Thursday, December 17, 2009

SFGate: Redshirting: When should children start kindergarten?

A recent SFGate blog post on redshirting:

In California a 4-year-old can enter kindergarten at the end of the summer as long as he is turning 5 years old by December 2. But many parents, especially the well-educated middle- and upper-class, opt to hold their children back a year, so their child starts school when he is 5 or 6. Parents particularly opt to do this if their kid was born in August, September, October, or November.
Read the full post by clicking here.


  1. A previous poster left a comment about the studies that show an increased high school drop-out rate among those children red-shirted.

    From my own experience, I have completely seen this to be true. The "red-shirts" I know have begrudgingly finished 12th grade or opted out of school and for their GED.

    Not to mention the implications of an 18 year old in a class with under-aged 17 year old students!

    Until more studies show the prolonged benefits of red-shirting, I would highly encourage parents to consider the implications of red-shirting as the children mature.

  2. Redshirting is for stay-at-home moms who want to feel 'needed' for another year.

  3. Oh no. Red-shirting will make your children into semi-literate thugs! Also, 18 year olds are super scary to 17 year olds. In other news, if you are Black or Latino in America you are also more likely to drop-out according to the statistics. Since I am Latino, I guess I didn't plan ahead properly for my kid. I am not for red-shirting, but the arguments people make are sometimes laughable.

  4. I have one sibling that was red-shirted with a mid-Oct Birthday and another with a late-Sept who was not. They both went on to schools ranked in the Top 25 nationally for college and have graduate degrees. IMHO, the one who was red-shirted would have been fine not attending K twice (two different ones so no stigma attached for not graduating with the "class"). The one who was not red-shirted graudated #1 in their highschool and with honors from academically, not an issue.

  5. 4:15pm, that is a ridiculous assumption. Most parents who decide to redshirt their kids send them to a transitional K, which most of the time is the same amount of time in class as typical K. The moms not any more "needed"...

    My daughter with a May birthday will start K (somewhere) this fall at 5 years old. My son, 2 1/2 years younger than her, and with a late Nov birthday, will most definitely be red shirted and sent to a transitional K instead of starting K at 4 as one of the youngest in his class.

    I found that the Outliers book had a great section talking about the effects of being one of the youngest in a class or team.

    I agree with the article that red shirting is a middle class thing, leaving many lower income students even further behind... We are comfortable middle class and do not look forward to another year of paying for pre-school. I think that the cut-off should be Sep 1st so all students start school at 5 (4 is way to young) and free quality preschool should be readily available to all families who need it.

  6. Not this topic . . . AGAIN. Is it a once a month thing?

  7. 4:15 - Well, my points were in reference to my younger brother. Both he and I are about as white as you can get. Secondly, not that 18 year olds are scary... my implication was to Statutory Rape, which seems innocent when two seniors are dating, but NOT so innocent when one is 17 and the other is 18. The chip on your shoulder must be weighing you down.

    As I am in education, I have a true concern and passion for this topic. My comments were meant to present ONE person's experience. C

  8. a recent observation . . .

    our child attends K. most of the kids in the class are five and will be until the spring or later. all the kids seem to be fine, even one five y.o. boy who has a november b-day. the one oddity is a six y.o. child that has been "red-shirted" and is about six months older than the rest.

    recently, i noticed that this child is more sophisticated in the games he/she plays. in the last week, my child has hinted to me that this older child is hurting the feelings of the younger kids. Watching this older child play, you can see the dynamic.

    The older child is playing more sophiticated six y.o. games and the younger kids are not. The younger kids don't have the same play/game/social skills as the older child.

    i've noticed that a number of the younger kids are starting to not want to play with this older kid because they sense they are not up to defending themselves against a more sophisticated game player.

