CBS’ 60 Minutes recently reported on the idea some parents are implementing of holding a child back one year or “Redshirting” kindergarten students. The approach is driven by desire to have that particular student be among the oldest, rather than the youngest, in their class when they started school. The hope is that by doing so the child would be further along developmentally, be more of a leader over time, do better in sports, and have an overall advantage over the other children in his/her class.
Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers, has done research on how the month of a child’s birth can confer academic and athletic advantages because of the way we structure our calendars to determine who’s ready to start school and at what age. In the segment, he stated that, “older kids tend to get treated like top students and receive extra attention, and extra coaching, which further compounds the advantage over the years.” However, he proposes a different approach than ‘redshirting’ and suggests that students get broken up in their grade by their birth month, as there are often a few classes in each grade.
In other words, January to April babies would be in one kindergarten class, April to August in another, and August through December children in a third class.
Public school systems frequently establish defined enrollment cutoff dates to create a broad uniformity in that year’s entering class – a systemic approach that, by definition, neglects individual differences between students just starting school. It is frustration with some of this that leads to more and more efforts to take action in support of one’s own child.
The idea of red-shirting, whether it is for one year as some do or just a few months, is simply one more way for a parent to try and impact on their child’s educational experience. Where one student might be helped by this ‘redshirting’ approach, another student might flourish by experiencing a more competitive environment as the youngest in a particular class. Whether a school should simply disallow it, like Holly Korbey’s school system did a few years ago (noted in video segment) is a debatable topic. From a student-centered perspective, we would support the right of parents to advocate for what they believe is best for their children when taking the huge step of enrolling them in their first school.
Find out more and see responses to this segment on 60 Minutes Overtime.