Kindergarten “red-shirting:” What about summer birthdays?

Posted: Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


It’s that time of year when parents are facing a tough decision: another year of preschool for their child with a summer birthday? Or send them to kindergarten as one of the youngest in the class?

We faced this very decision in our family. Twice. Molly’s birthday is August 13; Anna’s is July 2. Two summer babies, two very different children. I’ve blogged about this before, actually twice!, and those posts have generated many comments. Clearly we weren’t alone in our worrying.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently carried a story Kindergartners “Redshirted” to Gain Edge, in which Harvard researchers suggest that red shirting (1) increases the potential for high school drop outs and (2) threatens depressed lifetime earnings because the student’s entry into the labor market is reduced by a year. Pretty grim stuff!

Are you facing this decision? I wish I had an easy answer for you. We waited with one, and sent the other. In both cases, I’m pretty sure we made the right decision. But our decisions weren’t based on my background as a teacher or reading specialist, a Harvard study or any other panel report. It really came down to our parental instincts about each girl.

As an educator and as a mother, I would recommend waiting if you’ve got a child who isn’t ready academically, socially, or emotionally. It’s a fast-paced world, and I don’t see the need to rush into it. Kindergarten is a much different place than it was 10 years ago.

I’m going to talk about this our school’s principal and some of the kindergarten teachers soon, and I’ll let you know their opinions too. But for those facing this decision now, what are your thoughts?

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3 Responses to “Kindergarten “red-shirting:” What about summer birthdays?”

  1. Ann Says:

    I have been searching everywhere for information and advice on this topic. I am so confused that I am unable to determine what my “gut” feeling is.
    I live in the New Haven, CT area and the cutoff date is January 1. My daughter has a mid-December birthday so she is eligible to head off to kindergarten which her (public)preschool teacher says she is totally ready for. She is a petite little girl but outgoing and bright. I’m not worried about her readiness now, I’m more worried how things will be for her later on down the road, like middle school or high school.
    At the kindergarten registration a few weeks ago, she acted uncharacteristically anxious and didn’t want to participate in the assessment. Eventually, she did the activities, but I was so surprised at her behavior. I was expecting her to be much more cooperative.
    Most of the moms I’ve spoken to are all keeping their kids in preschool an extra year. I am still trying to decide, but I have reserved a spot in an excellent preschool that offers a 3day, full-time program.

  2. christine Says:

    I am currently living in Florida and considering moving to CT. My daughter has an August birthday and in Florida the cut off is Sept. 1st. She is the youngest in the class and the smallest. Although academically she is ok, I fear she is emotionally not as mature as her classmates. My question is if I move to CT where the cutoff is Jan. 1st, would it be in my best interest to hold her back ?

  3. Says:

    Hi Christine,

    Your question has been posed to the community via JustAsk. You can track responses here:

    Please use JustAsk for any future education and parenting questions you may have. Thanks!

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