Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hot topic: To redshirt or not?

We have covered this topic in the past, but an SF K Files visitor suggested that we cover it again for those parents going through the process this year. Seems like a great idea.

"To redshirt or not? For all of those who have fall birthday kids, boys and girls. I've heard every rationale under the sun, Pros: that the older kids thrive through high school, do better in sports, are more coordinated, that it doesn't matter as much in lower elementary but in middle and high school socially it makes a big difference to be the older/most mature. Cons: that your kid who may be K-ready at almost 5, maybe bored out of their mind not only in K but through elementary school, or even worse, be turned off by school altogether by their K-1 experience.

For parents who have made this choice in the past, what was their experience and would they do it again?"

Here's a link to a post where this topic was covered in the past:


  1. That's a tough question, but my answer would be that it really depends on your child and whether or not you think he/she is ready for K. My daughter's b-day is in Nov., so she started K at age 4. We decided to go ahead based on her preschool teacher's rec. that she was emotionally and socially ready.

    Thing is, we enrolled her grades K-4 at a tiny private school where grades K-5 are doubled-up, and for whatever reason, there was never another girl in my daughter's grade. Every year, the girls in her class were either a grade ahead or behind. My daughter was able to keep up academically speaking, although I do believe that private schools are more demanding in general, i.e., homework load.

    Now, she's in the 5th grade, at a K-8 public school, and is one of 32 kids in her class (previously had 14 kids in private school, she was one of five 4th graders and the only girl!). Despite the huge jump in class size, she absolutely loves having more girls in her class, has a fantastic teacher, and is really doing very well overall.

    In hindsight, we should have pulled her out sooner, because the lack of female companionship became more obvious as the years went on, and was especially critical in the 4th grade. Also, if I had known that she would be the only girl in her grade for 5 years, I most likely would have held her back a year, but who can predict the future?

    Five years and $80K later, I'm not sure that my answer is the correct one, but every family is unique and parents need to figure out what is best for their particular situation.

  2. Most (not all) children are NOT ready for kindergarten before they turn 5. That's why private schools, who'd rather not bother with children who are *not* ready for kinder, won't even look at applicants who are still 4 at the beginning of the school year.

    Starting school at 4 1/2 made sense when kindergarten was mostly play-based. Now that kinder is the new first grade, admitting 4 year olds only does them a disservice. Even those who are academically "ready" would probably benefit from another year of more unstructured exploration and play.

  3. We struggled with this decision last year and decided to send our late summer birthday to an immersion public school. Turns out there are a lot of summer and a few fall birthdays in the class so she's not the youngest. I am happy to say she is thriving. At least so far, I think we made the right decision.

  4. Our son had been in preschool before entering K - so no doubt in our minds was he ready for K with a late September birthday.

    Two independent privates accepted him based on his readiness for school - but we decided to go with public because we did get one of our top choices and there would be kids potentially younger than him, still giving him the chance to be a leader.

  5. If your child attended preschool, that's a plus in the column NOT to redshirt I think. That was also the case for us, a fall birthday but he was socially adjusted to being away from mom and dad and happy to have his 'own place' to go while we worked.

  6. I'm curious about which two privates accepted your late September boy. That doesn't match up with the word on the street, not to mention the admissions directors' party line.

  7. 10:04

    We were asked not to mention the schools because of the 'exception' with the birthdate.

    We don't know board members and we didn't give money. Our son just presented himself very well and it was obvious he was ready academically and socially.

  8. I'm interested specifically in the topic of redshirting private school applicants with summer birthdays. Since private school cutoffs are Aug. 1 or Sept. 1 the rumors I've heard are that it's common to wait to send your kid if they have a June/July birthday. August kids for sure since you'd otherwise only be able to apply to privates with a Sept. 1 cutoff. I know that it can depend upon the school since I've heard from numerous sources that Hamlin prefers them to be older whereas a Burke's representative made me feel like I would be crazy to think about waiting to send my daughter to K. Thoughts anyone?

