Redshirting: Holding kids back from kindergarten
Another interesting 60 Minutes segment (video at: www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7400898n and transcript below) on parents "redshirting" their kids – starting them a year later in kindergarten – to give them an advantage academically, socially and athletically. Of course, wealthy and white parents are far more likely to do this, further exacerbating the achievement gap. The solution to this is REALLY easy: every school district should do what Chicago (and I think NY) do: hard age cutoffs, with no exceptions:
Kindergarten "redshirting" is on the rise. That's the practice of parents holding their children back from kindergarten so they can start school at age 6 - older, bigger, and more mature than their 5-year-old peers. Some research shows that redshirting will give these youngsters an edge in school, and maybe even in life. But is it fair? After all, as Morley Safer reports, boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls. Whites more than minorities. And the rich redshirt their kids more than the poor.
… Gladwell: You think that at some point these early advantages would dissipate. They don't. They snowball.
Safer: Okay, but that's a sport. But how about in academics?
Gladwell: Yeah, in academics, we see the same effect. The kids who are born closest to the cutoff date, who are the, relatively speaking, the eldest in their class have a small but not insignificant advantage, not just in first grade, but throughout their schooling history.
Gladwell cites the work of economist Elizabeth Dhuey at the University of Toronto who analyzed the data of hundreds of thousands of students in 19 countries. Even as late as the eighth grade the older kids had higher test scores than their classmates. She believes that's because the older kids got more attention from the start.
Elizabeth Dhuey: They're just older but they look more able so they get in the higher reading group in kindergarten so they learn how to read a little better. And then in first grade they know to read a little better so they're put in the higher reading group again. And then they know how to read a little better in the first grade. And it perpetuates over time.
She says the data also show that older kids are more likely to attend college. And then there is the issue that haunts so many parents: popularity.
Dhuey: I have a study looking at leadership effects. And I find that if you're relatively old in kindergarten and that-- that you're more likely to be a high school leader or a sports team captain, a club president. And so I think a lot of this works in this confidence-boosting leadership kind of capacity.
Safer: When you completed this, dare I say, rather arcane university study, did you think it would get the kind of attention that it got?
Dhuey: No, not at all. Not at all.
Safer: But if you had a 5-year-old, would you hold him back?
Dhuey: If they were the very youngest, probably. Yes.
Samuel Meisels: The funny thing is that in the past if you wanted your kid to get ahead, you would want him to skip a grade. Now in order to get ahead, you want him to stay back a year.
Samuel Meisels, president of Chicago's Erikson Institute, says while redshirting may be appropriate for some kids, it mostly amounts to educational quackery.
Meisels: I think that as children get older that whatever advantage is conferred by starting school a year older decreases dramatically.
He says kids develop at different rates. He points to studies that show negative consequences of redshirting; including increased behavioral problems in older kids who may be bored in classes that are just too easy for them.
Meisels: We see more dropouts among children who are held out. We see less achievement despite the fact that some research shows it one way, more research shows it the other way. At best we could conclude that the research is split on this and there's another moral lesson for the parents which I know most parents don't wanna hear. And that is this is inequitable.
Poor families can't afford the luxury of holding kids back. The sooner they get them into school, the less childcare they have to deal with. But with redshirting, their children must now compete with kids who can be as much as 18 months older.
- Redshirting: Holding kids back from kindergarten
- How age range can affect kindergarteners
- Kindergarten "redshirting." What would you do?
- More »
(CBS News) Kindergarten "redshirting" is on the rise. That's the practice of parents holding their children back from kindergarten so they can start school at age 6 - older, bigger, and more mature than their 5-year-old peers. Some research shows that redshirting will give these youngsters an edge in school, and maybe even in life. But is it fair? After all, as Morley Safer reports, boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls. Whites more than minorities. And the rich redshirt their kids more than the poor.
Kindergarten was once milk, cookies and finger paints. In a countrywide epidemic of hyper-parenting, it's becoming blood, sweat and tears. So maybe you played Mozart for your baby while he was still in the womb and gave him Chinese lessons at age 2, tried everything to give your kid an edge and then when he's 5, well you don't exactly cheat, but you game the system.