Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hot topic: red shirting

This from an SF K Files reader:
Kindergarten or Pre-K?

I hope this isn't considered off topic here, as we're mostly discussing various schools. We're still debating whether our son should be headed to Kindergarten next year, or Pre-K. For those of you who are on the fence like myself, could you share your thought process? And if you've made this decision in the last few years, how did you arrive at your decision? For what reasons did you think your child might not be ready for Kindergarten?


  1. It's getting ridiculous, people are holding their 5 year old boys back a year because they aren't ready for kindergarten because it is too challenging (K is the new 1st grade).

    People are in effect paying out of pocket for old school kindergarten that we now call "pre-k". What happened to kindergarten being just about learning letters an shapes etc, and not weekly homework packets.

  2. @8:33

    I completely agree with your comment, especially as a parent of a late fall "4/5" who enrolled in K this year. Most of the boys in my son's class are practically a year older than him and it shows in size, strength, and motor skills. I almost believe that the older kids skew the teacher's perception of what is considered to be K-readiness, so that the expectations and standards begin to resemble 1st grade as opposed to Kindergarten. As a result, my son is constantly comparing himself to the older boys and notices he lacks some of the abilities they possess and it saddens me.

    I wish they would either stop this practice or make 6 the new K requirement, so that other parents don't have to venture down this road. If I would have known this five years ago, I would have planned my pregnancy to give birth in the spring!

  3. I have a July-born boy, and my husband and I agonized over this for the better part of a year and a half. The short story is that we ended up holding him back a year. He's now enrolled at a public school in an immersion program. We held him back on the strong recommendation of his preschool teachers, based mostly on social/emotional issues (as opposed to academic ones). In other words, it was not that his teachers thought he could not handle the academic requirements of K, but that he would struggle socially if we sent him when he was 5.

    At this point, we are very glad we made the choice he did. He is a confident kid now and handles social situations that used to challenge him with ease. We were concerned that he might be bored being the oldest kid in the class and basically repeating things he learned in his transitional K program, but the fact we were able to get him into an immersion program means he is definitely not bored. (I'm not entirely sure the boredom factor was a legitimate concern, as K is so academic these days, and the transition to K is, in and of itself, a big challenge in a kid's life.)

    One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to do a transitional kindergarten class, that does not mean that your child is necessarily "red shirted" forever. As I said, we really struggled with this decision and really leaned toward sending him to K when he was 5. What finally changed our minds was the feedback that if we sent him to K when he was 6 and felt he was too advanced at some point, we could always advocate later on for him to be skipped ahead a grade. Whereas if you send your child to K too soon and it turns out s/he isn't ready, the only option at that point is to have the child repeat a grade, which didn't sound as appealing to us. In fact, we could have sent him to 1st grade this year (the person who took my form at EPC specifically asked whether we wanted K, as she noticed that my son would be 6 at the start of school year and would have otherwise put him in 1st grade).

    I realize on a "macro" level, it's easy to argue that it's "ridiculous" (see 8:33, above) that there is a trend toward sending kids to K older. My husband and I used to complain about this very issue for what seemed like hours at a time. I think it's really important to focus on your own individual child and what his or her needs are, rather than get caught up in the global police issues.

  4. My son turned 5 at the end of October, and we chose not send him to kindergarten this year. Although he is socially, emotionally, and academically ready for kindergarten right now, we are thinking more about the future. Who knows what will be best for him when he's in his teen years? We couldn't think of any disadvantages of waiting a year. If he decides to go to college, we want him to be 18 when he leaves our house, and the same age as the majority of his peers. California is only one of four states (I believe) that has a 5-by cut off date after the start of the school year. This was another reason for our decision, just in case we ever move out of state.

    I really hate that so many parents have to agonize over this decision. I can't figure out why California has the cut off date in December. Does anyone know the reasoning behind this?

  5. This is an interesting thread. I have twins with January birthdays who are advanced. Both learned to read about 6 months before entering K this fall - one of them fluently (happens to be the boy). Both are so eager for knowledge that when I look back and I had needed to make this choice 6 months before entering K (when they had just turned), I feel like I had done them a disservice holding them back. In their K class, there aren't very many red-shirted kids, but there are some with late birthdays and they do seem little, but isn't there always going to be a cut-off somewhere? I think the biggest jump is in K and it evens out as kids move up in their grades. I have a friend in a different city who has a son in 2nd grade. He is gifted and very smart, but yet he is having difficulties socially, because he is a young because he is in a class full of red-shirted kids, some of whom are almost two years older, some turning 9 already.

  6. I think it's unrealistic to think your child will skip a grade later. I have never heard of this happening.

    Our daughter will be one of the youngest in her class in the fall. She seems ready but I know she won't have the emotional experience of a 6 year old. She just won't.

    My partner and I researched the issue and it was our understanding that any advantage the older kids had in K, diminished by 3rd grade.

    In the end, we'd rather keep things moving for our daughter (and us). These are the cards, so to speak... so she'll be young. be

  7. One issue I have with 'redshirting' is determining when the cut-off should end. I'm sorry but 6/7 is way too old for Kindergarten and unfair for kids who just turned 5. I think if there is a cut-off date for beginning K, there should be a cut off date for redshirting, meaning if you turn 5 by such date, you must enroll in K. Some summer 5 year olds are ready for K, but are not ready to compete with classmates who are 7. That is unfair.

  8. Our daughter has a September birthday. We did not really debate holding her back because we felt that she was ready and needed a new challenge. She is doing well in her immersion program. She is noticeably smaller than a number of her friends, even those just 6 months older than her. Not sure if being on the small side is more of an issue for the boys, I think she'll do just fine socially.

    Also it's funny that folks are complaining about how academic K is becoming. My partner and I were just commenting that the standards seems way too easy. For most kids the homework packets require an ability to focus and some parental involvement (or a good afterschool program) more than anything else.

  9. I almost believe that the older kids skew the teacher's perception of what is considered to be K-readiness, so that the expectations and standards begin to resemble 1st grade as opposed to Kindergarten.

    You can't blame teachers for this one - state standards for K have been increased with no change in the age of the children.

  10. I started school at age 4 with a mid-October birthday. I did fine academically over the years but I was shy for a long time. Well, maybe until I was 30! I'm a lawyer now and decided not shy, but this thread and others like it make me wonder if starting school so young had an effect.

  11. The private schools will pretty much make up your mind for you -- something to consider if you think you might switch from public to private or private to public.

  12. The late-birthday boys in particular in my daughter's K class seem to spend a lot of time either in the teacher's lap or in the "Peace Chair" (LOL)
    I know that now, three months into the school year, our K teachers are re-organizing the class subgroups (think Blackbirds/Redbirds/ Bluebirds) because three of the youngest boys ended up in one group and it's been very disruptive.

    I'll add that our school is one of the few in the district that doesn't assign homework until grade 3, so I can't speak to academic pressures on the kids. But one of the boys turned 5 just a few weeks ago, and is visibly smaller than others. On the other hand, one of the undisputed class leaders (socially, and who is female) turned 5 in September.

  13. My son started K at age 4 (early September birthday)
    We just didn't see the point of holding him back as he had already started reading and was more than ready for new challenges. Plus, he's a mellow kid so he's able to sit still and focus really well. Other than him being slightly smaller than some of the other kids, there was no difference in ability between him and the other K kids. I think it's an individual family's choice, although maybe there should be a maximum age for kids starting K.

  14. you can keep moving the date back, but somebody will always have to be the youngest. it just seems that, in this post-Outliers world, no one wants the youngest to be their kid.

  15. I follow these conversations because I try to keep up with the concerns of young parents for my blog. It's interesting to see the views on redshirting, and its changing image, from the perspective of the parent of a now 19-yo college freshman who was "redshirted" (the term was unknown in our day).

    Some quick thoughts:
    -- The fact that my son was older (Oct. 30 bday) turned out to be a non-issue, not a blip, over the years. The one time it was momentous was when there was a voter registration drive at his school in fall 2008, his senior year, and those seniors who would be 18 by Election Day excited registered so they could vote for Obama (if any were McCain supporters they were not visible). They were the envy of others. My son turned 18 a few days before Election Day, and registered along with a very few of his classmates.

    -- The notion that it's all about kids "competing" with each other wasn't an issue to us then, and still strikes me as a misinterpretation of what goes on in the classroom. Education isn't about pitting kids against their classmates.

    -- It never occurred to us that holding our son out an extra year was designed to give him an academic "advantage," and that wasn't part of the public conversation at the time. We simply felt he wasn't ready, just as you might feel a child wasn't ready to go to sleepaway camp at some later point.

    -- I know that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this issue in regard to athletes in "Outliers," but still: Any "advantage" in academics conferred entirely by age dissipates fairly early in elementary school.

    -- I personally think skipping a grade would be really disruptive, especially because my son (who self-identifies as somewhere on the autism spectrum) isn't all that socially adept. The community of kids along the way in his grade, even though of course there were transitions going into middle school and high school, had a lot of meaning to him and raised his comfort level. Two of his Oberlin classmates are kids who were in preschool with him and have been friends along the way, one of them also a high school classmate (SOTA '09), the other Lowell '09. But of course if he had been out of place in his grade at school I'm sure I would have felt differently.

  16. In NYC - the age cut-off is 12/31 for public. For public, you generally cannot "red-shirt". If you hold your child out of K (K is not mandatory), they will put them in first grade the year they turn 6 by 12/31. The current SFUSD system would seem to encourage redshirting. Perhaps this is something they should consider in the new SFUSD assignement system(not allowing red shirting or not allowing redshirting if kids are born before the first day of school). In the current system, those who would consider redshirting can now wait it out to see if their child gets a "better" school through the 10 day count or wait it out until the next year and apply again. If they continue to allow red-shirting, the child should get the same assignment/position they had the first year they applied if the parents hold them back. IMHO this would cut back on the 7 year olds in kindergarten.

  17. I think some comments here are from folks unfamiliar with the private school date cutoffs. Though SFUSD is Dec 1, most privates are Sep 1 and the boys schools are July 15. I had no idea that having a late July boy would be such an issue. To make things more complicated, he now he has an autumn born brother. We're fine for SFUSD but we can't even apply to the boys schools for another entire year. This makes it not so much "red shirting" as just figuring out where they can go to school.

  18. Heads up for private school parents.

    Not all San Francisco private schools adhere to the September 1st cutoff. There are some with a December cutoff.

    That Sept 1st cutoff is a San Francisco private school thing. Look around. Many privates outside of SF don't adhere to the Sept 1st date.

    My child has a September birthday. She would be bored being a year behind.

    There may be a small amount of evidence that holding a child back helps their performance in the early grades. However, there is also quite a lot of evidence to indicate that kids who are older in high school are more likely to drop out.

    The private schools probably like having that early cutoff. It makes their classes a little easier and makes it more likely that you will stick with the school. (To avoid having one of the oldest and biggest and most bored kids in the class.)

