As kindergarten has become more academic, some families realize that their five year olds are not ready for the demands. In a practice known as "redshirting," parents choose to delay enrollment by one year to give the child extra time to mature. The research shows that entering kindergarten later leads to academic and social advantages. Yet not all families get the same opportunity to make this decision for their children. Nationally and locally, redshirting is allowed more often for White and affluent families than for children of color and lower SES families.
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Since delayed enrollment is an advantage, it should be available to all children.
In California, children can attend kindergarten if they will be 5 years old by September 1. However, some families decide to wait a year, most often because a child has a summer birthday very close to the cut off date or because the parents percieve that their child is not yet ready to meet the academic and social demands of kindergarten.
Researchers have found many benefits to delaying kindergarten. For example, McNamara, Scissons & Simonot (2004) found that older kindergarteners do better than younger kindergarteners in understanding letter-sound relationships. Gottfried, Le & Datar (2016) found that ELLs who entered kindergarten one year after they were first age-eligible (redshirters) outperformed younger students in the class on both reading and math measures. This study also compared social skills, with older students earning higher ratings of self-control, interpersonal skills and approaches to learning.
Bassok & Reardon (2013) studied national rates of delayed entry. They found that in the US, white students and students from high income families delay kindergarten entry (“redshirt”) more often than students of color or low income students. There were large differences between redshirting rates at different schools. Students that attend schools that are predominantly white or have low numbers of students who qualify for free lunch are more likely to delay kindergarten than students who attend schools that have lower numbers of white students or higher numbers of students who qualify for free lunch. This is an equity issue. An equitable education system would allow all parents the same opportunities to exercise choice regarding when their children begin kindergarten.
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