An interview published this week with NPR asks education professor Diane Schanzenbach of Northwestern University about her motivation to gather the research on academic redshirting in her recent article for Education Next “Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten: ‘Redshirting’ may do more harm than good,” which challenges Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that being among the oldest in one’s peer group is always an advantage.
… the goal of this article was to try and present more information so that parents feel equipped to make the decision that they think is best for their kid. Certainly, we don’t think never redshirting is the right idea, but we did think it was going to be useful to provide additional info, especially to the type of parent who wants to understand [what the data shows.]
In her article with Stephanie Larson, director of Rose Hall Montessori School in Illinois, the authors conclude that in most cases, delaying kindergarten enrollment generally isn’t worth it.
…the benefit of being older at the start of kindergarten declines sharply as children move through the school grades. In the early grades, an older child will tend to perform better on standardized tests than his younger peers simply by virtue of being older. This makes perfect sense—a redshirted kindergartner has been alive up to 20 percent longer than his on-time counterpart, which means his brain has had more time to develop and he has had that many more bedtime stories, puzzles, and family outings from which to build his general knowledge. This initial advantage in academic achievement dissipates sharply over time, however, and appears to vanish by high school when, as a 9th grader, the redshirted student is at most 7 percent older than his peers.
The authors also find that when it comes to social and emotional development, younger students gain an advantage by being exposed to older classmates. Learn more here.