  19. although i understand the appeal of redshirting certain kids for quite justifiable reasons, i have to say i'm against the practice. i wish SFUSD would follow NYC's lead, pick a cut-off, and stick to it. my reasons are that (1) it puts kids with too big an age spread in the same classrooms (and in the same schools); and (2) gladwell's theories aside, it's a middle- and upper-class luxury most SFUSD families can't afford, so it puts already disadvantaged kids at an even greater disadvantage.

    i don't like the idea of 14-year-old little girls going to high school with 19-year-old men. that just seems nutty.

    it's funny: everyone complains about K being the new 1st academically, but we contribute in another way to the loss of innocence at that grade level by putting 4-year-olds and 7-year-olds in the same peer group.

  20. nytimes sunday magazine article on this topic (written by a local mom) from a few years back:

  21. Yeah, we're agonizing a bit too (especially after having read Outliers). Our son just turned 4, so he's eligible to start kindergarten next year. He's starting to teach himself to read already and his day care woman thinks he's ready, plus he's really big. He's socially OK, if a bit timid, and he isn't the most focused kid. I think he'll be alright, and he'll probably be ready.

    We've thought about what the impact would be for middle school, and have decided to cross that bridge when we get to it.

    I do think that the kids will be competing to be GATE kids (just like my precious snowflake) and the school lottery does encourage parents to redshirt to double their odds at getting in.

    I also don't understand why the California date is December 2nd. It's such an odd choice. I could understand Dec 31/Jan 1 because it's the calendar, or I could understand Sep 1 or some summer date to correspond to the school year and every kindergartner would start at 5, but December 2nd? It's not even December 1st!

  22. 11:25:

    I don't get it either (the seemingly arbitrary date).. Of course, my oldest missed the cutoff by 2 days (birthday Dec 4) so she started K close to age 6. She was bored silly her last year of preschool.

    It sounds like your son will do fine, especially since he's already teaching himself to read. A lot can happen in the next year. If I were you, I'd plan to send him next year, apply for schools, etc and just chance it. If you were to decide to switch to private and he had to repeat K, he'd still be the right age.

  23. In my child's kinder class, there are some kids that turned 6 years old in Sept. & October. It's interesting that their parents chose to hold them back, but yet, they scribble scrabble instead of coloring, they cry in line and have a hard time with numbers and writing their names.
    These are kids that went to preschool but in the end their parents chose to "baby" them instead of teaching coping and learning techniques.
    NO, they do not need paraprofessionals- they are continuously babied by their parents!
    In the class there is a little boy that DOES need a paraprofessional and she DOESN'T act that way. She writes better than them and knows her alphabet and numbers well.
    Sometimes holding a child back until they are 6 years old isn't always the answer. Instead parents should take the time to teach and give their kids tools to do their best in school and not "baby" them.

  24. November 23, 2009 12:55 PM

    "Parents should take the time to teach and give their kids tools to do their best in school and not "baby" them."

    I couldn't agree with you more.

    If you had asked me a few years ago about this, I would have thought differently.

    Kids can do amazing things very early if their parents are along to guide them.

    I'm also a fan of just letting kids get muddy and break things, but that doesn't work for everything.

  25. We have a huge range in social and academic ability in my son's K class, but I wouldn't say it ties to age too much. My son is on the older side b/c of his birthday - not redshirted - but he's surely in the middle of the pack when it comes to ability to focus. I can't imagine that I would have sent him to K a year ago had he been born just 2 months earlier! That said, my older chld missed the December cut off by just 1 month and I would have sent him had he made it. Just very different kids.

  26. 12:55 you are awfully judgmental about the children in your child's class, glad you aren't a parent in my class. How do you know what these other children's problems are. My child has some issues that get in his way some of the time. I haven't told many other parents about it, but those I have told are supportive Thankfully I don't have to deal with you and your decision that you know who is "babying" their child and whether their coloring is scribble scrabble. GROSS>>>>

  27. 2:38:

    Perhaps 12:55 is a little judgmental, but I do think it needs to be said that some parents are unnecessarily holding their kids back.

    There may be a lot of range in the abilities of kindergarteners, but HEY!, it's kindergarten. I don't think we can really tell anything about a kid by how well they did in kindergarten.

    Most of the stuff about gifted at a young age is just silly.

    I still remember being completely confused at my first mom's and baby's get-together. My daughter was six weeks old. I was very unlucky! One of the Mom's who attended was a testing evaluator at the Nueva School. That was my introduction to the psycho mommy Olympics. Then there was the barage of Baby Einstein DVDs people kept sending me. I had to buy a book called "Einstein Never Used Flashcards" to deal with that. And the "OMG, you mean your baby failed the 'put their head under the water test' at La Petit Baleen?"

    I don't care if my kid gets a crappy report card in kindergarten. I'm glad we didn't hold her back. 12:55 is right about not over-babying your kid(s).

  28. 3:00 p.m. You are a dear. Your post was wonderful and made me laugh. Thanks for keeping it real!

  29. It is such an individual decision, I think it is really hard to generalize. Privates are definitely quick to tell you that your kid needs another year - so that decision is pretty much made for you. Whether you go the private or public route, its important to look at your own kid and be realistic about how he or she is going to transition. We kept our August son back a year and he STILL had a hard time in Kinder. It took him until 1st grade to really hit his stride.
    The academics are one thing, but the biggest reason to hold back (in my humble opinion) has to do with social and emotional maturity. If your kid isn't ready for the real expectations that comes with elementary school - including being able to focus in circle, follow through with instructions and get along nicely with others most of the time, I would definitely recommend giving him another year of preschool.

  30. Our late-fall sonwent to pre-k and then to k. For us the issue wasn't academic readiness so much as giving him a gift of one more year of sand and mud and the kind of extended, unstructured play that disappears once you get to most schools (since he is the youngest of three children, we knew what the k would be like.) It also gave him the chance to be in the role of one of the older kids, rather than always being the youngest like he is at home. He has been in several multi-age, multi-grade classrooms: seldom bored, sometimes, in some subjects, advanced, and sometimes, in some subjects, 'at grade level'. I haven't regretted it.

  31. 12:55 here- not judgmental. Kids have an array of skills. My little girl certainly isn't the smartest in the class...I try to focus on what she needs help with and help her at home. The teacher appreciates this and has said so.
    The teacher has also continually asked parents to treat their kids in a mature way. Unfortunately, some of of the parents refuse to let their kids grow into a kinder child. They hold them back and are restricting them from becoming the best they can be.
    I don't want my little girl to grow up, but when I see the strides she makes every week, I'm just so proud of her.
    Some of the parents with the older kids in the class, the ones that keep babying them, cringe every morning and struggle to say goodbye to their kids. It's HIGH drama every morning with tears and screaming.
    Yeah, some kids struggle listening during circle time, but isn't that what kinder is about- teaching children how to cope and be good listeners?! They have to learn- that's the whole point of circle time. It's a time to practice listening skills. A child will GROW immensely from now to until
    June. It's about seeing them grow and not hindering them.
    As for the academics, a child will continually need help with academics, whether in kinder or in 4th grade. Kids need help in order to succeed. We all needed help as adolescents in order to become who were are today.

    My whole point is to let kids grow and appreciate their growth AT THEIR SPEED and support them and not hinder them by treating them like babies!

  32. Uh yeah, let the kids grow AT THEIR SPEED... as long as it matches up with your definition.

  33. HA -- exactly, 8:24. "No judgments, I just think the other parents in my kids' classroom are doing a terrible job."

  34. "It's interesting that their parents chose to hold them back, but yet, they scribble scrabble instead of coloring, they cry in line and have a hard time with numbers and writing their names."

    Delayed fine motor skills may be the very reason their parents waited.

  35. Both my kids are among the younger kids in their grade. My son, very tall, has an August birthday and we were told my our preschool director that he was ready for kinder. He didn't have problems focusing in school, but throughout elementary, he ran into some educational plateaus that were 'age appropriate' but put him as lagging behind some of his classmates - particularly writing and remembering math facts (later we realize this was a particular learning difference.) He's in 7th grade now, in honors classes and does fine (a solid B students. )

    I've often thought that he would probably be an ace student had we let him stay behind a year - but he's also be freakishly huge (he's always been the tallest kid in his grade despite being among the youngest.)

    All in all, I think it evens out. It hasn't hurt him to have to stretch and challenge himself - something he's had to do at times. It's been clear to me that when he has been in situations where there is no challenge, he actually does worse in school.

    My daughter, on the other hand, is an even younger November birthday and everything academic is a breeze.

    There is no clear or right answer that fits all kids.

  36. I'm not being judgmental but all of your parenting skills are suspect compared to mine!!!

  37. What is the big hurry with getting children into Kindergarten? When will there ever be another opportunity for a child to spend a year on guided play, and really learning soft skills that will make academic learning and social interactions easier later. Apparently the optimal age to learn to read is 7...many kids do it earlier, but for most it really comes together at 7. I most likely will let my fall-birthday child play another year. Our kids will likely live to 80 years old, what is the rush?

  38. It may be true that the optimun age of reading is at age 7. However, the optimun age to introduce math concepts seems to be quite a bit earlier.

    See: Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood (National Academies Press, Christopher Cross, et al.):

  39. Sorry. The here is the full URL:

  40. I keep hearing this "gift of time." It sounds silly to me. Stay at home moms giving themselves another year to feel needed.

    Should we also give our kids (and ourselves) the gift of time by having kids move back home when they graduate college because they are not ready to be on their own?

    People have to grow up sometime.

  41. My daughter has been in daycare/preschool since she was 3 months old. Socialization starting at 3 months, circle time starting at 2 years old. This is because we both work and needed quality care for our kids. She just turned 4 but I think if she had to go to preschool for another year she would be bored and/or disruptive. She is ready to move on.

    Unstructured guided play is not uniformly great for all kids (sounds great to me as a working stiff). It may, honestly get boring fro

  42. The other issue with red-shirting, on a macro as opposed to individual family level, is that it happens more in relatively affluent families and less in low-income families, which leads to classrooms filled with kids who already have opportunity gaps compared to their middle/upper class peers, and who are also younger and not as advanced developmentally. I do believe that part of the upward push that is making K the new 1st grade is because schools see that so many children are beyond ready for colors, numbers, and letters--but then, a certain portion of kids will not be, and those kids will tend to be, disprortionately, low-income kids. In part they are disadvantaged because of all the issues that attend family poverty, but also because they are younger.

    Just the other day I had a friend, a Latina immigrant, ask me when she can sign her kid up for kinder. The kid is 3.5 years old, and won't turn 4 until January. I explained that she can't do it this year because you have to be 5 by Dec 2nd the year of entry, and she was very disappointed. So we talked about CDCs and Head Start and I gave her a list of of programs to call. No way can she afford to pay for preschool, so free programs are the only way she can find both needed childcare and kindergarten prep for her kid. And her kid is not getting that wonderful guided free play making mud pies, either--she either tags along on domestic jobs with her mom or is watched by a neighbor (i.e., TV), so kindergarten in this mom's mind would be a step up.