  9. This is all helpful. At one of the (public) school tours we were handed a list of CA state standards for K readiness, I think they said they are pre-school standards? My Fall daughter is meeting or should meet all of the readiness criteria listed. I'm mostly worried about the social aspect. Her pre-school seems to be full of summer and fall kids so she's middle of the pack there. She doesn't seem to be particularly mature and has strong emotional swings from happy as a bird to raging meltdowns. It feels hard to know how much she'll mature in 11 months.

    The other issue is my husband and I are on slightly different sides of this argument. I was an older kid in my class and felt it was benificial. He says there is "no research" to show any advantageous effects of redshirting.

    Right now we are working on our public tours with an expectation to send her next fall at 4.11 years.

  10. You would be wise to apply to the private schools anyway. If they don't think your child is ready, they will say so. And when you apply again the next year, they will know you *really* like the school and will be more likely to accept you. Remember, they get judged on their yield, so they prefer not to make offers of admission to families who might not enroll. The fact that you have applied before will be seen as an indication or serious interest and higher likelihood that you would sign up if offered a spot.

  11. 1:50 PM

    Just out of curiosity, when you say that private schools are judged on their yield, who is it exactly who makes this judgment? Is there some council of independent schools that publishes this data? Or is just informal talk among admissions officers? Do they show this off to prospective parents? I'm just wondering who this information is relevant to, and how the data is collected.

    I would imagine there is a practical matter of wanting to get the right number of bodies in the classroom, knowing that some families will decline their offers. I know Live Oak had to add a second kindergarten a couple years ago because more families accepted their offers than they could actually accomodate.

  12. My daughter's birthday is in July and we sent her to kindergarten (private) soon after her 5th birthday. She has not had any problems with it. I think it would have been compltely inappropriate to hold her back. I think any parent should think very carefully about holding a kid back to the point where they are already 6 unpon entering kindergarten, as by that age you really run the risk of them being too old for their grade level.

    I think things are really getting out of hand with some families and private schools - I haveheard of kids with March/April/May b-days now being held back. In my view, it would be great if there were two cutoffs for both public and private school - a date by which your child has to be 5 to attend, and a date after which you have to be 5 to be admitted to kindergarten (probably some time in July). Then we wouldn't have kids who are almost 6.5 years old as of the first day of school in kindergarten, and it would help keep the slippery slope aspect of redshirting under control.

  13. I know Live Oak had to add a second kindergarten a couple years ago because more families accepted their offers than they could actually accomodate.

    That also happened to Burkes (and Hamlin?) this past year. I think offers will be very tight this year!

  14. Admissions officers are judged by their yield. It is a measure of whether they are doing a good job of selecting the families that are the best fit for the school.

    It isn't helpful if too many accept and they have to create a new class -- that means they miscalculated and made too many offers.

    But they look worse if they send out 40 "admit" letters and only 10 people end up enrolling.

  15. Last year when we toured West Portal the principal made a big deal about not starting kids too early. He said that he thought a good cutoff was Sept. 1, even though since the cutoff here is Dec. 1 he had to accept kids who turn 5 after Sept. 1. He said the younger kids create more classroom management issues and have more behavior problems. Even handed out some articles backing up what he said.

    I wonder how many teacher and other principals feel the same way.

    Still, I think that kids with b-days in July and earlier should definitely go to K and not redshirt unless they have some developmental delay due to premature birth or other factor.

  16. I really think it depends on the child. I have friends who sent their fall birthday girls and boys to kindergarten and they did fine. But I also know of others who waited and feel like their children benefited from the extra year of play and exploration. In our case, we decided to hold our daughter back (Sept. 20), because we will be moving back to Pennsylvania this summer (i'm out here on a multi-year contract that is ending) and the cut-off date there is Sept. 1. I think our daughter would've probably done fine in K, but she's thriving in her TK program. I think we made the right choice.

  17. in the other states where they've bumped the public K cutoff up, to Sept. 1 primarily, is the curriculum "more rigorous" -- i.e, more like first grade, which is what you hear -- than California? Also, I've talked to a few parents where the "good" schools are (Lafayette, Orinda), and a lot of them seemed daunted by how intense kindergarten was at their schools. I haven't gotten the same sense from my friends with K students in SF public schools (but maybe they're just in "slacker" play-based Ks -- just kidding)

  18. I think this is a difficult issue and puts added pressure and stress on the parents of late-birthday kids. If I had known, I wouldn't have tried to get pregnant in January (just kidding!).

