Pros and Cons of Academic Redshirting

Is Academic Redshirting Right for Your Child?

teacher reading to kindergartners

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If your four-year-old won't celebrate their fifth birthday until summer or fall, you may be asking yourself whether or not they're ready for kindergarten. The question of whether you should hold them out a year or send them to school may even be on your mind. You won't be alone in pondering this question. A 2013 study in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis reports that this phenomenon, known as academic redshirting, occurs yearly in approximately 4-5% of the kindergarten-age population.

What Is Academic Redshirting?

Academic redshirting is the practice of keeping a child who is age-eligible for kindergarten out of school an extra year and enrolling him the next fall. Eligibility depends on in which state you live, for some the cut-off is as early as June 15, while for others, it's as late as December 1.

The Typical Candidate for Academic Redshirting

The majority of children who are held out a year are boys with late summer or early fall birthdays. Though girls, too, are held out, because many boys mature slower than their female peers they are frequently singled out as not being ready for school. Furthermore, the information presented by the National Center for Education Statistics notes that children who were academically redshirted were twice as likely to be white, non-Hispanic children from affluent neighborhoods. This suggests that for children being held out a year, childcare or the need for publicly run preschool--such as Headstart or a public PreK program--may be a deciding factor in whether or not a child is enrolled when he is age-eligible.

The Pros of Holding Your Child Out a Year

For some children, the short-term benefits of delaying kindergarten entrance by a year are worth it, particularly if a child's readiness skills are below that of his age-eligible peers. Research shows that in comparison to age-similar students, upon school entrance children who are academically redshirted often:

  • achieve academically in math and reading either at par with or above their classroom peers.
  • have increased social confidence and popularity.
  • are less likely to be singled out for correction in regard to academic performance or classroom conduct.
  • require less special education services than children who were retained in kindergarten instead of redshirted.

The Cons of Holding Your Child Out a Year

For other children, both the short and long-term consequences outweigh the benefits. The biggest reason parents give for holding a child out a year is that he doesn't seem as mature as his peers, either socially or academically. While in many cases an extra year can make a big difference in development, sometimes what is perceived as immaturity is actually an undiagnosed disability that could be addressed by special education services. Other cons of academic redshirting include:

  • difficulty making and maintaining friendships with younger classmates, especially during the adolescent years.
  • losing an extra year of special education services on the tail end of school if a student has significant disabilities covered under the IDEA.

Deciding Whether or Not to Redshirt

Trying to figure out whether or not to hold your child out a year isn't easy and the answer may not lie in the research which remains inconclusive as to whether academic-redshirting has positive or negative effects. Your question is more likely to be answered by asking more questions. Consider the answers to these questions before deciding what's right for your child:

  • What specifically, other than his age, makes you feel your child isn't ready for kindergarten?
  • Has he been to preschool? How has that experience been for him and what does his teacher have to say about his readiness for kindergarten?
  • How rigorous a kindergarten program does your district have? What will the teacher's expectations be and can your child meet them?
  • What will your child be doing to get ready for kindergarten during the year he is not in school?
  • Has your child participated in a kindergarten screening or other developmental screening? What were the results? If a delay was discovered will it be able to be addressed if he is not in school?
2 Sources
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  1. Bassok D, Reardon S. “Academic Redshirting” in Kindergarten: Prevalence, Patterns, and ImplicationsEduc Eval Policy Anal. 2013;35(3):283-297. doi:10.3102/0162373713482764

  2. Huang F. Investigating the Prevalence of Academic Redshirting Using Population-Level DataAERA Open. 2015;1(2):233285841559080. doi:10.1177/2332858415590800