Redshirting Kindergarten

first day of school photo

They grow up so fast
(Photo by Dan Previte)

Nearly 10 percent of parents are opting to
“redshirt” their Kindergarten-eligible sons and daughters, waiting an extra
year to start their schooling. The underlying assumption of the decision is
that a more emotionally and mentally mature youngster will have a leg-up on his
or her weaker peers. (Recall that Gladwell made this argument about Canadian
hockey players in Outliers.) But, according
to neuroscientists Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt, these parents are wrong. Older Kindergarteners
may start out slightly ahead, but their younger classmates catch up in math and
reading quickly—and these “redshirted” students actually perform worse by high school.
This is a strong argument for starting school early, especially for the youngsters
who don’t interact with older children or challenging content at home (the
two main spurs of cognitive development, according to Wang and Aamodt). But don’t
raise that “early-Kindergarten-for-all” placard, just yet. Child development
can be catalyzed through all sorts of avenues outside school. And engaged parents
deserve the right to choose whether four or five is the right age for little
Susie to take her first school-bus ride.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on redshirting Kindergarten from the Education Gadfly Show podcast


Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril
,” by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt, New York Times, September 24, 2011.