    We went through this last year, and to some degree are still going through it. Honestly -- the public and private schools should have the same cutoff date. Otherwise it puts parents in the position of having to figure out whether their child is ready. And also, to some degree, it can force you to choose between the public and private tracks before you're ready to make that decision.

    We have a girl with a b-day in late Sept. Last year we toured public schools and also a few privates (but not many, since she wasn't eligible due to her birthdate). We even applied to 3 private schools, but they were all unusual situations, and not surprisingly, none of them panned out last year.

    We also applied to a few transitional kindergarten programs. If you are looking into redshirting, you should be aware of these TK programs. They are essentially a third year of preschool, designed for older kids. There are a few terrific programs available in the city, but be advised that they often have unusual hours (like partial day programs that only take place only in the afternoons). Here are the TK programs I know of if you want to look into it. Some of them are truly fantastic -- The Little School and Eureka Learning Center particularly impressed us.
    - The Little School
    - Eureka Learning Center
    - JCC
    - Peter's Place
    - Lone Mountain
    - Little Bear
    - Phoebe Hearst
    - St. Philip's
    - Nueva School (starts in pre-k)

    So what happened with us? Touring privates, we completely fell in love with one in particular and are still in love with it. We did the public school lottery, and didn't get a placement we would consider all summer. We had great luck to be offered a spot at an excellent TK program, which we accepted.

    Then, at the last minute, we were offered a spot at our first choice public school. After a long weekend of, literally, no sleep, we decided to take the spot. But it was a very tough and gut-wrenching decision. On the one hand, we really felt (and always had) that our late-Sept girl was ready for kindergarten, so waiting a year was hard to swallow. Also, we have 3 kids, so it seemed really stupid to turn down an excellent public school spot in the hopes of maybe (but probably not) getting into the private school we love. Also, the TK program was perfect for our daughter, so by sending her to public school we felt we were robbing her of one more year of being just a kid and playing and exploring more freely. It was truly heart-wrenching, and we are still mourning the loss of that extra year to some degree.

    That said, our daughter is truly thriving at the public, completely surprising us! She has bonded closely with her teacher, she has made several close friends, she loves the school, she likes doing her homework, she speaks up in class, and just basically is rocking and rolling through kindergarten. This is not what we would have predicted -- frankly she seems like a different person. Seeing how well she is doing is making us question some of our basic assumptions about our own daughter!

    The hardest part is we still love that one private school -- we can really see our daughter there. It's just a gut thing. So we are considering re-applying to it this year. But that means our daughter would repeat kindergarten. It would be as if the year at the public K is serving as a "TK" program.

    Again, I wish the private and public schools would have the same date -- probably Sept. 1. Through the rumor mill I hear that the public schools would prefer that cutoff date, but it's a hard thing politically, financially, administratively, etc. to change. The principals at both West Portal and Rooftop, when we toured last year, highly recommend redshirting any kids with birthdays after Sept. 1. Anyway, the cutoff date will probably never happen, so we have the situation we do.

    For us it has turned out alright, but as you can see from my long post, we are still mulling over the decision. And it certainly hasn't been easy. I feel for all you parents in the same boat, and I wish you well navigating the extra confusion in an already confusing process.

    Some words of wisdom, though:
    - Your preschool teachers/director should be able to provide good guidance as to how ready your child is for kindergarten.
    - If you know you definitely want private, then go ahead and wait. Keep your child at their preschool, or look into the TK program route.
    - If you know you want public and you get a good one the first year, take it! The whole lottery is such a crapshoot, it will feel like you're gambling to turn down a spot you want for a year. As they say -- a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. If your child isn't ready, they can repeat the K year. I have friends with a child at Rooftop who are planning to do exactly that.
    - If you, like us, were looking at both public and private options, I think that's the hardest. At that point, I think you have to make your decision based on what your available options are at any one point in time. And be willing to change your thinking and revise your plan.
    - Lastly, from my experience, you never know what your child is going to do! I never in a million years would have predicted that our daughter would take off the way she has. It's like she was ready to spread her wings and fly, and we were doing everything we could to keep her in the nest. So -- also be willing to revise your assumptions about what is best for your child.

