Domestic Diversions

Red shirting the little ones

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.”


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4 thoughts on “Red shirting the little ones

  1. Michelle

    There is no mention of starting kindergarten late for social reasons. Is a boy within a month of the cutoff age likely to be mature enough for school?

  2. Maxine

    I teach “K” in NC. There are many advantages to “holding back” a young school age child. 1. NC law says a child can be as young as 4 and as old as 7entering “K”. However, consider that age span. 5 or 10 years to and adult (age 25-ancient) isn’t a big deal as far as intellectual advantages but 6 months or 1 year is a HUGE gap in learning for the 4-6 year old. Most learning takes place between the age of 0-8 years old-one developmental ed. book said 80% of learning takes place between 0-8. I was a summer baby and entered school young. I was afraid, had chronic “schoolitus” and didn’t like school most of my school career. I was the youngest in my class, the most imature and the most inexperienced academically and probably socially. However, was raised in an affluent neighborhood with a strong large middle-class family. I didn’t try out for sports-was afraid of failure/rejection although I was tall for my age. I also think teachers expected more from me because I was so physically mature and a particularily attractive child.
    What I see-many 4-young 5 year old children don’t have the articulation skills necessary to discuss and respond to responding to questions in class. Often, you’ll get that blank stare, inability to get out the answer in a timely manner. Young children often have slower processing skills, require 10-25 second “wait time” when it comes to communication and understanding. Also, following thru on more than 1 task and directions. Many 4/young 5 can’t do 2-3 steps to complete tasks or follow-thru on independent work. They seem to get “lost” in the activity of the room, just watching peers who are more apt and proficient (6 mo. or more older). Then you begin the cycle. He/She doesn’t finish work, get behind, begin the pattern of little or no successful learning. Feel incapable. Feel inadequate. Feel insecure. Begin to see themselves as less than their peers. Begin to feel defeated. Begin to lose interest in school activities. Begin to become a “problem” child. Behavior choices become undesirerable. School becomes “WORK”-hard work and the student begins the cycle of frustration. THE MORE MATURE CHILD DOESN’T USUALLY GET As FRUSTRATED, CAN HANDLE FRUSTRATION MORE EASILY, LISTEN BETTER, FOCUSES FOR LONGER PERIODS OF TIME , FOLLOW MORE THAN 1 INSTRUCTION AT A TIME, FOLLOW THRU WITH MORE REGULARITY, ADJUST TO ROUTINE, UNDERSTANDS THE THEY CAN’T JUST PLAY ALL DAY–NOW THEY ARE GROWING UP. THEY GET THAT THE WORLD ISN’T revolving AROUND THEIR NAP AND EATING SCHEDULE. tHEY ARE MUCH LESS SELF-CENTERED AND SELFISH AND CAN SHARE AND GET ALONG WITH OTHERS. THEY ALSO BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THEY MUST LIMIT THEIR ACTIONS AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR ACTIONS. SO MUCH MORE–LIKE OPENING A MILK CARTON/KETCHUP PACKET/FORK PACKETS. HAVING THE FINE MOTOR SKILLS TO HOLD A PENCIL CORRECTLY. TO KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OTHERS, REMEMBER A 4 DIDGIT LUNCH #, STAND IN LINE AND WAIT! sO MUCH MORE–THERE ISN’T ENOUGH TIME TO EXPLAIN ALL WE SEE EACH DAY WITH THE EXPECTATIONS ON 4-5 YEAR OLDS.

  3. Bets

    I think this issue becomes more of a social issue. I suspect there are a lot of families out there who are enrolling their older child in kindergarten later…with the hopes that their child will be viewed as a gifted and talented individual by both their teachers and peers – that’s strong stuff. What parent wouldn’t want their child being viewed as “brilliant” by all the other kids in 2nd grade? I was greatly saddened when my very bright 2nd grader came home from school last year telling me that “Joe Blow was the smartest boy in all of 2nd grade.” Joe Blow is also 1 1/2 years older then my daughter. It’s especially disheartening when your child attends a school w/ a reputation know for academic excellence.

    Interesting how parental involvement in the school can also play on the preception of both teachers and peer to these children. I think school need to be aware of these children, the parents involvement in school and how they are perceived.

    This then brings up the issue of gifted and talented girls. I can’t help but wonder, “is my daughter’s ability to get an equally well paying job (to males) already being influenced? I’m already seeing that I really am going to have to advocate for my daughter academically.

  4. Anonymous

    I think this issue becomes more of a social issue. I suspect there are a lot of families out there who are enrolling their older child in kindergarten later…with the hopes that their child will be viewed as a gifted and talented individual by both their teachers and peers – that’s strong stuff. What parent wouldn’t want their child being viewed as “brilliant” by all the other kids in 2nd grade? I was greatly saddened when my very bright 2nd grader came home from school last year telling me that “Joe Blow was the smartest boy in all of 2nd grade.” Joe Blow is also 1 1/2 years older then my daughter. It’s especially disheartening when your child attends a school w/ a reputation know for academic excellence.

    Interesting how parental involvement in the school can also play on the preception of both teachers and peer to these children. I think school need to be aware of these children, the parents involvement in school and how they are perceived.

    This then brings up the issue of gifted and talented girls. I can’t help but wonder, “is my daughter’s ability to get an equally well paying job (to males) already being influenced? I’m already seeing that I really am going to have to advocate for my daughter academically.

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