As pressure builds on parents to give their children a leg up on their peers in an academically competitive world, it was inevitable that holding them back a year before enrolling them in kindergarten would seem sensible. After all, redshirting, as the practice is called in athletics, pays off because children are bigger and stronger. Why can’t similar advantages accrue academically?
But a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “contrary to much academic and popular discussion of school entry age - being old relative to one’s peers is not beneficial” (“How Redshirting Your Kindergartner Could Backfire,” Mother Jones, Oct. 2). Whatever small benefits existed faded over time. Moreover, a large-scale study at 26 Canadian elementary schools reported that first graders who were young for their year made considerably greater progress in reading and math than kindergartners who were old for their year (“Delay Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril,” The New York Times, Sept. 24, 2011).
At last count, 16 states and the District of Columbia require students to attend kindergarten. I think other states should make kindergarten mandatory. Children from poor and minority families, foster homes, and those with disabilities would benefit the most. Let’s not forget that the first six years in any child’s life are a time of tremendous growth in the developing brain. Therefore, delaying enrollment in kindergarten, except for the most compelling reasons, is counterproductive. Yet some parents think they are giving their children an advantage. I don’t get it.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.