The New York Times reveals another side of the waiting-to-start-kindergarten question.
Mary C. Bounds writes (excerpt):
The irony of it, said Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development in Chicago, is that parents who hold their children out of kindergarten because it is too academic add to pressures a year later to make it even more academic. Dr. Meisels is one of the most outspoken critics of what has become known as academic red-shirting.
”Parents who observe a kindergarten class in the spring before their child enters school and are not sure if their child will do well because it’s very academic in orientation may keep him out another year,” Dr. Meisels said. ”Then, lo and behold, the year after that, their child is bored. The parent then goes to the teacher and says, ‘He’s not being challenged. You’ve got to give him more work’ and this sets up a cycle that makes kindergartens more and more academic.”
Does holding children back make a difference? Opinions are mixed among early childhood education experts, but the growing consensus seems to be that younger children learn just as well as older ones, and schools should be able to teach all age-ready students. But many teachers and parents think some younger children do better to sit out a year.
Whatever slight academic advantages older students might have in the early years typically evaporate by third grade, experts say. In a 2002 report, Deborah Stipek, dean of the School of Education at Stanford, found that existing research showed that on average older children did not academically outperform their younger peers. Nor are there social or emotional benefits to being older in the grade, her own research has found.
”It’s one of the conventional wisdoms that take hold in our society that parents are giving their children a great advantage if they’re older,” she said. ”But there’s real data out there showing that for most children that’s not true, and parents should know there’s a downside if their children are intellectually capable of handling kindergarten.”