Redshirting: good or bad? New research adds to the debate
Posted by Dean Holden at May 21st, 2014
by Annie Murphy Paul, 5 March 2014
The phenomenon of “redshirting” is one of great interest, and some controversy, among parents of children starting school. The questions it raises boil down to this: Is it better to send a child into kindergarten as one of the younger students in the class, or is it better to hold a child back so that he or she is among the oldest?
Experts have come up with varied answers. For example, in an article in The New York Times, “Delay Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril,” researchers Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt argue that the youngest children in kindergarten benefit “from the increased challenges of a demanding environment”—that is, school. “Learning is maximized not by getting all the answers right, but by making errors and correcting them quickly,” they note. “In this respect, children benefit from being close to the limits of their ability.”
On the other hand, Elizabeth Dhuey, an economist at the University of Toronto at Scarborough, “has published a number of studies suggesting that the older kids are in a class, the better they fare academically, the more leadership roles they have in high school, and the more likely they are to attend elite universities,” reports journalist Melinda Wenner Moyer in a well-researched piece on Slate.
Here’s the latest bit of research to digest, as reported by Peggy McGlone in The Star-Ledger: “University of Missouri professor Francis Huang analyzed data from a national longitudinal study of kindergarten class of 1998-99 and found that the youngest students were far more likely to be retained, or held back, than other students.”
Huang also homed in on a factor that I and other parents have wondered about, but that I haven’t seen addressed by research before: a child’s physical size. McGlone writes: “Huang also found that a child’s size is related to retention, and that a smaller kindergarten student is more likely to repeat the grade than a larger student. This relationship existed even after accounting for age, socioeconomic status and academic abilities.”
McGlone ends her article with a manifestly sensible comment from the researcher. “‘The youngest students in a classroom can be nine to 12 months less mature than their older peers,’ Huang said. ‘Since older kindergarteners can have as much as 20 percent more life experience than their youngest peers, teachers need to meet students where they are developmentally and adjust instruction based on a student’s ability.’”
<Hmmmm, this make me wonder about age-group coaching. In hockey, we have two-year divisions with Dec 31 being the cut-off date. If hockey changed to one-year cut-offs, would this be better? What other ways could this difference be minimized, while remaining workable? I know soccer does one-year groupings. It would be interesting to hear from soccer coaches and other sports as to the pros and cons of their age grouping decisons. – DH>