    I say this not to slam those parents who choose to red-shirt. Of course you have to think about the needs of your own child. My point is that people here more or less have options, such as to pay for transitional K, that other families don't, either because of money or simply because they don't know what their options are. So we are exacerbating inequities right from the get-go in our system.

    I can see two ways to address this issue. One is for the district to institute an upper limit as well as a lower one for a cut-off. You can keep your kid out of kinder if you like, but he/she will go into first grade if old enough. This would serve as a brake on the upward creep of expectations on lower grades. It doesn't matter to me what the cut-offs are, but it would be good to keep the age ranges within 1.25 years unless there is a very good reason to do otherwise.

    The other thing is obviously to fund universal preschool, including transitional K programs, so 3 years for kids who need it. Given budget crunches I'm not holding my breath, but it would go a long way to closing that opportunity gap.

    I say all this as a parent of two late-summer birthday kids. I never thought about red-shirting, and my kids have always been among the youngest in their classes. My older one did just fine, no problem, you would never know the difference. Sometimes I have wondered about the younger (a boy) and if he would have done better with another year in preschool. He's done excellent work academically but has taken the long road to hitting his stride socially (I would say is finally there in grade 5). It has seemed unfair though at times that he is trying to make friends with kids who are more than one year older than he--and he was born in August with four months to spare on the cut-off.

  43. Reading through these comments so far, there seem to be a few factors that play into redshirting.

    * Taking another shot at the lottery or extra time for stay-at-homes are probably not the best reasons for redshirting.

    * Kids develop at different rates, but at some point they have to start school.

    * The Dec 2 cutoff date does seem arbitrary.

    I wonder how much age variation there is? How many 7 year olds are there?

    I agree w/ 9:45. The socialization provided by good daycares & preschools should, in most cases, prepare children for K.

  44. My 5th grade daughter has a November birthday and just about ALL her friends have birthday's within the same month as her. They are all doing great. Seems there are more boys that are older - and they probably needed it.

    But my older son has an August birthday - some of his friends are a year older but, interestingly, none of them are doing better academically or socially than he has.

  45. First - Thanks to Kate for this great blog. What a terrific resource.

    10:32 – I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Here’s is my biggest issue with redshirting – it seems to me to be a way for wealthy and middle class families to give their kid an advantage that isn’t available to many others, and certainly not even on the radar screen for minorities or immigrants. Initially, people held their kids back to give their kids an advantage in sports. This advantage may not be evident in k or elementary, but it is a huge difference in high school. I know 2 families that have redshirted their boys and they did so to give them an upper hand in relation to their peers. That’s it. Their children were ready, but would even be “more ready” next year, and wait until they are in HS. It’s just another facet of the arms race to give your child every perceived advantage you can.

    Do you think it’s a coincidence that this practice is most evident in private schools? Having most of your school population turn 6 before or in the early part of the school year is a tremendous advantage when those same kids are in 7th 8th grades and applying to High schools, and from there, applying to colleges, and so on. Studies aside, that is the thinking behind many who go this route. I’m afraid it has very little to do with weather Johnny can hold a pencil properly.

    Finally, to say that this is an individual family choice really misses the boat. That choice means that there will be a wide range in age levels in any given class, and that effects those of us who have kids in school that weren’t redshirted. It means that more and more families will seriously consider redshirting just to keep up, and so on. Again, for k-5, this may not be that big a deal, but for middle school, high school, college, I think it becomes a major issue. Should 19 year olds still be in high school?

    I am strongly in favor of an age range for kids in a class, with exceptions for that small percentage of kids who really aren’t ready because of a physical or emotional issue that can be documented. I don’t really feel strongly if it should be 12/31, 12/2, 9/1, 8/15 – just that its something we all must adhere to. And I wish the private schools would all observe a similar rule.

  46. My daughter has an October birthday, and we decided to wait. She was ready academically (can write things like "mommy go zoo", add on her fingers, etc), but she had switched preschools the year before and the transition had been very hard on her. She just wasn't ready emotionally. She is thriving in her Pre-K class, and my husband and I are both very happy we decided to keep her in preschool another year. She will be going to kindergarten feeling much more confident. So... we feel good about the decision (though we recognize it's a luxury many can't afford).
    I would recommend talking to your current preschool staff (they have a lot of experience with these decisions), and assess whether you are interested in private school. If you want you child to go to a private school, they have to be 5 by August-ish. That was another major factor in our decision to keep our daughter in preschool.
    And as a data point... my daughter's preschool class all had birthdays between July and January. Only ONE out of 18 went to kindergarten - the rest will be going as six year olds.

  47. I believe the principle at West Portal speaks about this very issue on his tours (he did last year at least) he is a STRONG believer in a child being 5 by the time they enter K. I believe he said that the reason we have Dec. 2 cut off, has to do with the number of available seats in free/reduced preK programs the state offers. By law, you have to offer it to children of a certain age if they qualify. But the state can not handle all of those children so they moved the date to Dec in order to allow these children to start K. Did anyone else hear that??

    That said, i have late Nov. twin boys who just turned 4. I will not be starting them in K next year because they will do great in our preschool's transitional K program next year and I believe have a much more successful K experience if they are the older ones in their class.

    I find it interesting that everyone is so concerned about their first year of school and if they would be bored with another year of preschool... While my boys will benefit from another year of preschool, my primary motivation is to think of them in middle school. A young 11 or 12 year old boy is a world away from his female counterparts. This at an age where the opposite sex becomes very important. My mother (a middle school teacher for 30 years) was the one who discussed that with me and her experience showed her that young boys had a much harder time socially with girls (which affect self confidence) than the older boys. THere are of course exceptions, but she said she can easily identify the fall boys both physically and socially in middle school.

  48. I remember a boy in my daughter's K class who was acting out and disrupting class a lot. The teacher told me she thought the boy would be fine when he matured a bit, but that she wished the parents had held him out a year.

    Just to add another point of view about WHO is advantaged by red-shirting. In this case, the whole class would have benefited, if the teacher was correct.

    And don't forget, private schools with earlier K cutoffs have no reason to want to favor one kid over another (by giving red-shirted kids an advantage). The reason they like their K classes to be older is that the class functions more smoothly when all the kids in it were ready for school.

    I don't agree that it's red-shirted kids who have turned kindergarten into the new first grade. That comes from our political leadership, reacting to alarmist reports (which are greatly exaggerated) that our nation's educational system is deteriorating.

  49. Interesting fact about age range and red-shirting is that some students will leave middle school, practically near the age of 15. Honestly, there must be some sort of min./max. age limit to this.

    Also, a high school teacher I know does not really see the difference in age range with her students, so maybe the K delay advantage is only noticeable in the early years of school. It's funny but everyone I knew who went to school turned 5 by December, no one stayed back unless they repeated a grade.

  50. Yes, as I said, this was my observation regarding my now-college freshman and his classmates:

    "... maybe the K delay advantage is only noticeable in the early years of school..." it's not necessarily noticeable anyway, since a lot of the redshirted kids (including mine back then) started from a maturity deficit, which is WHY the parents made that decision.

    My son turned 15 on Oct. 30 of his 9th-grade year. It didn't trouble or vex anyone, including him.

  51. Let me tell you when it matters. When all your friends turn 21 and start going to the better bars and shows that you can't get into with your bad fake id. That sucked!

  52. 1:10 - oh my goodness. So you are going to hold your child back so he will do better with girls in middle school? Really? I don't even remember my interactions with boys in middle school.

    Meanwhile - My husband was a late bloomer and could barely talk to girls as he entered college. I don't think another year of pre-k would have changed him a bit.

  53. We choose to redshirt our daughter because she wasn't ready for K--no how, no way.

    I totally understand why some people who send their children to public school don't like this--the affluence issue and all--but for us, this was the right choice for our daughter.

    We ended up sending her to private school, and she is with the majority of her classmates--in her they do seem to cluster around turning 6 in September. She definitely would have been one of the older kids in our local public school and that was a concern for us.

    Btw, her private Kindergarten is way "easier" than what i see her friends doing in the local public school--they are just starting simple phonics, and sorting--none of this no child left behind test stuff or benchmarks. Apparently, the kids all catch up by 4th grade, but the philosophy at a lot of the privates is that they just want the kids to fall in love with learning and to learn the routines of school for the first couple of years.

    I have to admit that if you can afford it, I don't see what all the rush is about. If you need the schools because you can't afford childcare, that's totally understandable, but my child isn't in that situation, and I just want her to have a great time at school so that she WANTS to go. I love that my child loves school and that she feels competent and is voluntarily learning. I myself have a JD and an MBA and I feel as if the world that she will enter later is so full of pressures and demands and standards that if I can somehow give her this time to just be a kid, its a total gift.

    And in the end, I think the oldest and youngest kids seem to balance out anyway--I don't think its a unfair advantage, and i don't think its an advantage that will last.

  54. SO, my child is in K at a public school and I'm confused by all the talk about K being the new first grade and how academic it is now. Seriously? Best I can tell, they are working on their numbers and starting to learn to write some letters. No push to learn blended letter sounds. I suppose maybe some sight words. A lot of time with blocks, legos, music, art projects and even play dough. Seems like the perfect step up from our pre-K program. Not really sure how they could be playing more and have it be any different from pre-k?

  55. If your preschool mostly sends kids to private schools, the preschool teachers are likely to tell you to hold back a boy with a Summer or Fall birthday.

    They have no idea that the age range in public schools is much different that private schools.

    We know a girl with a September birthday who was held back because the preschool she attended mostly catered to private school families. She is in kindergarten with kids who aren't turning 5 until late November. She towers over them. She is bored.

    This is the first year she would have been eligible for private school kindergarten, but she ended up in public school instead.

  56. I think it is crazy that the private school cut off is so different from theh state cut off.

  57. Hopefully someone at SFUSD is looking at this issue when they redesign the system. I definitely think there should be a max age for K absent documented delays. If a parent is seriously concerned their child is not ready for K at age 5 or 4 years 10 months, then a professional can make that determination.

  58. 5:13pm- well stated.
    I find it a little gross to think
    that my little girl who will be
    15 in high school has to interact with 19 year old.

    When I was in high school, we had plenty of those 19 year old kids. My girlfriends and I called them "the retards." Yes, that was mean of us --we were just really immature and terrible.

    I know once my child is in that situation, I'll actually take the time to explain it to her and make sure she doesn't say those awful things about their fellow 19 year old classmates.

    I'm ashamed to think that I used to call those poor kids that....

  59. Yet you still find them gross... because why?

  60. We are all free to work within the established rules. It seems the people *on this blog* that are upset are the ones that sent their kids "young." I doubt you'll find, for example, that "the Latina" (referred to above) cares about the age of her kid's schoolmates. I also doubt her child will have a negative outcome for starting as early as the rules allow. Do what you need to do and don't blame everyone else for your problems.