  9. 7:04
    You may as well be talking about my child. Redshirted but in a different grade. And yes, he is much more sophisticated than some of his classmates. It really is a struggle for me but I also see alot of the girls who are up to his game. It's the younger boys I feel the most for. But the bottom line is my child would of been a problem if he had entered K at 5. Could not sit still for the life of him and we saw specialists, spent money and the final conclusion- no professional/ teachers thought it would be a good idea to send him forth to K after 2 years of preschool.
    He has matured alot and is doing well- but the fact remains that he stands out compared to his classmates who enter public school at 4.
    But after all this dialogue- what is the answer? Should we of sent him at 5 and have him disrupt the whole class making it harder for others to learn- have him shamed at an early age that he was a trouble maker or hold him back a year so that he can be successful and be a contributing member of the class. The answer is so obvious to me but not to others who want to criticize or demean me for holding him back. Honestly- what would school/society of gained if we sent him forth when he was not ready? A lot more mayhem for kinder teachers. Is that really the answer.
    And honestly- how much redshirting is really going on in the public schools? Why is this such an issue? In my sons class of 60 their are probably 2 redshirted kids and I seem to think a Clarendon parent on a different post stated the same thing. Is this really an issue to get worked up about in the public schools?

  10. I know a kindergarten teacher who says the 4 year olds are really too young, and I know a high school teacher who says she can easily recognize the kids with fall birthdays (who were 4 at start of K) because they continue to have issues in HS. It's hard to know what's best when your child has a birthday very close to the December cutoff. I think a September cutoff would make more sense, or better still, a window, so that kids born during the window period (which could be Sept to Dec 1 or whatever) would need an assessment from a pediatrician or preschool teacher to say whether they start K at age 4 or 5. I'm sure there's no way that could realistically be implemented, though. It does make sense that some kids will be ready earlier than others, and kids with fall birthdays kind of get short shrift in the current system.

  11. My child will be entering K next year when he's 1 week short of age 5. (early September birthday)
    Right now at age 4 he's able to count to 1000, do simple arithmetic and he is already starting to read. He is well mannered, has a long attention span and is used to playing with older kids as well as independently. His preschool teachers and I feel he will be ready next year, so why would I possibly want to hold him back?

    Every child is an individual. Some kids definitely do seem to need that extra year and some do not.

  12. So at 4 1/2 your kid can do simple math, recite poetry, write in script and you think: "by golly, let's send him off to school so he can show the world all his smarts". You send him off to kindergarten. Then on day 2, someone swaps his tofu lollipop on the playground and he a 4 1/2 year old. And the teacher can't console him because he's upset and he doesn't know how to express his feelings in any other way but to cry inconsolably, because he's a 4 1/2 year old!

    Just because a 4 1/2 year old can demonstrate academic achievement in the comfort of your home, at your kitchen table, with warm hot cocoa and you patiently coaching him through academic exercises doesn't mean he is ready for the pace and emotional stress of a real-life school setting. A generalization yes, but 4 1/2 year olds just aren't ready for school (specifically boys in my own humble opinion). Let them continue to enjoy clouds and butterflies for one more year and continue to coach them at that kitchen table so they're ready to take on school, next year, when they're better-rounded emotionally and mentally. That way, when someone swipes his tofu lollipop on the playground, instead of crying inconsolably, he'll ask the thief: "now why the h#ll would you want that nasty tofu lollipop?".

    Now *that's* a smart, savvy kid!

  13. @1:40 sounds a lot like my kid (mid September birthday) and she's doing just fine in K. She has her days when she is more emotionally needy but as some have noted, I haven't discerned *more* neediness from her than from kids 6-9 months older than her. And she is socially well adjusted.

    @5:51 if you're going to go all sarcastic on us you really should use proper spelling. It's bawls, not balls.

  14. Tofu lollipop? But 5:51 makes some good points. Please consider that same 4 1/2 y.o. walking back into the classroom 5 minutes later expected to learn, how well do you think they will function? Whether it's circle time, reader's theatre, journals, art, or p.e., the child will be upset & stressed. With 21 or more other kids competing for the teacher's attention, they may learn a hard lesson alone.

    What needs to happen is the state needs to change the cut-offs for its pre-k and k programs to 5 by Sept. 1 or Oct. 1. That way, kids who turn 5 after Sept. 1 would have the option to continue in their public pre-k's for another year. Due to budget concerns I don't see this happening anytime soon.

    As Kindergarten becomes more and more "standards-based" and academic, it makes sense to me to wait another year to send younger children who may not yet be ready for the transition to such increased independence.

  15. 5:51-
    Snark all you want. The fact is that the cutoff IS early December and you don't know my kid. Who are you to make snap judgments?

  16. "Redshirting is for stay-at-home moms who want to feel 'needed' for another year."

