ERIC Identifier: ED447951
Publication Date: 2000-11-00
Author: Katz, Lilian G.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Champaign IL.
Academic Redshirting and Young Children. ERIC Digest.
The term redshirting originally referred to postponing a college athlete's
participation in regular season games for one year to give him an extra year of
further growth and practice with the team in the hope of improving the player's
skills for future seasons.
Academic redshirting for young children refers to the practice of postponing
entrance into kindergarten of age-eligible children in order to allow extra time
for socioemotional, intellectual, or physical growth. This kind of redshirting
is most often practiced in the case of children whose birthdays are so close to
the cut-off dates that they are very likely to be among the youngest in their
kindergarten class. This Digest discusses what studies have said thus far about
redshirting and its potential effects, and offers suggestions for parents
considering delaying their child's entrance into kindergarten.
INCIDENCE OF REDSHIRTING
The National Center for Education
Statistics (NCES) reports that academic redshirting occurs at the rate of about
9% per year among kindergarten-age children (West, Meek, & Hurst, 2000).
Redshirting has traditionally been more common in affluent communities and for
children attending private schools, although some scholars speculate that there
may have been a recent increase in certain public school districts (Brent et
al., 1996). According to NCES, boys are more often redshirted than girls, and
children born in the latter half of the year are more likely to be redshirted
than those born earlier. The NCES report also shows that white, non-Hispanic
children are more than twice as likely as black, non-Hispanic children to have
entered kindergarten later than their birthdays allowed (West, Meek, & Hurst, 2000).
Redshirting may be a response to demands for a higher level of school
readiness (Graue & DiPerna, in press; May et al., 1995). In a national
survey, teachers indicated that 48% of their students were not ready for the
current kindergarten curriculum (NCEDL, 1998). Alarmingly high percentages of
teachers indicated that half of their students lacked important skills,
including "following directions" (46%), "academic skills" (36%), and the ability
to "work independently" (34%). In light of such data, many scholars suggest that
academic curricula are not appropriate for young children (Graue & DiPerna,
in press; May et al., 1995; Shepard & Smith, 1988).
EFFECTS OF REDSHIRTING
Research on redshirting has so far
failed to provide a clear picture of its short- and long-term effects. Some
studies have examined the effects of redshirting that occur immediately or
within the early elementary years. Others have examined its long-term effects.
Proponents and opponents of redshirting often use the same evidence but reach
opposite conclusions. It is therefore unclear whether redshirting solves
problems of school readiness.
Immediate Effects. Research on academic redshirting suggests that in the
short term, redshirting (1) raises the child's academic achievement (math,
reading, general knowledge) and conduct on par with or above that of younger
classmates (West, Denton, & Germino-Hausken, 2000); (2) increases the
child's confidence in social interactions and popularity among classmates
(Spitzer et al., 1995); and (3) may simply add to the normal mix of ages and
abilities within the classroom. However, there is also some speculation that, in
classes where there are children who have been redshirted, some older children
may feel alienated from their younger classmates, and some older classmates may
have an unfair advantage over younger classmates in size and in psychomotor and
social skills. The presence of children of a wider age span may also make the
class too diverse for a teacher to manage well.
Effects in Grades 1-3. Researchers have observed other effects of redshirting
within the first three years of elementary school, including (1) academic
achievement that is nearly equal to that of their grade-level peers (West, Meek,
& Hurst, 2000), (2) a lower likelihood of receiving "negative feedback from
teachers about their academic performance or conduct in class" (Cromwell, 1998;
West, Meek, & Hurst, 2000), and (3) less need for special education than
classmates who were retained as kindergartners (Kundert et al., 1995; May et
al., 1995). However, there is also evidence that some first- through
third-graders who were redshirted as children required greater use of special
education services than their non-redshirted and non-retained classmates (Graue
& DiPerna, in press; May et al., 1995).
Long-term Effects. Proponents of redshirting often point out that there is no
definitive evidence to show that redshirting harms children in the long term.
However, Byrd et al. (1997) found that adolescents whose school entry had been
delayed exhibited more behavioral problems than their classmates. Moreover, in
light of evidence of a higher use of special education by redshirted youths,
there is a great deal of speculation that many individuals who were redshirted
as kindergartners may have had special needs that were misdiagnosed as
immaturity and that should have been treated by some form of direct intervention
other than delayed entry (May et al., 1995; Graue & DiPerna, in press).