  61. @7:00 of course we all work within the established rules. The point about the current rules perpetuating inequities is that on an aggregate level it is documented that this factor creates disadvantages for low-income kids, who tend not to red-shirt compared to their higher-income cohorts (whether or not individual parents are paying attention, or know enough to consider this as an issue, or have the funds to pay for additional preschool, etc.). Thus the district might want to reconsider the rules.

  62. Here's an argument for red-shirting if you're unsure. SFUSD rarely holds kids back even when they're clearly behind. Social promotion or whatever you want to call it. It can be very hard as a parent who starts their child young and regrets it to convince the school to let their child repeat a grade later.

  63. 6:40
    You may also want to remind your child when she is interviewing for a job with these 'gross' people that she may not want to tell them she once thought they were retarded. I think it would cost her the interview.
    Humble pie doesn't taste as good when you are on the other end.
    I've sunk as low as the haters. But as a parent of a redshirted child, you have no idea the consideration that goes into holding them back. It's not an easy decision. And to hear you slam it, just doesn't sit well.
    I resent that SFUSD has become this dumping ground for free child care for kinder- whether the child is ready or not. People who's children probably could use another year of preschool don't want to pay and scapegoat the parents that are looking out for the needs of their child.
    If a child has been redshirted, I can assure the discipline problems are going to be less than if they weren't. And don't we all benefit from that.

  64. It's a classic arms race. And it can't and won't stop without an outside agency stepping in and demanding a multilateral stand down.

    Until such event, and though there is counter evidence which should not be discounted, it seems that most research (at least the best research to date) show that benefits accrue throughout life. Certainly, individual children (yes yours and yours and yours are no doubt more than ready), may do fine starting earlier (at the normal age).

    Still, however much some may wish it otherwise, out children are in competition: for jobs, for mates, for high school and college placements and starting positions on sports teams and everything else.

    You may think it is silly, that it makes no difference, but I and many, many others think otherwise. If we can get our children an advantage we will. And if you choose not to, well good for you and better for me.

    I think those calling for high/low limits for kindergarten are right, though the beneficial effects will be somewhat muted unless it can be applied to private schools as well. Even better would be skill rather than age-related testing into starting classes. Ideally with two or more yearly classes.

    Until such time, I expect the red-shirting to continue and acellerate.

  65. I'm not convinced that redshirting has the long term socialization benefits that people hope for. I was a late December kid and I ended up skipping my senior year of high school (often a wasted year). I wasn't as socially adept as my more mature college peers, so I had to walk them to the infirmary when they were too drunk.

  66. That's too bad 6:40, when I was in that year we used to call gals like you something else. . . easy.

  67. Couldn't agree more with 7:00 and 9:04. It's telling that the people who are expressing such umbrage over so-called redshirting are the very ones who sent their kids at age 4. These undoubtedly are the same people who complain that life isn't fair.

    No, it ain't. Get used to it.

  68. I still think the biggest issue is on the macro level--who is red-shirting and who isn't, and what that means for the achievement gap, which is after all a district priority to close. Lower-income kids tend to be younger when entering kinder; this has an impact on achievement (along with other factors).

    Upper as well as lower limits would help; so would greater access to preschool. In that sense (the macro level), life doesn't have to be as unfair as 11:36 suggests. The district actually can change the rules to discourage an arms race. The focus on individual family decisions is misplaced here.

  69. i think a lot of comments here are driven by fear--fear of an unfair advantage, fear of their children being left behind, etc.

    I don't have a dog in this fight--it seems this is a public school issue because the private schools redshirt automatically, and there is nothing the complainers can do about that. my kids attend private school and they were redshirted because they couldn't even apply to those early schools because they missed the age deadline.

    but honestly, this issue isn't even difficult: let the parents do what they think is best for their children. I really think the children even out eventually (if they are going to even out; if they have an affluent, involved family--one that will try very hard to make sure they are successful in school--the age advantage is the least of the issues that we can discuss about unfair advantages). If the parents are wrong, their child will suffer and be bored in school because they are in the wrong grade. if, however the parents are right, the child will do well in school and the extra year will help everyone because they will behave better in class.

    And when they get older, who cares? I don't ever remember anyone asking me my age in school--and i entered high school at 13!

  70. sorry, but after hearing all the arguments, i think it's a no-brainer: set an upper age limit for grade levels, except in extremely extenuated (clinician-validated) circumstances. we cannot let individual families decide what an appropriate classroom age range is -- it's for trained educators and child development specialists to legislate.

  71. Out of curiosity, where would people set the upper limit? July/August/September?

    It seems tough to me to set it before the first day of school (that is, saying that a kid that turns five sometime after the first day of school should definitely be enrolled that year), especially since so many other districts (e.g., San Mateo, I believe) have a Sept. 1 cut-off.

    So let's assume that's the most "extreme" scenario and we set an Aug. 15 (or whenever school starts these days) "upper limit" - that is, no kid will enter kindergarten as a 6 year old, but kids will turn both 5 and 6 all fall, until December, when everyone is at least 5. Is that very different than now? (That's a real question, not a rhetorical question - I don't know the answer.) It certainly sounds like, from previous posts, that there are some kids turning 6 in July/August before starting K, so it sounds like it would affect some people. However, when we talk about 7 year olds in kindergarten (or 19 year old seniors), that would mean a kid with a *May* birthday didn't start kindergarten 3-4 months after turning 5. Is that happening?

    I totally get both sides of this debate on a philosophical level, but I wonder if the practical ramifications are as significant as the previous comments seem to suggest. (Again, don't have the facts, would be very interested to learn if in fact they are.)

  72. I'm wondering the same thing, 7:04. I don't know anyone who redshirted a child who was born later than June. Which means those children turned 7 *after* K, and won't turn 19 until *after* they graduate from high school. Why so many references to all the 7-year-olds in K and 19-year-olds in high school?

    Also, Kim, who do you think currently is making decisions about redshirting? Had it been up to my husband and me, we would have sent our child to K at 5, no questions asked. It was only after we consulted with several "trained educators and child development specialists," including our preschool director and teachers with their combined 45 years in teaching and child development specialization, that we made the painful decision to hold our child back. That's why I've hesitated to post anything here. I hope the original poster makes the right decision for his or her child, but it's such an individual choice that I don't think what happened with my child would necessarily be helpful to his or her child.

    Also, it is my understanding this is not SFUSD's call to make. The Dec. 2 cutoff is set at the state level, and I think any changes would have to be made at the state level.

  73. Some links for those interested in reading more about this issue:

    From what I can gather the studies evaluating whether there are physical, social, academic, emotional advantages are mixed because there just hasn’t been a good long term longitudinal study on this.

    However, what is clear is that K classes are getting older, which means middle school and high school and college classes are getting older. And it is also true that the rate of redshirting is increasing mostly in affluent school districts and private schools. What we can gather from this is that the segment of the population (affluent, educated) that every study has always confirmed had the best advantages for educational achievement is driving the redshirting trend. Why? We can all draw many inferences from this. One of them, for me at least, is that this very achievement oriented group is using the red shirt to give their child an advantage over other children. For those going to private school, their earlier cutoff dates achieve the same effect – so that population gets the many wonderful opportunities of a private school, in addition to older classes (which are easier to control in K supposedly, and presumably that advantage snowballs in the later years).

    I count myself in this group of upper middle class, educated parents by the way. I personally know people who have made this decision to redshirt. I have heard the “my pre-school said they weren’t ready” or “my boy doesn’t know how to make friends” justifications. But after a glass of wine, it is pretty apparent that they think their child is ready, but also believe being a year older would give them many advantages, and the preschool counselors advice becomes the rationalization. In addition, the fact that many other kids in the pre-school are red shirting puts even more pressure on these parents to do the same. That is the other side of the coin – I have to red shirt because I don’t want my child disadvantaged.

    In any case, unless someone steps in and places min/max ages for classes, this trend will only continue given what is currently driving it. And I can’t help but think that there are ramifications for all those who don’t redshirt. That would explain the reason parents of those who haven’t red shirted may be a little heated when this topic is raised.

  74. 9:03 here. As I think more about this, I find it interesting that there seems to be a real correlation between redshirting and the preschools that many affluent educated people send their children to. The child-centered, play based philosophy seems to lend itself to the notion that kids shouldn’t be rushed, and that you shouldn’t force kids to do anything before they are developmentally ready (like learning to read or write down letters of the alphabet). Maybe this is off topic, but I was always amazed by the implied limitations of this approach – don’t ask a kid to draw a circle because they aren’t ready, and so on. I remember asking if the expectation was that kids are able to read by the time they left a pre-school, and immediately realized I had crossed some taboo line. I never asked that question again as I toured other pre schools by the way. Yet I observed in my own child an ability that I always thought wasn’t being realized in pre-school (one is under 2, so that’s not true for her yet). Anyway, I guess I see a strong relationship here, and truth be told, I wish my preschool was a little more “academic”.

    I also think that the study that might answer the question of whether there are advantages for those who redshirt (and disadvantages for those who don’t) might be impossible to do. What is most relevant is not whether those who redshirt do better than those who don’t. The real issue is whether those who redshirt do better that they would have if they had not redshirted. Would a child who was denied admission into Lowell, Sota, Lick, University etc. have been accepted if they were one year older? Would that same person have been accepted at a particular University if they had to apply when they were a year older? Or would that child be better with girls, have more confidence, more self esteem, better at sports, etc. - whatever your reasons for redshirting if they are not academic. I’m not sure how you answer that question with a study. But from the responses I have heard and read from parents who have redshirted, the answer to these questions would seem to be yes, and from those who haven’t redshirted, they believe or worry that the answer is also yes.

  75. Different strokes for different folks!

    I have always been a proponent of play based preschool, I now send my child to the hardest to get into coed private school in SF, and the majority of the students are 6 in Kindergarten. Did i keep him back to get into the school? No, but I really thought this kid WAS NOT READY TO BE IN KINDERGARTEN (plus he missed the cutoff at his school). Will I, after having a glass of wine admit i did it for an advantage? Hell no. I did it so he wouldn't be disadvantaged and be the "time out" kid who could never join circle or sit still.

    btw., he's at no advantage at his school--he can still barely sit still, but at least he can now do it--its not like he's some genius, you know!

    I feel blessed that I could keep my child out of "real school" for a year--although his kindergarten seems play based as well. Why the rush?

    why the push towards such an academic approach? It seems to me these (academic) parents are the ones who are so competitive--not the parents red shirting their children!

    I'm glad I didn't send him to public school (and we got our first choice); I think thats where all the fear is and the push towards no child left behind crap. I want him to play and have fun and to have a mind not crammed with meaningless facts, but with the training to actually think about what those facts mean. Thats what redshirting is giving us! He can cram later; i want him to learn how to think at his own pace!!!

    We shall see in the end who was right--if all this play based stuff creates a monster, thats our problem-- but I'm glad none of you can dictate when I HAVE to send my child to Kindergarten. That choice was made by a combination of me, my preschool director and my son's awesome school!!!

