Featured Abstract: Kindergarten Redshirting
A new study by economists David Deming and Susan Dynarski suggests that the trend towards delaying children's entrance into kindergarten (commonly known as kindergarten redshirting) may be partially to blame for the stagnation in higher education attainment for American youth:
Forty years ago, 96% of six-year-old children were enrolled in first grade or above. As of 2005, the figure was just 84%. The school attendance rate of six-year-olds has not decreased; rather, they are increasingly likely to be enrolled in kindergarten rather than first grade. This paper documents this historical shift. We show that only about a quarter of the change can be proximately explained by changes in school entry laws; the rest reflects "academic redshirting," the practice of enrolling a child in a grade lower than the one for which he is eligible. We show that the decreased grade attainment of six-year-olds reverberates well beyond the kindergarten classroom. Recent stagnation in the high school and college completion rates of young people is partly explained by their later start in primary school. The relatively late start of boys in primary school explains a small but significant portion of the rising gender gaps in high school graduation and college completion. Increases in the age of legal school entry intensify socioeconomic differences in educational attainment, since lower-income children are at greater risk of dropping out of school when they reach the legal age of school exit.
Deming and Dynarski's logic is straightforward: Children (particularly boys) who are held back a year before entering kindergarten are a year older than their peers, which allows them to legally drop out of school a year earlier than they could have if they had started kindergarten when they were eligible, depressing educational attainment. The researchers also provide a helpful look at state policie changes moving up the cut-off date by which children must turn five in order to enter kindergarten, and the role they play in delayi8ng children's kindergarten entry. Many educators recommend redshirting children--partiuclarly boys--who have late birthdays or seem to lag their peers in language or social-emotional development. Parents need to make their own decisions based on their individual child's circumstances and needs, as well as what supports the school can offer, but this evidence should lead some parents and policymakers to think twice about delaying kindergarten entry.