  19. Thank you 8:50 for your long and thoughtful remarks! You've given us plenty of food for thought.

  20. yes, thank you, 8:50. that was really generous of you.

  21. 8:50- Don't assume that your daughter would have to repeat K at the private school. You could see about having her admitted to first grade. There are often kids in the class whose birthdays would have been past the age cutoff for kindergarten who join the class in a later greade and are not made to repeat the grade.

  22. Long-term view: We "red-shirted" our son -- the term was unknown then. He's now a high-school senior and will turn 18 on Oct. 30 (he's over the moon about getting to vote, and what an election to vote in!). Honestly, his age has never been an issue. He's one of the oldest in his class; no one cares.

    There's an interesting twist in that we've been putting college money in a fund in his name. Legally it's all his to use as he wants as of Oct. 30, 8 months before he graduates from high school -- should he want to spend it all on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, he'd be free to. Luckily this won't be an issue with him, but who thought of that when we set up the account or decided to hold him back a year, and who knew what kind of 18-year-old he'd be?
    (Actually it's now not advised to save your kids' college money under their names -- be aware early, parents.)

  23. we are struggling with it, too. our daughter turned 5 in August--3 weeks before school started. we were confident she was ready for public kinder, but didn't get a school. we ended up puting her in private. she is in a 2 year kinder program, as one of the older kids. when we try to a different school next year, we are not sure where to put her.

    our problem is we don't have faith we'll get a public school we like again. so, if we go private, she's considered young for 1st.


  24. With an August b-day she shouldn't be too young for first grade at another private school, if she's already done kindergarten elsewhere. But why wouldn't you just keep her in the school where she is now?

  25. 10/23 8:50 pm: Which public is your daughter at? Do you think her success at K has anything to do with the public you opted for? Thanks for your thoughtful post

  26. @8:50pm just wanted to thank you for your long and detailed post. I can totally sympathize with you every step of the way and also really appreciate the list of TK programs you know of.

    The JCC said they were already full for Fall '09 when I called them, based on who they expected to stay on from their pre-school, but I will look into the others.

  27. Hi all -- 8:50 here again.
    Thanks for all the warm words! I felt a little exposed writing that long post, but it seems to be proving helpful to some of you -- so I'm glad I did it!

    My daughter is at Miraloma. I do think the school has a lot to do with how well she is doing. It's a lovely place, and we are lucky to be there. She got a teacher who is an excellent fit for her. All 3 K teachers at Miraloma are fantastic, but this teacher really gets my daughter and draws her out. Also, we picked Miraloma (it was our first choice public school) because they speak the same language as the private we fell in love with (I'll just out myself more and tell you it's Live Oak). Both schools talk about educating the "whole child" -- not just academics, but socially, emotionally, artistically, musically, etc. Miraloma manages to provide a range of arts and enrichment offerings, even with a limited public school budget. They have a QEIA grant from the state, as well as PTA funding, that is allowing them to do this. My daughter currently has a singalong once a week and dance (which she LOVES) once a week (for a 10-week stint -- they have rotations of enrichment programs like drawing, poetry, gardening, etc.).

    I will also say that Miraloma, and perhaps all public schools, seem to skew on the younger side. My daughter is young, but not the youngest in her class. And there are several kids in the K classrooms in the same boat. Interestingly, one of her best friends is a full year older than her, almost to the day. And other than trying frantically to catch up on her jumprope skills, it's hard to see much difference between her and the older kids. This, of course, will be specific to your child. I will say that her developmental readiness to take on kindergarten seems to have occurred only recently. She went to summer school at the TK program that we ended up turning down, and I think that has something to do with it. She had a decisive break from preschool, and something different and bigger to do over the summer before school started. Perhaps dealing with that change prepared her for the next big change to kindergarten.

