Academic Redshirting – Does it Really Help?

Redshirting school

Redshirting is holding a child back to start school later. Many parents hold a child back because they feel she isn’t ready — cognitively, socially, or emotionally. Other parents may want to give their child a leg up, on the assumption that being older will make her more advanced. I know some parents who do this to avoid future problems, such as not wanting their child to be the youngest in junior high or high school.

I never even considered this with my kids. Then again, my 2 boys both started school at age 6 because they both have late fall birthdays and missed the cutoff to start at age 5. So, I guess I redshirted, by default? Haha 🙂

Doing a bit of research on this, I came upon Gary Painter, an associate professor at USC’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development, who authored a paper on redshirting. Painter’s work is based on a longitudinal study that looked at academic and social outcomes of delayed kindergarten entry. He followed children starting at age four or five through age 25 or 26. Incredibly, he found no academic or social benefit to redshirting (The one exception? Varsity football.) In fact, he found a small benefit to being younger in terms of slightly higher college attendance rates. But is Painter’s data, which is necessarily old (his subjects are now all in their thirties), on target? “There’s other research out there from here and abroad that finds older kids do slightly better than younger kids while they’re in school,” Painter says. “We need to keep a close eye on it.”

I have also found, upon researching this ‘fad’, that most of the redshirting is being done by upper-middle-class families, where parents want to give their children every advantage, and want their kids to be ahead of their peers. I find that extremely interesting! It’s crazy – the competition between PARENTS, the kids are the pawns….

Did you redshirt your children? If so why and what was the outcome?

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