A Word About Red Shirting: Don’t.

BY  |  Tuesday, Mar 27, 2012 2:00pm  |  COMMENTS (11)

Now that the Montclair school tours have begun, it’s time to talk about red shirting.

I am just one mom with one opinion on this subject, and I write this not for the sake of my own children, but for the sake of all children, especially those who are already getting the short end of the stick when it comes to education.

There are legitimate reasons to red shirt a child—that is, to hold him or her back an additional year before enrolling them in kindergarten. Some children are simply too immature and not ready for the demands, as it were, of kindergarten. Perhaps they are physically much smaller than their similarly aged peers, or painfully shy and would benefit from another year of pre-school.

But I’ve heard from other parents—even one whose child was born in July—who say they will red shirt their child simply to give them “an edge”, or “a leg up.” And that, in my opinion, is wrong.

It is wrong because it hurts those who are already falling behind: the disadvantaged. Those who choose to red shirt their children are generally more affluent. These parents can afford to send their kids to another year of pre-school. The poor cannot, which means that in a typical classroom the younger kids—those who are more likely to be behind academically—will also be the ones who come from disadvantage families. And as a recent study has shown, the education gap has grown substantially between rich and poor students over the last several decades.

Red shirting children who already have an advantage can only perpetuate this growing gap, and that’s not good for anyone.

And yet, if the two authors of a New York Times op/ed last year are right, then perhaps my point is moot. In the article, Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt argued that red shirting a child doesn’t actually give children an edge, and can even put them behind. “In a class of 25, the average difference is equivalent to going from 13th place to 11th,” they wrote. “This advantage fades by the end of elementary school, though, and disadvantages start to accumulate. In high school, redshirted children are less motivated and perform less well. By adulthood, they are no better off in wages or educational attainment — in fact, their lifetime earnings are reduced by one year.”

In other words, red shirting doesn’t really benefit any child. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

11 Comments

  1. POSTED BY uptowndowntown  |  March 27, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

    I completely agree with this article. My daughter will turn 5 in July, and there was never any question that I would put her into Kindergarten next fall, not only because I’m looking forward to not having to pay preschool tuition every month, but because I want her to thrive. I’ll feel much better if she’s stimulated in her environment, from other kids as well as the teacher, rather than bored.
    If my daughter was having trouble in preschool and I thought she really needed another year before entering Kindergarten, I would do it. But having just toured four elementary schools in the past two days, I get the sense that they’re set up to accommodate children of varying levels in each grade.

  2. POSTED BY lcast  |  March 27, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

    I agree. In September, my daughter will both turn 5 and start kindergarten. Do I worry that these kids who are, in some cases, more than a full year older than her will have a competitive edge or leg up? Ha… if only life could be that fair.

  3. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  March 27, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

    My youngest daughter turn 5 at the end of June. Even though she’s more “babyish” than my older daughter was at the age, I have never thought not to sign her up for kindergarten in the fall. One of the reasons she seems “babyish” though, is because she shares her class with kids who have been held back.

  4. POSTED BY Kristin  |  March 27, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

    My daughter is an October baby, and if I could start her early, I would! (I say that now with two years to go…)

  5. POSTED BY Jimmytown  |  March 27, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

    unless your child’s entire high school graduating class decides to go to the same university, major in the same degree and apply for the same job after college, I dont see why this is “unfair”. Red shirting doesnt always happen in kindergarten. After your senior year you can red shirt your kid and send them to a post school if you think they are not quite ready for college. Is this unfair too? Raise your kids as you see fit and don’t worry about the bell curve. And remember, the “A” student works for the “C” Student later in life (the “A” student seeks approval for their work, the “C” student is better apt for delagating)

  6. POSTED BY lauren  |  March 27, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

    Disagree w reasoning. You should not make decisions about your children based on the impact to others. Suggesting that parents should refrain from redshirthung because it supposedly puts others at a disadvantage is rediculous.

    Deciding whether to do it or not for our own reasons is our business.

    Deciding if itis a fair practice because of impact to others is the business of our educators.

  7. POSTED BY Holly Korus  |  March 27, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

    Read the article whole article not just the title:

    “But I’ve heard from other parents—even one whose child was born in July—who say they will red shirt their child simply to give them “an edge”, or “a leg up.” And that, in my opinion, is wrong.”

    I have parents say the same thing and I find it strange.

    Every parent’s situation is different. I have a close friend with twins. One is super ready for kindergarden the other is probably not. She has a tough choice to make. Should she separate the kids and hold one back? Very one can have an opinion on what she should do but it is her decision and no perfect answer.

  8. POSTED BY walleroo  |  March 27, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

    Red shirting your child is wrong only because it perpetuates the gap between rich and poor.

    Red shirting your child is foolish because it’s not effective.

    Choose one.

  9. POSTED BY njgator  |  March 28, 2012 @ 9:00 am

    60 Minutes did a really interesting piece on this a few weeks back. I kind of like what the Chicago Public Schools have done to combat this practice. You bring your 6 year old to register for school, they make you enroll your coddled little snowflake into first grade not kindergarten.

    People should not be allowed to game the system to create some artificial advantage for their kid in public school. Absent some special needs that require your child to be classified, parents should not be able to do this.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57390128/?tag=contentMain;contentBody

  10. POSTED BY jenmee  |  March 28, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

    I’m curious why so many people get so very outraged about this practice? The fact is, every child is an individual and assuming all kids are exactly where they need at a certain age is just ridiculous.

    Now, I completely agree there is no call for a parent to hold a child back a year simply to “game the system” or give said child an “academic advantage” when there is clearly no need for said child to be held back at all. That’s just silly and an example of helicopter parenting at it’s worst. But in cases where a child is immature (socially and/or emotionally) and this would absolutely get in the way of the child’s ability to not only learn but also bond with his/her peers and grow, well I see no problem with it at all.

    I am a teacher of over twenty years (Kinder and 1st grade) and I can attest to the HUGE differences I see in kids who are started too young (either chronologically or otherwise) in Kinder. Considering Kinder is a lot more academic than it used to be, these kids frequently struggle to keep up and often experience a lot of frustration as the year progresses which eventually culminates in a dislike of school. In many of these cases, the kids ended up being forced to repeat a year anyway which, I feel, is much more damaging to a child than starting them off a year later.

    Also, a child who benefits from a later start isn’t somehow more brilliant or further ahead than the other kids in his/her class who are younger. The later start is simply the gift of much-needed time to allow the child to be on the same playing field as his/her grade peers.

    So before making a sweeping statement about red shirting and how it’s simply bad for anyone for any reason…I suggest talking to some families with kids who were redshirted for social/emotional reasons and you might get a very different story.

  11. POSTED BY Kristin  |  March 29, 2012 @ 11:47 am

    jenmee: It sounds like you agree with the author of this post:

    “There are legitimate reasons to red shirt a child—that is, to hold him or her back an additional year before enrolling them in kindergarten. Some children are simply too immature and not ready for the demands, as it were, of kindergarten. Perhaps they are physically much smaller than their similarly aged peers, or painfully shy and would benefit from another year of pre-school.”

    It would be great if there were more subsidized spaces available to allow all children with social and emotional growth needs to have an extra year of pre-school, wouldn’t it?

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