    Finally, be sensitive to how your child may be viewing this process. When she found out she was going to kindergarten, she was visibly relieved. It's not because she didn't love her TK friends and teachers -- she did. But I do think that at the end of preschool, her best friends were very excited about their kindergarten programs, and she possibly felt a little left out. This is somewhat speculation on my part, but I'm fairly sure that's what was going on inside her head. So, just be cognizant of that and talk to your child as seems appropriate. In then end, even though we through a bunch of changes at her all at once, she did just fine.

  28. In urban districts, I think you find most parents do not redshirt, and most likely has to do with the expense of another year of preschool or nanny or whatever.
    In suburban districts, the expectation is to redshirt... similar to private schools where they just basically set an earlier cut off date (and that leaves the July/Aug kids being the ones "to redshirt or not).

  29. my daughter started K this year at clarendon jbbp as a four-year-old (she recently turned 5). for a variety of reasons -- some personal, some societal -- we never considered redshirting. we had our parent-teacher conference yesterday. i asked the teacher if she thought our kid's or her classmates' age was a factor in (a) their brigance score (i.e., what they came into kinder knowing); (b) how they coped with kinder generally; and (c) whether they were ready. from her response, it was obvious that she believes socioeconomic background, including family culture and preschool attendance, weigh far more heavily than chronological age or even gender. i have to agree.

  30. By the way, does anyone know how the term "redshirt" came about? Such an odd term.

  31. Kim- that's pretty ironic, since in general the people who are redshirting their kids are the ones in higher socioeconomic classes - in other words, the ones who your daughter's teacher thinks don't really need it.

  32. I think the term comes from college sports. Athletes can only play for 4 years, even though they might attend college longer. So, the coach might have them sit out a year to gain a competetive advantage.

  33. 4:25 - i know! that's why this discussion makes me kind of sad. IMO, most of the kids who'd really benefit from a pre-K-type year aren't gonna get it.

  34. 8:50 pm: What would be the factors in favor of moving your daughter from Miraloma to Live Oak? I suppose you could apply and see what happens

  35. Last year at this time my husband and I were 100% positive we would send our July birthday son to K. "Holding him back" wasn't an option! I remember reading Caroline's comments similar to the ones on this thread and thinking, "But OUR son is different! But OUR son would be bored in K as a 6-year-old!" And also thinking that when people talked about giving children an "advantage" by redshirting them, it was a false advantage, b/c anyone would do better in K if they were older.

    Fast forward one year, and we're so, so relieved we listened to our son's preschool teachers and put him in a TK program. We never know the road we didn't take, but he is truly thriving. Yes, it all depends on the individual kid, but if you trust your preschool teachers, really listen to what they have to say.

    Once we decided to go the TK route, the next thing we were "sure" about was that we would put our son into 1st grade next year at a public school. Now we're not sure at all. Our son is making friends with some of the preschoolers who also go to this program and really enjoying the social aspect of school (something that wasn't always the case when HE was in preschool). And we could try for an immersion program for next year, and he will have had another year of maturity to be able to handle that. I'm not sure what we'll do yet, but I've learned it's better to have an open mind about these things, whichever side you now think you come down on.

    I guess my point (if there is one -- yes, I'm up at 5 a.m. with insomnia and realize I'm rambling!) is that this is a process. If you're going through it for the first time and think one particular way about it, be open to other possibilities. Keep your options open. And realize it will all work out. No, really -- it will.

    Oh, and keep reading this blog!! Last year one thing we also were "sure" about was that immersion wasn't for us. We had so many good reasons!! But reading about people's experiences here has caused us to educate ourselves more, and now we are signed up for a tour at Jose Ortega.

  36. Great insights, 5:04.

    Also, one thing to note that's not really evident when your kid is a preschooler: Any academic advantage conferred simply by being older evaporates very early in elementary school. Really, by the time GATE students are first identified, in third grade at age 7 or 9, a few months' more advanced age is not going to make any difference. So if that were a motivation or unfair benefit gained from redshirting, it would be a very fleeting one.

    On the other hand, the psychological benefits of ensuring that a child is ready for the demands of kindergarten are lasting, in my opinion. That also benefits the rest of the class -- the opposite of the implication that a goal of redshirting is to give your child an "advantage" or "edge" over the "competition."