  76. But it's teachers who often lament kids in their classrooms who were clearly NOT ready for school:

    "we cannot let individual families decide what an appropriate classroom age range is -- it's for trained educators and child development specialists to legislate."

    This is a great summary of the way my husband and I (and the preschool director and even both grandmas) felt:

    "I did it so he wouldn't be disadvantaged and be the "time out" kid who could never join circle or sit still.

    btw., he's at no advantage at his school--he can still barely sit still, but at least he can now do it..."

    And don't forget that it disadvantages the entire class to have a kid, or one more kid, who can never join circle or sit still. Then these same parents would be complaining about that!

  77. Clearly there are two separate issues here. What is best for your individual child and what is best for society.

    While some parents may be inclined to sacrifice what is the believe to be best for their own children for what they believe to be best for society, to the extent that those interests diverge, they and their children will lose. And they should expect that many, probably most, other parents who have a choice will place the interests of their own children first.

    There are plenty of parents who think the system has created a no win situation in favor of red shirting. The only way to change it is through some kind of government intervention or collective action on part of schools. Or, as 12:09 suggests, let parents do what they do. Some will win, some will lose and the end result will sort itself out.

    If your kids are conferred an advantage by starting kindergarten at age 3, sooner or later kids will be starting at age 3. But if starting at age 2 turns them into middle school drop outs then a lower bound will be set. In the meantime, we will all keep reading the literature, watching our neighbors, and getting stressed out about whether we are making the right decisions.

    Honestly, it's pretty fun.

  78. I don't imagine anyone here sent their kid young out of solidarity for the disadvantaged.

  79. I think that 11:48 raises an excellent point. If you've followed the assignment system issue and listened to board deliberations, it's pretty clear that the achievement gap is their top priority. It can be fairly debated whether any of the assignment system policies before the board will have much of an effect on the achievement gap, but they do seem to spend a lot of time looking.

    But I'm afraid that redshirting does have a significant effect on the achievement gap. It doesn't seem fair to compare older middle/upper middle class kids who already have the benefit of perhaps a few years of preschool with younger, less-advantaged kids who may not have been to preschool.

  80. I think the best people to ask about redshirting are the elementary school teachers. What do they think about it? Does it make their job easier or harder when parents hold their kids back? Would they advocate for an earlier cut off date, say Sept 1? Would they recommend a screening process to help parents figure out if their kids are ready for K?

  81. When I asked our K grade teacher what he would like my child to be able to do before entering K, his response was; " to be able to wipe his own bottom, I will teach him the rest".

    If engineering your child's entire life is so important might I suggest limiting procreation to 9 months before your ideal birth date!

  82. 12:02, I love your post. You hit the nail on the head. My parents gave so little thought to many of the competitive issues facing today's parents, but they were there for us in so many ways. Five kids are now adults, and we all seem to have turned out fine.

  83. I have a friend whose daughter repeated kindergarten and is now one of the oldest girls in her middle school class and she has reached puberty before any of her friends. While someone always has to be first, it was hard on her emotionally to go through this all by herself for almost a year.

    With a January birthday myself, I was one of the oldest in my class and was bored at home waiting to go to school and this was before preschool was common. I also was often bored with my immature friends. Later, it also was a problem for my parents when I turned 18 in high school when that was the drinking age.

  84. It's a different world.

  85. I thought my oldest duaghter with a late September birthday was ready for school socially and emotionally. Unfortunately, she was academically slow in learning to read(maybe slightly dyslexic). After much work, she is in 5th grade and is doing great. She still reads a little slowly but she is highly proficient in her English Language Arts and Advanced in Math.

    On the other hand, my youngest has a late March birthday and has documented developmental delays but was more academically ready and less emotionally and socially ready for Kindergarten this year than her sister was. There were a few rough weeks at the start of school but the teacher and I worked out a strategy together and now she is doing great. I was seriously thinking of red-shirting her back in March, but she really developed over the summer and the kindergarten experience has really helped in her development.

    I think there is something to be said for mixed age classes with the more advanced peers helping to teach and motivate the late bloomers. Montessorri classrooms are designed to have the older kids help teach the younger children and thereby really learning the material themselves (or as they say in medical school see one, do one and teach one).

    I would tell parents to keep their options open and apply for schools now even if you think your child might not be ready, because children will go through several developmental changes before kindergarten starts.

  86. "i think it's a no-brainer: set an upper age limit for grade levels, except in extremely extenuated (clinician-validated) circumstances."

    Surely there already is some sort of upper age limit in place? I imagine I couldn't just plop an 8-year-old down in kindergarten, even if I wanted to for some reason.

  87. I started school a year early (in Europe, with different cut-offs, but in effect I was the youngest in my class). I could read already, and my parents thought, probably rightly, that I would be bored for another year in preschool. I ended up graduating as the valedictorian in my middle school, but I remember how hard it was socially and emotionally to be a year younger at that age. There is a huge difference between a 13 and a 14 year old girl. On balance I really cannot say what would have been best, but I am really happy that none of my kids fall in a range where I have to think about it. Unless the kid was as academically strong as I was, it would have been better to wait a year probably.

  88. similar to 10:53, I was young in my class. my mother often wondered aloud if she should have held me back a year, not because of academics (honors, etc.) but because of the emotional and social development. I was very naive. but I think this has as much to do with me as with the meanness of the community (not just the kids but the parents). maybe I would have been the odd one out no matter when I went to school ;)

    I also have a question: when are the birthdays of the kids who are redshirting? are we talking october or february?

  89. I recently went to a tour for The Little School, and the parents who gave the talk beforehand (or rather, the one who did most of the talking) said parents practically begged to have their kids red-shirted so they'd get to go to the awesome (her words) Transitional K program at the Little School. I wondered if all those folks had no problem with paying for one more year of private schooling, but it didn't seem to be an issue for those gathered that day.

    Oh -- and I know of a whole slew of kids with birthdays past June who have been red-shirted...

  90. Yes, I hear the TK program at the Little School is wonderful and makes sense if you're only considering private schools and your child has a birthday in the second half of the year.

  91. Nobody begs or practically begs to get into the TK program. You make it sound so elitist and mean spirited. It's a very good program and many of the students are not able to go to privates because of the famous "too young" letter. Even siblings. Most of the class ends up going private but the parents are aware of that before they sign up.

  92. I teach Kindergarten in SFUSD and I agree with the K teacher cited in 12:02. Ancedotally, I think younger boys (say, Oct-Nov birthdays) struggle a bit with fine motor expectations. Still, I would argue that copperplate print is not the most critical writing standard in Kindergarten and it's not a huge deal.

    It seems logical that older children would have fewer issues with behavioral expectations, but I have not found this to be true. Older K students are generally bigger, so an inadvertent bump on the playground can be a problem. A year may or may not cause children to do better behaviorally, depending on the expectations of the class (no six year old does well with drill-and-kill).

    This is a significant equity issue, and one that is truly more of an opportunity gap than an achievement gap. And frankly, it DOES affect all our children. More six year olds in a Kindergarten causes a class that is more geared to their needs, and the younger students fall behind. And it follows students up the grade levels. High dropout rates and high imprisonment rates impact ALL of us.

  93. 11:03 Thanks for your honest post. It is very helpful to hear from someone in the trenches.

  94. I would like to hear from parents who sent their late fall bday boys to K when they were 4 at the start of school. I would also like to know strategies parents used to get their kids up to speed in areas they lagged behind their classmates.

  95. Another SFUSD K teacher here, with a somewhat different point of view. Whether or not there are a large number of 6-year-olds in a class doesn't effect my teaching nearly as much as the CA state standards that were adopted about 12 years ago. In fact, as of next year, we'll be required to use "standards-based" report cards in K and enter the grades in an online database (a few schools are using them now as part of a pilot program). The standards are what happened to K "being just about learning letters an shapes etc."

    In my experience, the youngest students are often the ones with the most trouble sitting for read-alouds and lessons, and are more likely to have a difficult time with separation anxiety and shyness. Their style of play can be more physical, leading to problems relating to classmates. Fine motor skills may not be as developed, and they do notice that their friends can do some things better and more easily than they can.

    On the other hand, most of my younger students have academic skills at least equal to their older counterparts, and sometimes better, and many are highly motivated. I usually don't see significant differences in the progress they make as compared to older kids. As far as their developmental differences, we work with the children where they are, rather than forcing expectations on them that they just aren't ready to meet.

    My sense of the situation is that parents are facing financial pressures that, as some here have pointed out, can make paying for another year of pre-k unrealistic or impossible. If money were no object, I'd definitely recommend that parents use 5 by Sept. 1 as their own cut-off for when to start K.

    Kindergarten expectations are more like what 1st grade used to be, but removing the 6-year-olds would not change that. A major overhaul of state standards is the only thing that could take K back to what people remember it to be. Parents should understand that as the trend towards using "data-driven" systems to evaluate and pay teachers continues, the pressure to raise academic standards at all grade levels will also continue.

  96. This blog sounds like class warfare is about to erupt at any moment. While the blog's founder, Kate, has her child carefully protected at Marin Country Day, she presides over a blog where desperate parents hurl insults as they "debate" the merits of SF's pathetic public schools. Sadly, when Kate asks the question about "redshirting" it's really only for show. She already knows what her decision will be. If she posed the question, "what public school should I send my second child to for $$ reasons", that might be a more compelling question. Its easy to run a blog where parents are fighting over the crumbs in the failing system while you sit perched in your gilded tower. It seems like what began as a great idea for a blog has veered way off course.

  97. 6:23, the founder's daughter is at Jose Ortega, a public school. And the questions posted now are now are not asked by her, but by others going through the process who are actually looking for advice and/or information.

  98. Kate's child is a first grader in the Mandarin immersion program at Jose Ortega Elementary School. Her kid was in fact admitted to MCDS two years ago, but Kate and her husband chose Jose Ortega when her daughter got in there in R2. This was 1.5 years ago. Jose Ortega is in fact an up-and-coming school with a nice arts program and lots of enthusiasm that also faces the usual challenges of a public school. If you read this blog carefully, you'll see that Kate is a public school booster who also makes room for all parents, and who provides this forum as a free-wheeling sort of place for all kinds of discussions to occur. She provides very little moderation.

  99. Seriously, 6;23, keep up!

  100. My daughter is in kinder this year. Her december birthday put her past the cut-off for kindergarten last year so we did pre-k which was great! This year her public school teacher asked me why I had held her back as she is almost a full year older than many of her classmates who were 4 turning 5 in the fall.

    So I would say that if you are considering public school there will be a really broad range of ages and readiness. If you are considering private or parochial school they will likely not accept him until he is older anyway.

    Apply anyway and see if you get a good placement to either and then make your decision in the spring. Getting a good public school placement in the first round could make that decision for you.

