Rethink Redshirting

I discovered the term for this practice from reading Lise Eliot's Pink Brain, Blue Brain. 
Due to the fact that girls do mature somewhat faster, some parents feel their boys could be at a disadvantage in school with girls who have greater verbal development. Consequently, boys are more often selected by parents to start school later in the practice called redshirting.  

In fact, school principals and teachers often promote redshirting for girls, as well, either by advising parents of children near the cut off dates to hold the child back for the sake of better competitive advantage or by forcing the effect on everyone by arbitrarily moving up the cut off date, say from December to mid-October or even September. Despite their claims of expertise, they could be setting people on the wrong track: 

Whatever the motives, most research finds the practice of redshirting misguided. Although the older children in a class may have a modest advantage in kindergarten and the first few grades, their academic boost typically fades by later elementary school. There is also some evidence that children who were held back are more vulnerable to risk taking and other emotional and behavioral problems when they reach adolescence of their classmates.

Aside from that, it is possible that their on par performance that is due to being older than their classmates could conceal the fact that they have “true development delays or learning disabilities” that are better addressed earlier than later (144-145). 

For more points drawn from the book, see my longer post on it at

Related post:

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It also seems preferable to keep the child with his or her age group and get help for the specific issue.
We pushed my daughter ahead (5 weeks!). Now in 3rd grade she is thriving socially, but it hasn't been easy.
Ariella said…
In my (somewhat limited, I grant you) experience with schools, the impression I get is that they believe retaining children makes their life easier -- and the their applies to the children and the administration. That is because they tend to focus on the lowest point of achievement for their measure.

For example, when I once brought up the possibility of having a child skip a grade, the principal said that even if the child is completely up to grade level in all the academic subjects, there usually will be a lag in some area, even if only jumping rope. Now this is absolutely absurd if you think about it. It means that you are keeping a child behind her ability in reading, math, etc., just because there may be one area in which she may be somewhat below average. (Ironically, the child I had in mind is very athletic, and the child that I allowed the schools to retain would say she can't skip rope, so much for that logic.)

So again, they will look at the child's weakest point to define when placement if the question should come up, which tends to get raised more for children near the cut off age.

A related blog post came up back in 2008: I'll put the link into the post here.
Orthonomics said…
Food for thought.

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