Education Editorial: Kindergarten 'Redshirting'

A study out of UVA and Stanford has addressed an educational phenomenon that is getting much press. The issue is kindergarten "redshirting."

The idea of holding a college athlete "back" a year to get more experience has found its way to elementary schools. Many believe that parents are simply gaming the system to seek academic...or athletic advantage.

With numerous stories in the national media, especially New York, the issue may seem bigger than it is.

The research indicates that about four percent of parents actually "redshirt" their children.
Most of these young people are white, male and are raised in upper middle class homes. About one percent of black children are redshirted.

With this context, what are the likely pros and cons of this highly publicized but infrequently used strategy? Schools are typically structured more for girls than boys. Holding a boy for another year of "maturity" is not an unreasonable parental decision. But for those who believe that there is an advantage to be had, they may want to read Gladwell's "Outliers" again.

While I am a fan of Gladwell's trilogy, he makes the observation that hard work, talent, ambition, and age are factors that determine the achievement of hockey players. With a ten-year analysis of professional players, age does not seem to be a factor.

As with public policy, New York State has now reacted to a non-issue by requiring young people to start at the designated age…essentially blocking "redshirting". Perhaps the real question for parents isn't "Whether or not my child is ready" but… Whether or not we are ready"?

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