  101. We struggled with this question over 2 years. We have a September birthday girl. After her second year of preschool, her teachers felt that she was ready for kindergarten as a young 4-going-on-5 year old. We did the public lottery and were not happy with our placement in rounds 1-3. There were a few private schools we really liked, but she was not eligible to apply due to her age. So we put her in a great transitional kindergarten (T-K) program. At the end of the summer, the Friday before school started, we got a call from our first choice public school. At that point, it was a very tough decision. We could tell that the T-K program was excellent, and that our daughter would get a lot out of it. On the other hand, you can't turn down your first choice public either. So, we sent her to the public school. She had a great year there -- loved her teacher, made friends, etc. But we still found ourselves wondering whether in her particular case it would be better in the long run for her to be older. So we took a look at a few private schools and ended up finding one that seemed truly ideal for our daughter. We decided to apply to the private school, knowing that we would be happy to stay at the public school if it didn't work out. To our surprise, she did get accepted to the private. And then we faced another really tough decision. On the one hand, we were all really happy with the public school. However, it seemed that while our daughter did fine academically in public K, that an extra year to help her work on social and emotional skills would serve her very well. Finally, we chose to move her to the private school. While we loved the public school, this particular private school seemed like such a unique and wonderful experience, that it would be a special gift we could give our daughter.

    I found the whole situation very difficult to navigate, and to know what was the right thing for our daughter. It was odd to go from no school choices, to our top public, to actually getting in a private school we really loved. It was also interesting to watch her as a young 4-going-on-5 kindergartner, and now to see her as a 6-year-old kindergartner. To my surprise, she has transitioned really well, almost without batting an eye. Also, we were worried that she'd be bored doing an extra year of K. That has not been the case at all. She seems really engaged and excited about everything she's learning. And although some of the stuff she's been doing for years (how many times can you glue marshmellows to an M?), all the new experiences and people at the new school more than make up for that. Interestingly, in our first parent-teacher conference this year, her teacher felt she was doing really well (not surprising since this is her second year of K). But when we asked if she should be in first grade, the teacher also felt that she would be a bit overwhelmed by the demands of first grade.

    So -- all I can say is that, it really does come down to your gut on what's right for your child and your family. It took us 2 years to figure it out. But we are really happy with every decision we made along the way. And we are thrilled with how she is flourishing at the new school!

  102. 8:48: It's wonderfully encouraging to hear a success story like yours. Thanks for sharing it.

  103. Hi, I'm from the private school world and just clarifying some misstatements here.

    Most of the most popular private schools in the City (and please, you know which ones these are) consider June to be the new cut-off date for boys and July for girls. There are a few exceptions but even those (Burke's, Brandeis, MCDS) are moving to the June/July cut-offs. Town won't even send an app to kids whose b-day is after July 15 and Day makes it clear that August 1 is its firm date (and usually considers June to be the real cut-off).

    I recognize that this creates a two-tier system where public school kids are significantly younger than public school kids. Given that the private school start date is a national issue (I'm told that NYC and L.A. are actually considering April to be the cut-off!), you aren't going to change the private schools. If you are considering public schools, recognize that your kids will be a full year younger than their same-grade students when applying to high school, whether that high school be private or public (Lowell, SOTA).

    Needless to say, we are redshirting our August son, as he is not even considered on the border by the private school that our older child attends.

    Just putting some facts out there. Obviously this is a personal decision.

  104. thanks for that post. its not an easy decision, but if you're going private, all the benefits are leaning towards red shirting; if public is your thing, your kid will be way too old (unless you end up in some of the more caucasian dominated schools).

    my child is doing great at her private school-she turned 6 in september. But i think she would bored AND subject to many time outs in public--if you have a kid who is smart but needs social and emotional development, bear in mind they get better with an extra year, but still may not do well with a large classroom size.

  105. " On the one hand, we were all really happy with the public school. However, it seemed that while our daughter did fine academically in public K, that an extra year to help her work on social and emotional skills would serve her very well."

    8:48, would the public have considered your daughter repeating K or 1st grade?

  106. @7:59

    No. She did just fine there, and there were no major issues suggesting she should repeat K at the public. Most publics won't have your child repeat K unless there's a severe or obvious reason. The only school I know of that systematically has a few young kids repeat K is Rooftop. I have 2 friends whose children go there who had their kids repeat K -- mostly just because the kids were on the young side, and the school gives parents an option. If we had been there, we would have thought about repeating K. However, repeating even K is hard at the same school -- they watch their peers move on to 1st grade without them. The nice thing about doing K again at a new school is that our daughter started on the same footing as everyone else -- they were all new and starting school together. I do notice that when we run into her old friends from K at the public, she seems shy and less willing to play with them. This makes me sad, and I suspect the fact that they're all now in first grade is affecting how she's feeling.

  107. Oh -- one more thing. My two friends who had their children repeat K at Rooftop are both really happy they did. Both children are doing very well in a second year of K -- and in both cases my friends are really noticing the difference in how their kids are doing in school.

  108. I can see the sense in "redshirting" kids who don't turn 5 until October or November, but IMO the early cutoffs in private schools are ridiculous and infuriating. I have a daughter with a late July birthday who happily was admitted to private school before they started pushing the dates back. I think making her wait a year would have been a terrible decision. She was more than ready for kindergarten and now, as a 6th grader, is very successful academically and socially.

    What I see in private schools, where there are kids who have summer or even spring birthdays and are held out of school for an extra year, is a bunch of kids who are really too old for the grade, who aren't challenged and therefore end up occupying themselves by making trouble, or by making the social environment of the class unfit for the kids who are actually the correct age for the grade.

    I think part of the redshirting trend is related to people wanting everything to be easy for their kids, rather than giving them an opportunity to overcome challenges.

    Anyway - I think the phenomenon is entirely different in the public and the private schools. In public schools, it's addressing a cutoff date that is arguably too late in the year to make sense for many kids. In private school, it's just become absurd.

  109. Just a note about terminology. I don't think families choosing private schools can redshirt in the same way that families choosing public schools can. Because private schools have earlier cutoff dates with firm policies prohibiting exceptions, there isn't really a choice for the parents to make and there's more of a level playing field within the school. So you don't have a 2 year spread in student ages within a classroom.

  110. Honestly, it is usually not the parents' choice in private schools. Most private schools won't take July girls any more, and when they do, they sometimes ask the girls to repeat kindergarten (this happened to at least 2 families I know). It's not fair to blame it on the parents as trying to make it "easy" for the kids. It's the schools. I doubt your July girl would be admitted this year.

    Additionally, it seems that the b-day thing is something that the schools do to manage enrollment better. With too many qualified applicants, it allows them to defer some people they would like to accept for a year. Of course, this only adds to the problem.

    Moreover, you should take a look at the curriculum at these private schools. Almost every kindergartener in my child's class was reading fully by the end of the grade. In first grade, they were reading chapter books. The math is very high level. The foreign language is intense. I honestly think that kindergarten has become first grade.

    Finally, I'm a bit surprised that you think that a smart child would be bored simply because s/he is older. Smart kids are never bored when good teachers continue to enrich them, as they do at all the good private schools (and a large number of the public schools) in town.

  111. This whole conversation leads me to wonder: when a child has every advantage in life, from an earlier birthdate to organic lunches to smaller classes to chapter books in the 1st grade and so on and so on, does he/she do better later in life? I really am curious. $20K+ per year for 13 years seems like a huge investment, but if it's that big of an advantage, which it seems it might be... I may start turning tricks on the side to make it all happen.

  112. I know you're kidding, but how much parents should do to pay for what for their kids is an interesting question. How much money you spend on your kids is not nearly as important as who you are with them. You can buy your kids every advantage, but if you a poor caregiver or model bad behavior, odds are they will be screwed up. You can buy your kids practically nothing beyond food, clothing and shelter, but if you provide love, moral support and discipline, and you model decency and responsibility yourself, odds are they will turn out fine. (Note I said "odds," not certainty. There is no certainty in parenting. If you think you can be a perfect parent, you need more help than I can give you.) Stay off the street corners and be an attentive parent at whatever school is YOUR personal best for your child, whether that's Malcolm X or Marin Country Day. By "personal best" I don't mean spend every penny you can beg, borrow or steal, only make the most of the choices you have (which may be several privates and a nice public, or one poorly-ranked public, or anything in between). By "attentive," I don't mean spend your life looking over the teacher's shoulder or panicking every time your kid comes home with a scraped knees or hurt feelings, but keeping a watchful eye on your child's overall academic and social progress.

  113. My husband and I talk about this sort of thing. Are you setting up your child for a ruder, blunter confrontation with the realities of the real world -- with its failings, aches, pains, surprises of all strains, population with people from all walks of life -- but keeping them for as long as you can within a bubble of sorts (the privileges described in earlier posts). Or, are you purposely keeping them in that bubble as long as possible to give them the fortitude or perhaps even the freedom from the realities of real life?

  114. 1:35: Streetwalker here, and yes I was joking, although my husband has seriously considered bartending in the Castro to earn extra money for the family. He's easy on the eyes and looks especially hot in his wife beater tank top and snug Dickies painter pants.

    But I digress. Thanks for the thoughtful words. I am a believer in spending time with your kids instead of working all of the time to pay others to spend time with your kids. It's not easy to do in this crazy-expensive town, but maintaining a balance is my goal, at least. I agree the best advantage a kid can have in life is having parents with good values who lead by example. No guarantees, like you said, but a good approach to raising a good kid.

    None of this solves the red-shirting issue and the fact that our July-born son will eventually compete with kids a year older for limited spots at high schools and then colleges, but we'll save those complaints for a later date. We simply can't afford $20K for kindergarten and he's old enough to hold his own in public, so that's that. Wish us luck!

  115. 9:31 here - other posters are correct, I completely forgot to address the role that the private schools play in perpetuating the aging of their kindergarten classes. I really wish that they would consider the kids themselves rather than the birthdays. I heartily agree with Kim Green and others who advocate for a cutoff range - e.g., kids entering K need to turn 5 by August 15, but can't turn 6 before June 15, that kind of thing.

    3:38, I think your July-born son will do just FINE in public K, and it's the private schools' loss that their inflexible age cutoff policies will keep you from being able to send your son to one of them. In my view, it's rare that a summer-born child is truly not "ready" to go to K, and I think it's the failing of a school if they're unwilling to create an age-appropriate kindergarten program.

  116. I sent my late-fall birthday boy to K over the objections of the preschool which didn't think he was ready. But he wasn't crazy about the preschool and all his friends were leaving and I thought it would be better for him to move on.

    It turns out the K was a lot less opinionated then the preschool and everything went fine. Although he did have some writing issues in K and 1st grade (which no one worried too much about), he just liked K better than preschool. I agree with some earlier posts that the fact that he had to learn something of a work ethic in the early grades was good for him. Since grade 3 or so, he has always been a top student (99th percentile counting kids way older than him). I think he learned early that even if things weren't all easy for him if he worked he would succeed. I think this is a better message than just telling kids you are special and talented so do whatever you want. So we're happy we sent him.

  117. @4:41-

    Thank you for sharing your son's experience. My son is a late fall 5 who began K in a private school this year. He is going through some struggles, similar to the one you described, e.g., writing, but he is steadily improving. I am crossing my fingers that he makes it this year and continues to Grade 1 next year. Wish us luck!!!

