Thursday, May 30, 2013

NYT: Delay Kindergarten At Your Child's Peril

In the US, one in 11 kindergarteners have been held back a year compared with when they should have begun school. In today's* the New York Times, Sandra and I have an article on this practice, called redshirting, and the fact that it brings very little lasting benefit for a child.

If you are interested in the science behind our article, see here (Word document) and here (PDF)Update: in addition, all the literature references are available as PDFs in this ZIP file.

*Parents are making decisions on fall enrollments, so we've moved this to the top of the page. -Sam Wang

7 comments:

K5 Learning said...

I just read your NTY article 'Delay kindergarten at your child's peril'. Great article; we are always trying to deliver the message: 'Delay learning at your child's peril', as we are greatly perplexed by the degree which we fail to challenge our kids in the early years. Your contributions are most welcome. We'd love you to do a guest blog post about your book or thoughts on early education (www.k5learning.com/blog). Regards

Michael said...

I read this and just had to comment... we went through this with our kids, but so did my mom. I'm 45 with a birthday in a few days; I started Kindergarten when I was a month away from turning 5. The trouble started the first day -- apparently I shocked the teacher by reading what she had written on the blackboard. I spent another month, watching the other kids learn their letters, while I struggled with scissors.

In the end, I was pulled out of kindergarten and sent back to nursery school for another year. I started first grade on schedule the next fall, at age 5, soon to be 6.

I'm now a reasonably successful engineer, with a masters degree, working for a semiconductor manufacturer, with a wife of 22 years and 3 kids. However, with the issues I had with social and physical maturity, my mom is still convinced she should have held me back a year.

Indie Pereira said...

This is a point of frustration for me. Two of my children were born days after the kindergarten cut off for our state and the schools are completely inflexible. In preschool programs, both were placed with the older children, but in public school they were placed in classes in which they are always the oldest for their level. To some extent this has been mitigated by the fact that it is a mixed age Montessori environment, but they have frequently been held back from things simply because of those couple of days difference. One of the children was born a week and a half past her due date making her in a technical sense much older than a number of children in the next grade level up. And it also cost thousands of dollars in childcare to pay for an extra year.

MCS said...

Dear Ms. Aamodt and Mr. Wang,
Thank you thank you for your article! We've got to decide by Tuesday and are feeling much pressure from our chosen school to redshirt our Dd. Unfortunately, I'm the critical type and I NEED to see the literature for myself. I'd love to see your references, but your links aren't working. Any chance you could fix those links and let me know &/or email the .doc? Thanks, Mary

Sam Wang said...

Try the links in the post now. We've updated the .doc and .pdf of our article, and also provided a .zip file that contains all the original technical literature. In addition to that, more information is available in our book Welcome To Your Brain. Good luck!

Unknown said...

Does the literature focus primarily on the age of a child relative to other children in a class, or is consideration given to the age of a child when considered independently?

Our district is changing its cutoff date from October to August 1, but since we applied before the cutoff change, our daughter (a late Aug birthday) can be grandfathered in.

She would be entering a Montessori program this fall as a just turned 3 year old, so kindergarten is actually still 2 years away - making it difficult to make this decision now. But if we don't enroll her now, she definitely won't start kindergarten until 6. She will either be barely 5, or barely 6 when kindergarten officially starts.

That said, I'm concerned about missing this opportunity to start her given that the district's cutoff has moved to such an early date. Not only would she be one of the oldest children in the class, but she will just be old for kindergarten material.

Sam Wang said...

This is interesting. In our view, the principal challenge has been to separate effects of (a) age relative to other children in the class, and (b) absolute age.

In most cases, positive claims for redshirting use evidence of type (b). In other words, of course the oldest kid in kindergarten will seem to be doing better. But compared with others of the same age, he/she is doing slightly worse on average.

In your case, if you have the option, and your girl seems ready, then give serious consideration to the grandfathering option. Our general conclusion from surveying the research literature is that it is better to be younger than one's peers -- not older.