    Kids applying to private school are competing with each other for acceptance -- that's outside my experience -- but otherwise the perceived academic "competition" really isn't happening till quite a few years later.

  37. A teacher once told me to think of holding a child back as the "gift of time".

    In a way, it is true, your child will never have that extra year of play time, once they enter the K process that (ugh) goes through 12th grade and beyond, if one is fortunate. And in some countries, kids do not start school until they are 6.

    And truth be told, when one is 17, 18, 24, 28.. who really cares how old you are? Its more that the person has the confidence to succeed, gets enjoyment out of learning, achieves because the person wants to... and when one enters the school system too young, and it turns out to be a struggle, it remains so for another 12 years (and little joy), unless the parents have child repeat K (which is always a possibility for those of you on the fence). Seems funny to do so, but in reality, no one remembers (except maybe the parent and aunts and uncles).

    And it seems far worse to repeat 1,2,3 grades than K, since at that point the child knows it.

  38. I entirely disagree that it's always better to hold your kid back a year, or that it's necessarily a "gift". If your kid is ready for K (based on what you as parents and your child's preschool teachers think) then they are not going to be helped by waiting a year to go into K, and forever after being in a situation where the academic and social dynamics of their grade are a bad fit for them.

  39. Agreed that this is not always a "gift." It is a personal decision, but I have to say: Parents - it is not always better to make everything easier for your child. I sent my late fall birthday boy to K when he was 4, and luckily about a quarter of the class was 4. He is bright, but he was young and some things, writing especially, were work for him in the early years. The result has been that he has a respect for school as a place to learn, and a respectable work ethic. Now in high school he is a high achieving student who loves school and takes his work seriously. His siblings, who knew it all when they started K, got into the habit of sliding early and learned they could get by without doing much. That lesson never really left them, even when the work got harder.

    This is an individual decision, and kids are different and the results will be different for different children. But the attitude that parents keep their children out because they have more love or caring or knowledge than parents that don't (Caroline) really grates me. It may be right for some kids, but really it isn't right for everyone. And if everyone wants to have their child have the "advantage" of being the oldest we'll start having more 7 years olds in K and 20 year old high school seniors. Believe me when they are 18 they want to go.

  40. <<< the attitude that parents keep their children out because they have more love or caring or knowledge than parents that don't (Caroline) really grates me >>>

    This is not my attitude. I'm posting to give the view from the perspective of a parent of a high school senior who was redshirted long ago, not to say it's always the right thing to do. My point is just that it's no big deal as time goes by. I have more knowledge just in the sense that I've had 12-plus years to see the impact of making that choice in 1996.

  41. Hi all -

    8:50 pm again. You know, I have friends and have talked to other parents for whom the decision to wait a year was more obvious. Either their preschool teachers highly recommended that they wait a year, or their child had some developmental area in which an extra year of play/socialization was clearly going to be beneficial. Our preschool teachers were telling us -- send her to kindergarten! All the mulling over waiting vs. not waiting was largely created by the fact that we were applying to public schools, private schools, and TK programs -- all of which have a different approach and philosophy about the child's age.

    So -- although this is a tough decision -- it's easy to make things harder on yourself than necessary. If you know in your gut that your child should wait (or go), or your preschool is telling you to wait (or go), then listen to that. Our gut, and our preschool, was telling us to send her.

  42. 11:35am here again -- I agree that each child is very different and its really based on what you as parent know/sense, and what the preschool teacher (if there is one) is telling you.

    When I mentioned the "gift", I should have clarified. I was very much, very very much against holding back my son. I had never even heard of the term redshirt. To me, the cutoff was Dec and so that was that. So I should clarify that I think the teacher sensed that and wanted to give me a different perspective, something along the lines of what one of the posters said here that "be open" to all possibilities.
    In the end, I did hold back and I guess it worked out for the best for my child. I'm glad to know from Caroline and other posters that in 10 years, its not that big of a deal. A part of me still does not like the fact that he is older in his class. Some weird notion I got from I don't know where, so I still need some convincing that it is ok! So thanks for those who have gone through it and letting us behind you know it is alright.

