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.