by: Stephanie Duhon

Parents who have children born in the late summer face a dilemma once their child reaches school age. Do they enroll their child in school at age 5, where they will be among the youngest in the class? Or do they wait a year, where their child will be among the oldest in the class?

What makes it even more confusing for parents is that the cutoff date varies widely depending on where you live. In Texas, your child must be 5 years old before September 1 in order to enroll for Kindergarten. Other states have a cutoff near the end of September and some are even as late as November.

My daughter was born on September 9, so when she reaches school age, I won’t have to make that choice. Part of me wishes I did as I don’t like the idea of her having to wait a year simply because she was born 8 days too late. But, at the same time, I understand that logistically, school districts can’t individually test each child for readiness. They must have some guidelines in place. So, for better or for worse, that decision is out of my hands. But for many parents whose children were born in July and August, they have a decision to make that will have a profound impact on their child no matter which route they choose.

According to a recent report on “60 Minutes,” waiting a year to enroll your child in school, also known as “redshirting,” is on the rise. In fact, it has nearly tripled since the 1970s. The National Center for Education Statistics finds about 9 percent of children eligible for Kindergarten are redshirted each year. Boys are twice as likely to be held back than girls and redshirting is more common among the rich.

Parents cited in the story said they wanted their kids to be one of the oldest in the class as opposed to the youngest. Others said they simply felt their child was not ready to start school. One of the most obvious effects of redshirting is that it leaves some kids competing with children who are as much as 18 months older. At age 5 and 6, an 18-month age gap is significant. Experts are divided on whether redshirting offers a true advantage.

A study by economist Elizabeth Dhuey analyzed data from hundreds of thousands of students in 19 countries. She found that as late as 8th grade, on average, the older students in the class had higher test scores than their classmates. But other experts disagree, saying any advantage actually disappears as children get older. In fact, they’ve found redshirting can come with its own problems, including increased behavioral problems, as older kids may be bored in class and act out.

While redshirting is probably necessary for some children, it’s a good idea to talk it over with other people in your child’s life to ensure you are making the best decision for your child. Before deciding for or against redshirting, look at these tips from Lillian Katz of the Education Resource Information Center:

*Check with your child’s school to see what the readiness screening procedures are for Kindergarten. This will help give you an idea of how your child will fare.

*Ask your child’s preschool teacher for his or her opinion on your child’s readiness.

*Don’t pass along your apprehension of your child starting school to your child. If you are confident, they will be too.

*Be clear about which behaviors your child exhibits that make you uncertain about their readiness for school

*More tips (www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Academic_Young/?page=3)

Sources:

“60 Minutes”

Education.com