  43. Hi, 11:35 -- this is 5:04 a.m. (just call me the insomniac -- and, for the record, the night of insomnia had nothing to do with stressing about schools!). I'm also glad to hear your perspective. Yes, I too was so opposed to holding our son back, and I still wonder what the long haul will be like. But I read a funny blurb in the Financial Times responding to a reader's question about whether to redshirt a child that really put it in perspective. The response ended with the line: "One thing is certain: because your yong son has a mother who is fussing about this sort of stuff, he's going to do fine no matter what."

    Folks, I'd never suggest as some posters have that I made the decision because I have "more love or caring or knowledge" (and I know I've never seen Caroline suggest such a thing either). I know these important decisions about our kids are very emotional ones, but it doesn't mean that someone who is making a different decision is making the "wrong" one. Or that just because someone is sharing his or her story means that person thinks that is the right decision for everyone.

  44. My daughter is a November birthday and although she was deemed ready for Kindergarten we decided not to start her until she was 5. The cutoff when I went to school was Sept. 1 and so the idea of a four year old in Kindergarten (especially since Kindergarten is more intense now) was strange to us. I think our biggest concern, however, was not about her ability to hold her own in Kindergarten but about navigating through the middle school/high school years with much older kids in her class and the school at large. The idea of a 1 - 2 year age difference between her and some of the boys and girls in her class when she was 12 seemed like a potential recipe for trouble. Just one more thing to think about when making the decision.

  45. One point that hasn't been raised in this thread is that often the problems arise later -- in 4th or 5th grade, when the Summer/Fall boy who is just a little too young finds himself (yup, it is usually the boys who are more behind at younger ages, let's get real here) falling back maturity-wise and academically. Research backs up that the problems often don't manifest themselves until then, forcing parents to make decisions like holding kids back when it is likely to adversely affect them socially. That having been said, I think everyone here is right on -- (1) you've really got to assess where your kid is (and here's where your preschool should really be able to help you on that score); (2) public schools in SF tend to have LOTS of Summer/Fall birthday kids starting kindergarten while privates don't; and (3) there are really no penalties in red shirting, while there are some potential downsides longer term. With all that saide, we red shirted one of our boys (with a June birthday), while going ahead and putting a late September boy into kindergarten while he was still 4. I think we made the right choice in each case, but the decision in each was a tough one.

  46. I have heard two arguments for why wait a year to send a fall birthday girl to kindergarten. Apparently, the challenges for the younger girls in the class tend to show up in middle school and are more social. Girls that are the last to develop physically, or the last to be interested in boys, seem to struggle with that socially. The second argument is about brain development. I've heard that at a certain point in time, the younger kids in the class seem to have trouble with abstract concepts (like algebra). But after half a year or so they catch up. However, I haven't seen any formal research backing up either of these arguments. Meanwhile, I have a friend who is a public school teacher in Berkeley who thinks we'd be silly to redshirt our fall birthday girl. She feels that we'd be depriving her of a year of opportunity by waiting to send her to K. So -- as you can see -- the advice is confusing!

  47. Research shows that any academic benefits from "redshirting" wash out by 3rd grade. I can see redshirting if your child is emotionally immature and/or you don't get a decent school placement. Otherwise it seems unnecessary.

  48. Can anyone point us to the actual research or primary sources in this discussion?

  49. In November, 2006 a paper addressing this issue was published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. The authors, Bedard and Dhuey, compared oldest vs youngest students within a cohort and found significant test score differences remained through 9th grade. Here is the abstract to the paper:

    A continuum of ages exists at school entry due to the use of a single school cutoff date—making the “oldest” children approximately 20 percent older than the “youngest” children. We provide substantial evidence that these initial maturity differences have long-lasting effects on student performance across OECD countries. In particular, the youngest members of each cohort score 4–12 percentiles lower than the oldest members in grade four and 2–9 percentiles lower in grade eight. In fact, data from Canada and the United States show that the youngest members of each cohort are even less likely to attend university.