SUGGESTIONS FOR PARENTS
Because the research is
inconclusive about the effects of redshirting and few school districts prohibit
it, parents are usually the ones who have to decide 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:
* Be clear about 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 is likely
to be among the youngest in the class or has a summer birthday.
* Check the school's kindergarten readiness screening procedures or tests 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.
* Solicit the views of your child's preschool teacher about his or her readiness
for kindergarten. Ask, for example, whether your child made some friends in her
preschool group. Was he or she usually able to follow directions? Does your
child appear to the preschool teacher to be ready to begin academic work?
* Find out more about the nature of the kindergarten program. Is it very formal?
Is it organized primarily around formal instruction in basic skills or around
more informal "learning centers?" Organizing children's learning around informal
learning centers can accommodate a greater developmental range of children than
a formal, structured arrangement in which basic skills are taught to the whole
group of children in rows of desks.
* Is the class size larger than 25? A very shy child might find a large class
more difficult to adjust to than he would a class of around 20 or less. Class
size may be a more important consideration for a shy child than even for a child
who is not shy but who lacks physical coordination.
* What else would your child be doing if she did not start kindergarten? Would
the child have easy and safe access to playmates and play spaces? Are there
easily available (and affordable) good preschool programs for your child?
* Ask the future kindergarten teacher for suggestions about what you can do at
home to help your child reach the same skill level as future classmates.
* Be careful about conveying your own apprehension about starting school to your
child. If you approach the beginning of kindergarten with your child with real
confidence and sufficient reassurance, and, if possible, share any concerns with
the teacher, your child will adjust rapidly.
* 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, get to do lots of interesting things, but there will be one or two
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.
The most helpful approach for parents may be to
obtain suggestions from the school, and ideally from the future teacher as well,
about how best to help the child during the first few months of school. The
child is likely to adjust to the transition to school when parents are careful
about how they express their concerns. Parents can be most helpful by offering
the child reassurance and support, and by resisting the temptation to discuss
their own anxieties and concerns in front of the child. On the whole, the
evidence about the short- and long-term effects of redshirting is inconclusive.
The evidence suggests that some benefits of academic redshirting are short lived
and may in the long term be disadvantageous (Spitzer et al., 1995; Graue & DiPerna, in press).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Brent, D., May, D. C., & Kundert,
D. K. (1996). The incidence of delayed school entry: A twelve-year review. EARLY
EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT, 7(2), 121-135. EJ 520 504.
Byrd, R. S., Weitzman, M., & Auinger, P. (1997). Increased behavior
problems associated with delayed school entry and delayed school progress.
PEDIATRICS, 100(4), 654-661.
Cromwell, S. (1998). Starting kindergarten late: How does it affect school
performance? EDUCATION WORLD [Online]. Available:
Graue, M. E., & DiPerna, J. (in press). Redshirting and early retention:
Who gets the "gift of time" and what are its outcomes? AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL
Kundert, D. K., May, D. C., & Brent, D. (1995). A comparison of students
who delay kindergarten entry and those who are retained in grades K-5.
PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS, 32(3), 202-209. EJ 517 406.
May, D. C., Kundert, D. K., & Brent, D. (1995). Does delayed school entry
reduce later grade retentions and use of special education services? REMEDIAL
AND SPECIAL EDUCATION, 16(5), 288-294. EJ 510 039.
National Center for Early Development and Learning (NCEDL). (1998).
Kindergarten transitions [Online]. NECDL SPOTLIGHTS, 1. Available:
Shepard, L. A., & Smith, M. L. (1988). Escalating academic demand in
kindergarten: Counterproductive policies. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL, 89(2),
135-145. EJ 382 617.
Spitzer, S., Cupp, R., & Parke, R. D. (1995). School entrance age, social
acceptance, and self-perception in kindergarten and 1st grade. EARLY CHILDHOOD
RESEARCH QUARTERLY, 10(4), 433-450. EJ 516 737.
West, J., Denton, K., & Germino-Hausken, E. (2000). AMERICA'S
KINDERGARTNERS. (NCES No. 2000-070). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
West, J., Meek, A., & Hurst, D. (2000). CHILDREN WHO ENTER KINDERGARTEN
LATE OR REPEAT KINDERGARTEN: THEIR CHARACTERISTICS AND LATER SCHOOL PERFORMANCE.
(NCES No. 2000-039). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.