  118. Another thought in this whole redshirting debate... just because you know the kids birthday, doesn't mean you know anything important about the child. We held back my daughter, with her end of Nov bday, because she was actually born nine weeks early... which would have put her arrival in Feb. And despite all the marvels of modern medicine, it still took her teeny tiny body the standard 40 weeks to finish growing, she just did some of it out here.
    So it seemed cruel to sign her up for kinder "early" too.

    Just something to think about in this day of fertility interventions, 24 week surviving preemies and all of the NICU graduates out there. We're lucky, our daughter doesn't seem to have any lasting issues from her early arrival, but I'm glad I could give her the extra time before kinder.

    And yes, she's one who at almost six still scribble scrabbles sometimes, but its usually cuz she wants to finish the silly worksheet and do something more fun! Perhaps the very opinionated early commenter should take a better look at the kids in her child's kinder class...

  119. As to the question of whether a private school "bubble" will give a kid trouble later in life when he must interact with less privileged people: I honestly don't think where you go to school has a lot to do with this. The ability of the home and school environments to encourage empathy and friendliness is more important than crunching numbers of how many kids of this or that socioeconomic group go to a school. Plus, realistically, adults self-select their professional and social environments. It would be weird to choose a profession where you have to interact with a lot of people whose culture you don't understand.

  120. "Moreover, you should take a look at the curriculum at these private schools. Almost every kindergartener in my child's class was reading fully by the end of the grade."

    There's a similar acceleration of reading in the publics, to be honest. I wasn't educated in the US, and was reading by age 4, so I don't have any reference points as to when reading gets introduced over here.

  121. 11:02 and others who say that redshirting is not a Private school choice are wrong. Look at birthdays of TK programs. You have a lot of June and July who could be in kindergarten even at a private school. Some may have received the "too young" letter but I know several June July families who aren't even trying. Their answers to why are the typical BS reasons. Their kids ARE really ready. Moms are just redshirting to feel needed or to give competitive edge.

  122. "It would be weird to choose a profession where you have to interact with a lot of people whose culture you don't understand."

    This is a funny comment. I mean, I understand what the person is saying, and surely lots of people do seek a comfort zone with regard to class and race and language, but lots don't: who do you think goes into the Peace Corps, and who goes into nursing in big-city, cosmopolitan hospitals, just to name two vocations that would lead to much interaction with cultures that are not the person's home culture? What about social work and public school teaching? What about any large company that has international branches--even engineers of similar social class are going to have to overcome cultural differences.

    One of the pluses of educating our kids in a big city environment, particularly in a particular subset of our public schools (the ones that are most diverse, like Aptos and Harvey Milk, and/or the ones that have immersion programs like Monroe), is that they are raised to interact well with huge variety of people from all social classes and many cultural backgrounds and languages.

  123. 2:00, (or anyone else, for that matter) are you saying that a July-born boy with good social skills would have a reasonable chance of getting in at any of the private schools? I am under the impression that he would not because of his age, but I'd love to hear from anyone who knows.

  124. Well, I have a July child and I'm sorry you think my reasons were "BS". I would have sent him but his teachers and I agreed he could use another year of preschool. I don't regret it for an instant. During the extra year he grew tremendously and was so incredibly ready for K. Now he's happy, active, reading, you name it and I couldn't be happier. When he was 5, he could have gotten into a lot of places I'm sure. By your account then, I sent him to TK because I wanted to feel needed. (oh please)

  125. How much of a West Coast issue/preference is red-shirting? My niece is at a top NYC private school, and actually went to K a year early. Her parents couldn't envision "holding her back" from her friends and from the learning she could be doing, so they pushed her ahead with her older friends from preschool. She's doing great, as she has from the get get-go. Her younger brother will do the same thing. For her parents, the "advantage" was to go to K early, rather than later. I was trying to explain to my East Coast-based Mom about the red-shirting trend and she was completely befuddled.

  126. Mom of a late-June-born boy here. We did a lot, and I mean a lot, of agonizing about whether to send our son to K this year. In the end he went, and I have to echo others' comments re: there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. We applied to six privates, and looked into TK programs as a backup. I fully expected six "too young" letters, but in the end there were four waitlists and two outright rejections. Then one of the waitlists came through, and we had our answer. One nice thing about the private process is that they really look at the kids, and understand how to interpret preschools' recommendations - I felt that if the school believed he was ready, indeed took him off the waitlist, then that was solid validation of our own instinct that he was ready. Turns out that across his K group, there are at least three other boys with June birthdays and one July also. He had a few early issues with things like keeping his hands to himself, but nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that his teacher and we couldn't tackle together after a few emails.

  127. 3:38, by the time your kid is competing for high school (if he's aiming for private, Lowell or SOTA) and college, any advantage conferred by age will be wiped out. Honest! There's a point at which an extra few months no longer confers a maturity advantage, and whatever that point is, it's well before that.

  128. @5:11

    I grew up in the Midwest and nobody I knew delayed Kindergarten. In fact, you went to K if you turned 5 by December, and that is what everyone did.

    I do worry about 6/7 year old students in K. That seems too old.

  129. People, it is NOT 7. I don't know where this started. The oldest kids will turn 7 in June or right where school lets out. The rest of the class is 6 or turning 6 in private school K's.

  130. To echo what others have said, I grew up in NYC and everyone born in a calendar year went to school with other kids born that year. If anything, there was more pressure to get your kids into K early, and/or once in school if you were “gifted” the expectations was that you would then skip a grade so you wouldn't be bored academically. Kids who were older then their classmates were stigmatized – they were the bigger, dumber ones. Sorry, I know how cruel this sounds, but that is how it was. It is amazing how things change.

    I also agree that the private school cut-offs are getting ridiculous. Add to that what you hear about the real cut-offs being June – summer born kids are seriously disadvantaged from what I hear – and it starts to seem unconscionable. These are the children that as a group have all the advantages, right? But they are too young? So the most prestigious schools with the best resources, smallest class sizes, teacher aides, most involved parent population, etc., can't handle a child who turns 5 by 9/1 anymore because that disrupts learning for other kids in the classroom? Seriously?

    As some others have stated, I can't help but think that what really drives this is the need for making sure the student population at school A has better scores, goes to better high schools/colleges, than kids from schools B C and D. It just irks me that these schools adopt rules that make their student population at least 6 months older that the student populations at other schools, yet somehow remain oblivious to the impact that has on other children or decisions that parents with options for their children now have to make. If public schools moved the cutoff to 9/1, I would bet that privates would slowly but surely move theirs back as well. Sorry, I know how cynical this may sound, but I guess I have a strong suspicion that the entire red-shirt trend is 100% related to the trend of moving cut-offs back, and both have more to do with giving affluent educate people an advantage for their kids than with anything else.

    I am looking at both privates and public schools by the way. And I went to privates schools all of my life until grad school. But these late cut-off dates drive me nuts. And red shirting kids who have spring and summer birthdays (and who don't have a documented developmental issue) also bothers me to no end. I can understand why some parents whose kids have late fall birthdays feel compelled to make this choice given the current situation in SF, by the way, but it seems like what drives that decision has more to do with making sure that your child is not disadvantaged relative to the older students in the child's class than with that child's readiness for k.

  131. An anonymous middle-class, public school educated parent delurking.

    I came in here to read the comments because we too are holding back our son. I was interested to see the comments regarding the psychological and academic benefits/disadvantages of holding back a child. In our situation, we've got a "bubbles, train and cloud-loving" boy with a late October birthday who would simply benefit from another year of just being a little boy.

    Instead, I come in here and see a lot of arguments about: "it's not fair...the rich can afford to hold back their 14 year old will be exposed to 19 year old cigarette smoking, bike-riding punks" (ok, I added the bike-riding part). Jeesh! When will San Franciscans realize life *is* sometimes about some having more or better opportunities than others. That's the problem with this city, you have a bunch of extremely wealthy people, you have a bunch of poor people and you have the overeducated/underpaid middle class that want the benefits of the extremely wealthy (e.g. top-notch school opportunities and homeownership in Noe Valley) at the same price that the poor pay. Heads up…it’s EXPENSIVE to live in San Francisco. If you’re going to live in San Francisco, it’s time to swallow a reality pill and simply take care of you and yours the best you can and quit trying to make everything equal for all. Life is not about equality. You’d be amazed at how much sleep you gain and how you have to struggle to find other topics to talk about at playdates if you’d quit worrying about the Gettys (who have way more than you’ll ever have) and the Joneses (who look like they have more than you have but you wonder how they afford it all).

    And about the concerns regarding 14 year old daughters and older boys they may be exposed to at high school, really is this not just overall anxiety about the trials and tribulations associated with raising a 14 year old daughter (which as a parent I can empathize with you about but as a parent of boys I have anxiety that their hearts will get crushed by your 14 year old daughters…because they’re pining over the 19 year old bad boys!). Concerns about child safety don’t start with exposure of teenagers to bad influences in high school. Today, I am concerned about every stranger that my 5 year old comes into contact with! So I’m holding him back to better prepare him emotionally and psychologically for experiences that he’ll need to be able to handle on his own in the real world. I laugh and shake my head at those who consider that as me *babying* my 5 year old! There are *some* situations where you actually should parent and prepare your children instead of just shoving them out to sink or swim.

    It's amazing early civilization advanced as well as it did without all the books that parents are reading these days.

  132. 4:37am -- you need some sleep! (a response not to the content of your post but to the time you posted!)

    I think most folks here are not at all concerned about the rightness or wrongness of redshirting a kid will a Fall birthday. In fact, there have been a lot of calls for publics to move the cut-off date from Dec to Sept. What irks people more is redshirting kids with Spring birthdays who arguably are well prepared for most situations in Kindergarten.

    Also, just for reassurance (and maybe more for people with kids a bit older than your son,) my daughter did not remotely bloom in preschool. In fact, she was a shadow of her pre-3 year old self. She did not emerge from pre-K with visibly adept social skills -- at all. (and we liked this preschool and don't in any way blame her social struggles on it or its teaching). From what I read here, social skills, or lack thereof, is a real concern for many parents thinking about redshirting. Anyway, amazingly in K, she's a changed girl. Suddenly -- and this may just have to do with being a few months older -- she's got a pack of friends, and is happy and far more socially smooth that we ever could have envisioned given the way she was leaving preschool. You'd be amazed just what can happen over the summer.

  133. LOL you people are so funny. I've never seen so much whining, complaining, and finger pointing. That poster at 4:37 in the morning is the only one that seems to live in reality.

  134. For private parents who already have an earlier school-imposed summer cutoff to further bring back the date is insane. There are sometimes child specific issues that make this the right choice for some children, but there cannot be so many of these unready children to explain how often this happens.

  135. 4:37 said it all!

  136. 4:37, your post was WONDERFUL. Thanks for the clarity and candor in the wee hours of dawn. This IS an annoying town to live in in many, many ways.