    Yow. Someone is bitter about not being able to afford an extra year of pre-K. There just might be one or two, or a dozen other reasons people do this. And I'll hazard a guess that #1 for most people could be: I think it will be good for my child.

  17. lol you people are so nasty to each other. I'm glad you can hide behind your internet connection but I hope you aren't like that in real life.

  18. I think I accidentally committed statutory rape in 12th grade b/c I had a late Dec. birthday and dated a younger guy. Ooops, guess, I should have been born earlier! There will always be 18 year olds in senior classes, folks: anyone with a date after the cut-off will be 5-turning-6 in their K year, and 17-turning-18 in their senior year.

    And the problem is 21 kids stuffed into a K classroom, not their ages. Montessori does mixed ages, and so do lots of for-profit classes like MyGym and Music Together. Not to mention large families, families with lots of cousin contact, rural schools, etc.; the world's educational norm is mixed-age contact. The kids do fine. Let people figure out what's right for their own kids, and back off.

  19. ^ exactly. Same goes for slightly younger kids.

    It is pretty silly to say that if my kid had been born in August rather than September that they would have been "more" ready for K.

  20. The only comment that needs repeating: "Every child is an individual." Arbitrary cut offs are just that - arbitrary. My son turned 5 on Sept 2, and we thought he was ready for K. He is the biggest in his K class, and one of the best behaved. Not the most academic, but he is coming along. Some of his peers with Feb-June birthdays misbehave, have melt-downs, or can't sit still. Every parent has to make that decision. What's important is that parents need to DECIDE - make a conscious choice based on what their kid is like, rather than resort to arbitrary dates or nostroms about "early" and "late". I was very put off when the West Portal principal tried to discourage parents with Sept-Dec. kids from entering the K lottery. Phooie on you - you don't know my kid!

  21. I think we should follow along the lines of NYC, if you are 5 by year-end (or in SF, Dec. 1) then you go to kindergarten. If you don't then when you do apply the next year, you go to 1st grade absent a documented reason by a professional why you should be placed in kindergarten.

  22. "...absent a documented reason..."

    Don't know how it works in NY, but I suspect if a parent truly felt that his or her child should go to K instead of 1st, he or she would be able to get a note from a pediatrician/licensed clinical social worker/preschool director/etc. In other words, it's my hunch this would be just another hurdle to jump through, and would not solve the "problem" that some apparently perceive with red-shirting.

  23. 1:50pm
    One of my relatives who used to consult for SF private schools until he couldn't stand it anymore noted that the red-shirting (now demanded by private schools) is an easy way to improve test scores and perceived academic achievement. E.g. "Your 8-year-old is reading at a 1st grade level? No problem, because he's in 1st grade!"

    Maybe it's a coincidence that a school like West Portal (with good test scores) is saying kids with fall birthdays aren't welcome. But in general I don't think it's an accident that as test scores have become more important to schools, there's increasing pressure on parents to keep younger kids out of kindergarten.

    It's true that a couple of decades ago there was a crazy fad for sending kids to kindergarten way too young, but historically it was typical for kids to turn 5 in their kindergarten year. My grandmother was considered only moderately young when she started 1st grade at 4.5 years.

  24. December 23 at 9:13 pm -- I think the NYC rule would put terrible pressure on parents. Yes, you can say that it is easy to get a "professional" -- whatever that means -- to write a note, but I definitely would not have wanted such a rule when we decided to red shirt our son. Our son had a late November birthday. He was shy and withdrawn socially. Our preschool said it was up to us about redshirting -- they said they were really on the fence about it. We decided that a year would give him a chance to get out of his shell. There was nothing wrong with him, he was just immature. He is now in fourth grade at public school in SF. Every time we talk about redshirting, we say "Thank God we did that!" That extra time gave him the confidence to interact socially better with his peers. Could I have arm-twisted my pediatrician into giving me a note? Probably. But why should I have to go through such a rigamarole? Why isn't this the parents decision? And why stigmatize my child with a document indicating his immaturity for school?

  25. There are a lot of arguments from both sides (advocates of earlier or later admission). No one should forget, that parental care, especially in early years of young human, is something that could not be overestimated. It is not only the matter of education, but also emotional development of child.