    And here is a link to the PDF:

  50. Link to studies that find no or limited longterm benefits to redshirting:

    As an anecdote, my son and a girl in his preschool class both had Fall B-days. We went ahead and sent our son to kindergarten the year he turned 5, and his friend's parents waited until she turned 6. Both are bright, socially comfortable kids who are tall for their age. My son adjusted well to kindergarten, but his friend has been very bored in school, and this has gotten more pronounced each year. Her teachers are now seriously considering promoting her a grade (2nd to 3rd).

  51. tinyurl for link above (which got cut off):

  52. I totally agree with this comment:

    <<< Research shows that any academic benefits from "redshirting" wash out by 3rd grade. I can see redshirting if your child is emotionally immature and/or you don't get a decent school placement. Otherwise it seems unnecessary.>>>

    Any academic benefit from simply being older obviously vanishes at some point, and 3rd grade sounds reasonable based on my experience. Our concern was emotional immaturity -- and we were afraid that if K was traumatic because of that, it could have long-term negative impact (on his confidence, happiness etc.). Also, it's rough on the OTHER kids in the class, and the teacher, to have a classmate struggling with the demands of K because of emotional immaturity -- not that we thought of that at the time.

  53. PLEASE... It's rough on the age-appropriate kids who ares surrounded with much older kids because the older kids' parents feel they need to give their kids an "advantage". Don't act like you're performing a public service. Public K in SF is meant for Dec. - Nov. birthdays, and parents who don't follow that (with certain compelling exceptions) are not helping.

  54. 7:16

    That's a little harsh. I don't know of anyone who kept their child out just to give their child an advantage. Usually there is a reason.

    Also, keep in mind that kindergarten curriculum is what ours was in first grade. Many kids, even bright ones, are not mature enough for these demands at 4.9

    I have seen kids who were too young in kindergarten and it really is hard on them. Parents who keep their kids out who would be wetting their pants, falling asleep, or otherwise disruptive are doing everyone else a favor.

  55. The current Dec. 2 cut-off goes back to the time when kindergarten was play-based and developmentally appropriate.

    The curriculum has changed and become much more academic, but the age cut-off has NOT.

    That's why most 4 year olds are not doing as well in kindergarten as they would if they waited until they were 5.

    Most educators want either the curriculum to become more age appropriate or the age cut-off to change to Sept. 1.

    Few think we are doing a service to 4 year olds by enrolling them in today's academic kindergarten.

  56. Public K in SF is meant for Dec. - Nov. birthdays, and parents who don't follow that (with certain compelling exceptions) are not helping.

    Then why do several elementary school principals in SF encourage parents NOT to send kids with b-days after Sept. 1?

  57. Many states have changed their cut off dates to Sept 1.

    California has not, yet.

    There are economic reasons not to do so (the cost of preschool for instance). However, perhaps with universal preschool, maybe this will change.

    I agree with all the last posters who say we are not doing anyone any favors by sending kids to school when they are not ready for it. Just think, 12 more years of torture -- and that is what it will seem like if you are not ready for it. Its not fun, its not joyful learning, no matter what games or plans the District comes up with. And for those of you who actually loved going to school - isn't it because you were confident, doing well, challenged but at a pace you could handle?

    I haven't even thought about the social issues that some others have brought up.

    Private schools seem to be on to something, by having the cutoff date be Sept 1, but then I guess it just pushes the same decision issues to the July/Aug babies.

  58. I feel I have to comment too. I know no one who held back their kids just to give them an advantage. And I really don't see lots of "older" kids in the public school my kids go to. Rather, I see more Fall birthday boys (yes, let's be frank -- it is the boys who are generally way behind the girls at this point in their lives) whose parents should have given them another year to mature. And I think that's why whenever you speak to public school principals and teachers in this city, they universally feel that, with few exceptions, Fall birthday boys should be held another year. The son of a co-worker of mine, an October birthday boy who went to kindergarten as a four year old(over the expressed concern of his preschool), just had to go through the excruciating pain of being held back and redoing fourth grade. Listen to your preschool teachers and listen to your heart -- if your Fall birthday boy is showing any signs of not being mature, wait a year.

  59. ^^Thanks!!