  137. As annoying as this town may be, it's also a great place to be and live. Lots of us are here, at least in part, because there are lots of people with different opinions; and because there are lots of over educated middle class people who in some ways strive for more (lots of perfectly admirable people strive to better their own lots). It would be utterly dull if nobody debated issues, if we all just agreed, and if so many of us weren't so frigging over educated. I'm consistently impressed with how many articulate people argue their points, or beliefs, or musings every day on this board -- and they don't all agree. So you red shirt, so you don't -- it's fine! But people have different opinions, and they're equally valid, and typically particular to individual situations.

  138. "I grew up in NYC and everyone born in a calendar year went to school with other kids born that year."

    I'm curious -- when did you go to school, and what was your K experience like? I ask because I grew up in SF, and it was the same situation here. In fact, I remember a classmate younger than me who had a New Year's Eve birthday, which obviously couldn't happen w/ today's cut-offs. My spouse and I both were one of the youngest kids in our classes, and we were very resistant when our child's preschool teachers first raised the idea of holding our child back a year. We figured -- if being one of the youngest worked for us (in the mid '70s), why wouldn't it work for our child? Then I remembered that I attended a half-day K program, and I was home by lunch each day. By contrast, all SFUSD K programs now last all day. Many children, including my own, attend before- and after-school programs, too, because their parents work. It makes for a long period of time that children have to hold it together. And although I don't specifically recall the curriculum when I went to K, I know there is much more of an emphasis now on pre-reading/reading skills, as opposed to just learning letters.

    My point is that I've come to believe that comparing our experiences with those of our children is really comparing apples to oranges. It's kind of like saying, "My parents were able to buy a house in the Richmond District for $25,000 in 1975 after bidding below the asking price, so I should be able to, too! It's ridiculous that someone is asking hundreds of thousands of dollars and expecting to receive multiple offers over the asking price!" Perhaps, but it is reality (well, at least until recently...).

  139. Hi 7:34 - this is the person who "grew up in NYC and everyone born in a calendar year went to school with other kids born that year." I was born in 1966. I was 5 when I entered K. My wife who went to public all of her life in CA was 4 when she started. I don't think either of us was unusual for our generation at least for LA and NY kids.

    I wish I could honestly say I remember very much about my academic/soical experiences as a 5-7 year old in school as it relates to what we as parents are worried about. I do agree that there is the risk of comparing apples to oranges. But I do remember learning to read in K - and I never went to pre-school (like most kids our generation I suspect). I agree that our generation probably came home after school to a stay at home mom - sounds like we both did at least. But if your kids in K right now are in school all day plus aftercare because both parent work, wouldn't that also be true for preschool or whatever pre-k program they are in while they are red shirting? If you are saying that the longer school day might be a factor in the redshirting trend, I'm not sure that I would agree. But now that you mention it - I would be curious to know what percentage of parents who have kids who red shirt both work full time. My guess - I could be wrong - is that the percentage of two working parent households is smaller among the red shirt population in comparison to the rest of the student population. This is a guess of course.

    My point was just that there was a time when affluent educated parents wanted their kids to be the youngest in the class because it signified giftedness - there was a stigma associated with being the oldest in a class. Just as there was a stigma in taking more than 4 years to get your college degree. And now the pressures are quite different, aren't they. And I am concerned that what late cut-offs are really about (and red shirting) has nothing to do with readiness but with making sure that certain kids have an advantage over other kids in that class (or making sure there isn't a disadvantage relative to all those who have been redshirted). As someone who has options, it still seriously bothers me that there is this "keeping up with the Jones" aspect to deciding when and where to send my children that I believe has nothing at all to do with readiness for k.

    By the way - your analogy about housing prices brings seems to relate to another phenomenon about private schools more than red shirting per se - namely, school tuition. About the only thing that compares to real estate inflation is the the incredible increase in private school tuition! (and incidentally, the rise in salaries for administrators of these schools). But that is another subject I guess!

  140. Well, jeez,after 4:37 I guess I'll stop worrying about whether everything is equal for everybody and just rejoice that the last 30 years of US economic policy have gutted the middle class, plunged millions of children into poverty, and made the rich obscenely richer. Turns out that in our cherished democracy, life is not about equality after all! Phew! Now I can just obsess about my own particular kid and sleep at night: screw the rest of 'em.

    Sorry, 4:37, but among SF's virtues is that people think politically and not just pragmatically about things here.

  141. Hi, 11:26, this is 7:34 again. All very interesting points you make. Yeah, when we were struggling with the red shirting issue, it was tough. In addition to dealing with the -- ahem -- issues that were leading our child's teachers to recommend red shirting, we also had to deal with our preconceived notions and judgments about what was appropriate/fair/best in the long term, etc. I must say that, now that we're on the other side of it, the fact that our child is a year older than the other K students just doesn't seem to be the huge issue we imagined it would be. Everyone (past and current teachers) seems to agree that the current placement is appropriate, and the issues we thought would be a big deal ("Our child will be so much taller than the other students!!!") were really issues to us, but not so much to the other kids (including our own). I recognize that, as the comments here reveal, this is a really sensitive topic that has far-reaching implications, and I do not mean to minimize that. It's just that reading some of the outraged comments on this thread don't really match up with the reality we've faced over the past few years.

  142. Ooops -- I mean "doesn't match up." Shouldn't have posted before having coffee!

  143. Thanks, 7:11. I agree with you. Of course we have to look out for our own kids, but it will be a sorry legacy for our children if we decide that can't look out for the common good as well.

  144. We have our December 29 birthday son in a school he started he was 4. Our preschool said he had to leave, but after all the birthday cutoffs. The school has a 2-year kindergarten, but if a younger kid is developmentally ready, they will put him in 1st grade after 1 year of the kindergarten program. Our kid did both kindergarten years, and looking at his 1st grade work this year, I'm glad he did. I can't imagine him having been ready for 1st grade after a year, and as it is, he's still struggling. I don't think he's learning-impaired or his teachers are doing a bad job; he's just not quite there with the fine motor skills, concentration, or ability to apply information he's already learned to new questions.

  145. My son has a December 29 birthday as well and I can't imagine him going to K when he was 4.5 years old. It wouldn't have been appropriate at all. However, I really don't see this as "redshirting" him - he was past the age cutoffs and wouldn't have even been eligible for K. I'm sorry that your preschool took that approach, as it makes absolutely no sense.

  146. "...there was a time when affluent educated parents wanted their kids to be the youngest in the class because it signified giftedness - there was a stigma associated with being the oldest in a class."

    This is definitely true, in my view. I've interpreted it as a way for our moms (at least mine, a generation too old to have been expected/encouraged to pursue a career) to get some recognition and ego-fulfillment. Both my husband (b. 1951) and I (b. 1954) skipped grades at school -- that was strongly encouraged.

    So when both my mom and my mother-in-law -- who had been so happy and eager to push their kids ahead to be the youngest in our grades at school -- agreed readily that our Oct. 30 b-day son wasn't ready for kindergarten, that definitely carried weight in our decision.

  147. Is this really happening at such an alarming rate as this thread might think?
    Well i just got the directory for my school (clarendon) that lists every kid and their birthdays. In the 5 K classes (so 110 kids) there are a total of 6 kids who could have started K the year before. 4 of those children have birthdays in mid-late November, 1 in late October and 1 in July.

  148. It's more of a private school phenomenon -- because kids can't apply past a specific date in the late summer (generally).

  149. 11:54 - What school has a 2 year K that will move kids to 1st grade if ready? I am in a similar situation of late birthday child, trying to figure out options.

  150. I think people are discussing at least three different issues-- 1)redshirting in public, 2) redshirting in private, 3) lower age in public vs. older age in private. #3 has taken the form of arguing about public vs private school cutoffs and unequal means to hold kids back.

    My two cents on #2 (redshirting in private), I scratch my head at the >1 year spread in private K classes. Why do early June parents feel they need to keep their kids back another year? Isn't the early cutoff in private enough?

  151. "It's more of a private school phenomenon -- because kids can't apply past a specific date in the late summer (generally)."

    And should be considered when you're comparing kids in private versus public schools - the kids in private will be on average several months older, and hence more advanced developmentally.

  152. "When will San Franciscans realize life *is* sometimes about some having more or better opportunities than others."

    Just right! When will the plebians who are so irresponsible as to have offspring without a trust fund for their childs education understand their childrens's future role is to serve those who were born to rule?

    The lower orders should accept their lot is to do the photocopying, data entry, and coffeemaking of us members of the lucky sperm/ovum club.

  153. Aren't we all living in San Francisco to have more or better opportunities? Otherwise, why bother?

  154. I completely agree w/ 8:06. The schools have an early cutoff to make sure that kids are ready to enter K, and they should stick to it. Of course parents who are seeking private schools are not going to want their kids to be "disadvantged" by being youngest, but it's the schools' job to respect their own cutoff dates. I think the schools are irresponsible in fueling this.

    Presidio Hill has a 2-year K, so some kids who are on the young side (e.g. Sept b-days) enter K with the expectation that they will be there for 2 years. One nice thing about this is that it keeps the age of the whole class reasonable - a kid with a summer b-day who is doing the regular one-year K isn't the youngest kid in the room, and you don't get as much of a slippery slope situation.

  155. Uh, hello, that just makes an older first grader...

  156. my daughter just turned 2 on december 3rd. she can already count to 5, identify those numbers in writing, knows all the colors and is emotionally mature and even looks like a 3 year old. does anyone know if the december 2nd cutoff date can be appealed?

  157. The December 2 cutoff is state law for public schools. I don't think it is subject to appeal at the kindergarten level. Differentiated instruction should meet your child's needs in the early grades, and later, there's the GATE program.

    Private schools set their own birthday cutoffs. Most are a lot earlier than December 2, though some are flexible. Most private preschools and elementary schools should be able to offer your daughter whatever challenges she needs--otherwise why would you pay for them?

    It's wonderful your daughter is doing so well, but a lot of kids develop in spurts. Looking at my son at 2 years old (and probably having my head turned by star-struck grandparents), I was convinced he would be needing some sort of fancy accelerated program for very bright children, but now at age 6, he's in 1st grade, right where he should be based on his birthday, and being pushed to and sometimes past his limits.

    We know two super-bright kids. I mean, our kid is certainly bright enough, but these boys leave our son in the dust. One family started their son in the pre-K program at French-American (he was already fully English/Spanish bilingual with US-born dad and a Mexican mother) so he'd have the challenge of learning a third language. Money was not an issue for them and that's worked out really well. Another family has their kid Grattan, where he's thriving as well.

    Don't fret that your kid will be bored because they missed a birthday cutoff. Work with your preschool teacher, look for a pre-K program in a K-5 or K-8 if it seems like your kid is ready for more exposure to older kids, and be confident that any good public or private school will keep them stimulated. The only things I would be fearful of, are (a) an assignment to a public school with a very high-need population, where you kid's accelerated needs might get lost in the chaos or (b) a private school where it seems they don't move quickly enough to keep your kid busy.