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.