Kindergarten “redshirting,” when parents keep a child eligible to start kindergarten out of school for an extra year, is not as prevalent as previously believed, a new study suggests. On average, only 4 percent to 5 percent of children start kindergarten a year late, according to the study by¬†Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia and Sean Reardon of Stanford University.

The term “redshirting” originally comes from the practice of keeping a freshman athlete out of intercollegiate sports for a year to give him or her an extra year of NCAA eligibility. It’s not thought that many parents hold their children out of kindergarten for athletic advantage, but to give him or her more time to “mature.” However, the study found that most children who were held back might not really need the extra year. They were not likely to have lower math or reading scores or to be notably behind in social skills.

“Redshirting” is most common for white boys from high-income families, the study found. Nearly 6 percent of white children are “redshirted,” while less than 1 percent of black children are. This finding is in keeping with anecdotal evidence from transitional kindergarten program leaders in Long Beach, who told EdSource that middle class parents were the first to ask for, and the most enthusiastic about the advent of, the in-between year of school for children who weren’t quite ready for kindergarten, or who hadn’t turned 5 by the registration deadline. In fact, in low-income neighborhoods in Long Beach, teachers have reported having some trouble convincing parents that transitional kindergarten is a good idea.

“Our lower-income families tend to see it more as holding their kids back,” said Kris Damon, a teacher coach and the founder of the transitional kindergarten program in Long Beach Unified School District.

Bassok has called out the popular press for overreporting “redshirting.” The New York Times has published several stories and impassioned opinion pieces on the matter in the last few years.

Filed under: Early Learning, Quick Hits, Transitional Kindergarten

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  1. w w says:

    Don’t do this. You don’t know what the future holds. My nephew was very bright, eager to learn. Sister missed deadlines to put him in private/public schools. Already year late.
    Middle of 8th grade, moved across country, didn’t meet standards and held back. 10th grade, moved back, held back again. Had to fake age and residency to get a school to accept him as an over-age senior. Summer schools weren’t enough, he was denied graduation and now has to pay for GED at 20.
    Please prioritize education enough to keep kids on their normal age and grade track.

  2. el says:

    My sense is that ‘redshirting’ varies a lot community to community. Higher income families who have childcare/preschool options that they like are much more likely to do it than lower income families do. Amongst my urban friends it seems pretty widespread. In my rural neighborhood, it’s almost unheard of; a more common case is just to send the kid through kindergarten twice if that seems appropriate. The teachers have done a good job of making that safe/cool/OK socially.

    My daughter’s class has quite a few kids in what is going to eventually be transitional kindergarten; several of these youngest kids happened to be the most advanced academically.

    So it doesn’t surprise me that nationwide the number is very low, but I suspect there are urban pockets where the percentage is quite a bit higher.

  3. SoCal Teacher says:

    Ask a 6th grade teacher why more children (especially boys) should be redshirted.