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He Has a Summer Birthday: The Kindergarten Entrance Age Dilemma (page 2)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

How Does Holding out Affect the Kindergarten Experience?

It has been reported that affluent parents tend to hold out their summer-born children more often than do low socioeconomic status parents (Meisels, 1992). If that is the case, then children who may be at academic risk from factors associated with poverty face the additional hurdle of being compared to advantaged children who are 12 to 15 months older. We should expect that the economically disadvantaged children may be outperformed by their classmates who are both chronologically and developmentally their seniors.

In the real-life kindergarten classroom, the youngest children may appear to be immature and unready to tackle the tasks that their significantly older classmates find challenging and intriguing. As the curriculum and academic expectations increase to meet the needs of the 6-year-old children, there is a real danger that the kindergarten program will become developmentally inappropriate for the very young children it is meant to serve.

Did David's Parents Make the Right Decision?

David is 15 now. When he was 13, he towered above his classmates as he walked through the halls. The school desks just didn't fit his 6'3" body, and many of his teachers assumed that he must have been retained since he was older than the other students. When asked what grade he is in, David always makes it a point to explain that he started kindergarten late.

But David is well liked by students and teachers. He moved into both puberty and formal operational thought sooner than his classmates, earning their admiration. Academically, David does average and above-average work with minimal effort.

Did David's parents make the right decision in holding him out from kindergarten? They don't know. They will probably never know, but David thinks he knows the answer.


Academic achievement is only one piece of the school entrance age puzzle. The child's physical, social, and emotional development are key pieces, as well. It would seem to be the course of wisdom to consider the whole child in all of his or her aspects when making decisions about school entrance. The answers are not simple. They are further complicated because each child is different biologically and emotionally. Each child brings his own special characteristics with him as he lives and works through his unique life experiences.

The counsel of educators can bring about life-changing events in a young child's world. Blanket recommendations to hold back one group of children only serve to change who will be part of the youngest group. As educators, we must resist the urge to follow the unfounded advice of those who would recommend uniform practices that would exclude any group of children from our schools. Educators must consider the individual child as we continue to build a stronger knowledge base upon which to make entrance age decisions.

For More Information

Bracey, G. W. (1989). Age and achievement. PHI DELTA KAPPAN, 70(9), 732.

Cameron, M. B., & Wilson, B. J. (1990). The effects of chronological age, gender, and delay of entry on academic achievement and retention: Implications for academic red- shirting. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS, 27(3), 260-263. EJ 419 713.

Crosser, S. (1991). Summer birth date children: Kindergarten entrance age and academic achievement. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, 84(3), 140-146. EJ 426 449.

Kinard, E. M., & Reinherz, H. (1986). Birthdate effects on school performance and adjustment: A longitudinal study. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, 79(6), 366-372. EJ 338 335.

Meisels, S. J. (1992). Doing harm by doing good: Iatrogenic effects of early childhood enrollment and promotion policies. EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH QUARTERLY, 7(2), 155-175. EJ 450 523.

Morrison, F. J., Griffith, E. M., & Alberts, D. M. (1997). Nature-nurture in the classroom: Entrance age, school readiness, and learning in children. DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY, 33(2), 254-262. EJ 543 395.


Smith, M. L., & Shepard, L. A. (1987). What doesn't work: Explaining policies of retention in the early grades. PHI DELTA KAPPAN, 69(2), 129-134. EJ 359 345.

Suro, R. (1992, January 5). Holding back to get ahead. THE NEW YORK TIMES, p. 4A 30-32.

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