kindergarten just because the child has a summer birthday or is likely to be among the youngest in the class. Because they develop at different rates, some younger children may be more ready for kindergarten than some older children.
  • Check the school's kindergarten readiness tests or screening procedures to get an idea of how your child might fare in the kindergarten classroom in which she or he will most likely be placed.
  • Be assertive about finding out what the school expects of entering kindergartners and the school’s suggestions on how you can help your youngster to be prepared.
  • Talk to your child’s preschool teacher about his or her readiness for kindergarten. Ask, for example, whether your child made some friends in his or her preschool group (the ability to make friends will help your child adjust to kindergarten). Was he or she usually able to follow directions? Does your child appear to be ready for kindergarten work?
  • Find out more about the nature of the kindergarten program. Is it half-day or full-day? If your child still takes a long nap, she may find it hard to adjust to staying awake in school during her usual nap time. Is the program organized primarily around formal instruction in basic skills, around project work, or around more informal learning centers? Organizing children’s learning around project work or around informal learning centers can accommodate a greater developmental range of children than a formal, structured arrangement in which children are expected to sit still while basic skills are taught to the whole group at the same time.
  • Is the kindergarten class size likely to be larger than 25? A very shy child might find a large class more difficult to adjust to than he or she would a class of around 20 or fewer.
  • What else would your child be doing if she or he did not start kindergarten? Would your child have easy and safe access to playmates and play spaces? Are there easily available (and affordable) good-quality preschool programs for your child?
  • Ask the kindergarten teacher for suggestions about what you can do at home before the school year to help your child reach the same skill level as future classmates.
  • Talk to your child in a positive way about starting school. Your child is likely to adjust rapidly if you approach the beginning of kindergarten with real confidence and reassurance, and if you share any concerns you have with the teacher.
  • Be careful not to exaggerate to a child how much fun she or he will have in kindergarten. It would probably be best to say something like, “You’ll make new friends and get to do lots of interesting things, but there will be times when you wish you were at home. But those times will pass. You’ll see.” This kind of forewarning can often prevent a child from coming unstrung when the inevitable difficult moments do occur.

References

  • Deming, David, & Dynarski, Susan. (2008). The lengthening of childhood (NBER Working Paper No. 14124). Retrieved February 24, 2009, from http://www.nber.org/papers/w14124.pdf
  • Elder, Todd E., & Lubotsky, Darren H. (2006). Kindergarten entrance age and children’s achievement: Impacts of state policies, family background, and peers. Retrieved February 16, 2009, from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=916533
  • Graue, M. Elizabeth, & DiPerna, James. (2000). Redshirting and early retention: Who gets the "gift of time" and what are its outcomes? American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 509-34.
  • Katz, Lilian G. (2000). Academic redshirting and young children. ERIC Digest. Champaign, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. Retrieved February 16, 2009, from http://ecap.crc.illinois.edu/eecearchive/digests/2000/katzred00.html About
  • Malone, Lizabeth M.; West, Jerry; Flanagan, Kristin Denton; & Park, Jen. (2006, May). The early reading and mathematics achievement of children who repeated kindergarten or who began school a year late. Statistics in Brief (NCES 2006-064). Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED491697.pdf
  • O’Donnell, Kevin. (2008). Parents’ reports of the school readiness of young children from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2007 (NCES 2008-051). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved February 24, 2009, from http://nces.ed.gov//pubs2008/2008051.pdf
  • Spitzer, Sue; Cupp, Robert; & Parke, Ross D. (1995). School entrance age, social acceptance, and self-perception in kindergarten and 1st grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 10(4), 433-450.
April 2009

Resources

Web Resources

Other Resources

  • Is My Child Really Too Young for Kindergarten?
    Author(s): Ede, Anita
    Source: Childhood Education, v80 n4 p207 Sum 2004
    Pub Date: 2004
    Abstract:
    Delaying school entry for a year is most often viewed as an opportunity for children to mature and develop critical academic, social, and emotional skills prior to entering kindergarten. This article evaluates this issue in relation to both positive and negative aspects of delaying entry into kindergarten.
  • Age of Entry to Kindergarten and Children's Academic Achievement and Socioemotional Development
    Source: Early Education and Development, v18 n2 p337-368 2007
    Pub Date: 2007
    Abstract:
    Age of entry proved unrelated to socioemotional functioning. The fact that age-of-entry effects were small in magnitude and dwarfed by other aspects of children's family and child care experiences suggests that age at starting school should not be regarded as a major determinant of children's school achievement, but that it may merit consideration in context with other probably more important factors (e.g., child's behavior and abilities).
  • Does Delaying Kindergarten Entrance Give Children a Head Start?
    Author(s): Datar, Ashlesha
    Source: Economics of Education Review, v25 n1 p43-62 Feb 2006
    Pub Date: 2006
    Abstract:
    The rising trend in the minimum entrance age for kindergarten in the United States has been motivated by findings from cross-sectional studies that older entrants have more-favorable school outcomes compared to younger entrants. Results also suggest that the benefits from delaying kindergarten entrance tend to be significantly larger for at-risk children.
  • Does the Age that Children Start Kindergarten Matter? Evidence of Long-Term Educational and Social Outcomes
    Author(s): Lincove, Jane Arnold; Painter, Gary
    Source: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, v28 n2 p153?179 Sum 2006
    Pub Date: 2006
    Abstract:
    This study uses data from the National Education Longitudinal Survey to examine long-term effects of age at school entry on both educational and social outcomes, with special attention to those students who enter kindergarten a year later than their peers. The results of this study suggest that delaying kindergarten does not create any long-term advantages for students.
  • Retention, Social Promotion, and Academic Redshirting: What Do We Know and Need to Know?
    Author(s): Frey, Nancy
    Source: Remedial & Special Education, v26 n6 p332-346 Nov-Dec 2005
    Pub Date: 2005
    Abstract:
    This article examines the research on the effectiveness of retention and other responses, including social promotion, and the growing parental practice of "academic redshirting" of children by delaying their entry into kindergarten.
  • Academic Performance Gap between Summer-Birthday and Fall-Birthday Children in Grades K-8
    Author(s): Oshima, T. C.; Domaleski, Christopher S.
    Source: Journal of Educational Research, v99 n4 p212-217 Mar-Apr 2006
    Pub Date: 2006
    Abstract:
    The authors evaluated large-scale test data from grades K-8 to investigate the difference in performance between younger children (summer birthday) and older children (fall birthday). The performance gap evident in kindergarten decreased rapidly in grades 1-3 but persisted up to grade 5, until leveling off at middle school. The performance gap in the early grades that resulted from birth date was much larger than was the gap caused by gender difference.
  • Opportunity Deferred or Opportunity Taken? An Updated Look at Delaying Kindergarten Entry. Research in Review.
    Author(s) : Marshall, Hermine H.
    Source: Young Children, v58 n5 p84-93 Sep 2003
    Publication Date: 2003
    Abstract: This article discusses assumptions and pressures underlying academic redshirting for kindergartners. It examines teachers' and parents' beliefs about kindergarten readiness and summarizes research on the effects of the academic and social domains of delaying children's entry into school. The article offers suggestions for early childhood educators about how to help families in their decisions.
  • When Children Aren't Ready for Kindergarten
    Author(s): Holloway, John H.
    Source: Educational Leadership, v60 n7 p89-90 Apr 2003
    Publication Date: 2003
    Abstract: Research suggests that delayed entry into kindergarten has a better chance than kindergarten retention of helping at-risk children avoid school failure. Educators are cautioned to take into account the interactions among race and ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and age.

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