“Redshirting” – Experts See Advantages to Entering Kindergarten Later

Starting kindergarten early may not be ideal for all children’s cognitive development.  The Rand Corporation produced a compelling Research Brief titled, Delaying Kindergarten: Effects on Test Scores and Childcare Costs.  The results of the research are striking because the learning aptitude playing field is leveled among socio-economic groups when entering kindergarten is delayed.

My curiosity, in what difference several months makes, was renewed when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s, Outliers: The Story of Success, which describes sports success and kids who were born earlier in a given age cohort.  As a bestseller, the birth month and ‘demographic luck’ of children in classrooms became a topic much discussed by parents and educators.  The idea of holding a child back a year before entering kindergarten is called, “redshirting.”

The Rand study looks into what happens with redshirt children entering kindergarten later.  Sets compared gains from five and 6 year olds entering kindergarten.  Among the findings: “Disadvantaged children do significantly better on standardized tests and learn more…” when they enter school later.  Using standardized math and reading scores, the report’s author, Ashlesha Datar, found that later entry boosts test scores for all children, and all children benefit.  Even ‘ready’ and more economically privileged (“not poor’”) learners, if beginning later, made greater gains than they did if they entered kindergarten earlier. Using birth date and school entry data comparing younger to older kindergarteners, the author found both ‘poor‘ and ‘not poor’ children showed strong achievement increases at six. The greatest increase was shown for ‘not poor’ reading skills.

One problem for parents and communities is what to do with redshirt children starting school a year later – the economic burden preschool poses – and the report points out that disadvantaged children may languish outside any curriculum. An additional year in a preparatory program can become an unmanageable financial burden, even for middle class parents.

The promise of educational apps couldn’t be greater in conditions where not all children will have ready access to an additional year of preschool.  With an additional age level in preschools, and children more capable of independent learning, some parents may opt for community support groups that organize more mature children into play and study groups, with a few mothers supervising outings to parks and libraries.  Or, what about if kindergarten became a two-year program, tiered for those ready to move forward?  Early-fives is roughly modeled along these lines.

The Rand Report recommends that future policy planning and any overhaul, be tied to childcare costs, as parents come to terms with later entry being appropriate for some children, and what the delay means in culturally diverse homes, communities, and schools.  Some children are ‘ready’ at five.  On the other hand, remedial support programs in schools are becoming increasingly costly, as specialists attend to children who are less ready.  Learning with educational apps is one way schools are beginning to offset specialist’ costs (and scarcity), working with teachers who are trained to utilize learning apps using smart technologies.  The technology follows a child’s progress, stores those data, which are then utilized in order to assess skill levels and improvements in given specialized curricula. The apps help kids advance individually, which saves them from peer embarrassment, as they learn.
Related Online Topics:
New York Times Book Review: Outliers
CBS News – 60 Minutes: Kindergarten “redshirting.” What would you do?

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