To Redshirt or Not to Redshirt? Pros and Cons for holding back your Kindergartener?

My Grandson is getting ready to start Kindergarten next year. He will be 5 years old on May 15th.  In AZ, the cutoff date is age 5 by September 1stin order to start kindergarten. 

My daughter said, “Shall I hold him back and give him another year to mature?”  I wanted to do some research before I answered.  The research reports little benefit in “Redshirting” your kindergartener.

The original term “redshirting” was used when a college athlete is held out of varsity competition until he/she matures.  

The extra year allowed an athlete to grow in size and strength while still maintaining another year of eligibility.  While this student was practicing on the field, the athlete that is held out of competition would wear a red shirt.

We have transferred the term “redshirting” to delaying Kindergarten for our students in order to allow some extra time for the child to gain some socio-emotional, intellectual or physical growth.  

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This is most frequent for children whose birthdays are close to the cut-off dates that they would most likely be the youngest in the class.

The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that approximately 9% of students are “redshirted” each year. In 2010, the proportion of six-year-olds in first grade went from 96% to 84%.  

Boys are much more likely to be redshirted than girls. Children born in the latter part of the year (September – December) are five times more likely to be redshirted. 

Effects of “redshirting” in grades 1 – 3

In short term, redshirting raises the child’s academic achievement on par with or above that of younger classmates. It does increase the child’s confidence in social interactions. There is some evidence that children who were redshirted required greater use of special education services than those who were not redshirted. However, there is some speculation that some of the older children may feel ostracized from the younger classmates. 

No Long Term effects 

An extensive study from the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis in 2006 reported that delaying kindergarten does not create any measurable long-term academic advantages for children.  

It does not appear that redshirting significantly affects long-term outcomes either way. There is no definitive evidence that shows redshirting harms children in the long term.  

Some disadvantages of redshirting might be overstated in past research because when redshirting came into practice, it was typically done because the child was not demonstrating kindergarten “readiness” according to parents, teachers or health providers. 

Historically, children were redshirted because people felt they had behavior issues or were not academically ready, so this group was likely predisposed to some difficulties in the long term. 

This advantage is not seen for many other sports, and the advantage in men’s hockey appears to be on the intensive coaching given to the older and stronger children on the hockey team.  This advantage in men’s hockey appears to rise out of increased opportunities.


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 One 1997 study found that adolescents whose school entry had been delayed exhibited more behavioral problems than their classmates.  

Moreover, it has been speculated that many individuals who were redshirted as kindergarteners may have had special needs that were misdiagnosed as immaturity and that should have been treated by some form of direct intervention other than delayed entry.

In the academic arena, advantages are seen not for older students but for those that are young for their year.  

These studies are consistent with effects that are more favorable to students who are surrounded by children who are older than themselves.  

Children who are younger will strive to keep up with the older students.  So, it appears to benefit the younger children to be around the older children.  

If you’re on the fence about whether to send your child to kindergarten, it is probably safe to do so — as there is no clear evidence that suggests redshirting produces any tangible benefits.

Now over to you! What do YOU think? Share your feedback, thoughts and concerns in the KCA Private Facebook Group.


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