What Does Redshirt Mean in Kindergarten?

Instructor: Jessica Keys
You may be familiar with the term ''redshirt'' as it pertains to youth or college athletics - keeping an eligible player from competition for a year while they develop certain skills. Nowadays, the term is applied to kindergarten-age children for similar reasons. Read on to find out more about kindergarten redshirting, its benefits and potential drawbacks.

Kindergarten Redshirting

The minimum age for entry into kindergarten varies from state to state. These days, most states require that a child is at least five years old by the beginning of the school year. This is usually around September 1st, though other states have cutoff dates that fall later in the school year, meaning a four-year-old could be eligible to start kindergarten as well. A parent who has a child with a birthday very close to the cutoff might have concerns about sending him or her to a classroom that could be full of older children.

Enter kindergarten redshirting. This is when parents (or guardians) decide to delay entry for their kindergarten-age child for one year, under the premise that the extra time will allow the child to better develop his or her cognitive and social skills. Redshirting is somewhat controversial, and while its proponents believe that it can prove advantageous for a student, others believe that it offers few positives, and may even make achievement more difficult in the years to come.

The Pros

While it seems trivial, a few months can make a huge difference in a young child's educational and emotional development. Considering the increasing difficulty and workload in today's kindergarten classes, it's reasonable to believe that a four-year-old or younger five-year-old child may be at an academic disadvantage, despite being legally eligible for kindergarten.

Some parents decide that a delayed entry is the best option in this case, waiting until the child is mature enough to better handle the rigors of kindergarten. It's also believed that an older child will have an edge over their younger peers; indeed, NCES data (from 2010-2011) indicates that children who are redshirted appear to do slightly better on early reading and math tests.

Redshirting may also be beneficial for children with behavioral or social difficulties. A 'young' five-year-old might be ready on a cognitive level, but perhaps he or she hasn't yet mastered sitting quietly for long periods of time or has trouble following sets of directions. In this case, delaying entry may allow the child more time to master these valuable skills.

The Cons

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that redshirting provides a distinct advantage for a student in the long run. While the practice is increasing in popularity, not much research on its efficacy has been conducted on a large scale. However, a 2008 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggested that there is a correlation between delayed kindergarten entry and a stagnation in high school or college graduation numbers. Another study published in the journal Pediatrics suggested that redshirted students may have more behavioral and social problems during adolescence than their 'on time' peers.

Finally, there are concerns that redshirting puts lower income students at a disadvantage. Since the majority of parents who redshirt are economically secure, they can afford preschool or similar programs for their child during that extra year. On the other end of the spectrum, a less affluent family - unable to afford child care or preschool - may not have the option to redshirt their young five-year-old. This results in age and skill discrepancies which must be addressed in the classroom, and may ultimately manifest in an academic achievement gap.

Additional Resources

Regardless of whether or not you choose to redshirt, you can still get your child ready for the challenges of a kindergarten classroom by helping develop his or her reading skills. The following resources outline tips for doing just that via short video lessons, transcripts and quizzes:

If your child needs additional help once school begins, resources are also available to help students tackle vocabulary words commonly found in kindergarten classrooms:

With Study.com, each resource is designed to be completed on your own time. They fit into any schedule!

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