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Delaying Kindergarten Entry by a Year May do More Harm Than Good

Cambridge, Mass. — Many parents believe “redshirting,” or delaying a student’s kindergarten entrance by one year, will give their child time to develop cognitive and social skills that will make him more successful in school. But in a new article for Education Next, Diane Schanzenbach, an education professor at Northwestern University, and Stephanie Larson, director of Rose Hall Montessori School in Wilmette, Illinois, weigh the evidence and conclude that postponing a student’s entrance into kindergarten does more harm than good.

The authors report that a redshirted student is likely to perform better on standardized tests in early grades, simply by virtue of being older, but that this academic advantage disappears by high school. Meanwhile, a redshirted student may find herself bored in class and socially isolated from less mature peers.

Using data from the Department of Education’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Schanzenbach and Larson find that among parents of the kindergarten class that entered in fall 2010:

  • 6.2 percent delayed their child’s entrance into school by a year, with that share 2 percentage points higher for boys than girls.
  • The redshirting rate is higher among children of highly educated parents, with college graduates approximately twice as likely to redshirt their sons as those with a high school degree.
  • The rates are particularly high for boys with summer birthdays. As many as one in five summer-born boys with college-educated parents was redshirted in 2010.

When it comes to the influence of peers, research shows that the advantage actually goes to younger students, who benefit in both the short and long run. Younger students gain an advantage by learning from and competing with older students, who tend to be higher achieving and better behaved.

For more details, see the full article"Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten? 'Redshirting' may do more harm than good," available now on educationnext.org and appearing in the Summer 2017 issue of Education Next in print May 24, 2017.

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