Through the Education Lens

"Gaming the System: Redshirting in Kindergarten"

CJ Westerberg, March 5, 2012 10:03 AM


"I wonder if we'll look back on the way children were raised
in our particular time and place and say, 'What were we thinking?'"
-Malcolm Gladwell

Videos Below:
1) Segment  2) Overtime 3) Gladwell's Solution
4) Advantages   5) A teacher's point-of-view

Last night on 60 Minutes, one of the featured topics was the increased use of "reshirting" in Kindergarten by parents.  Redshirting is holding a child back a year before starting Kindergarten to be one of the "older" children in the class or, in other words, starting Kindergarten at age 6 rather than at age 5,  gaining possible advantage by being more developed physically, academically and emotionally than the other younger children.

It just shows how far we have fallen off the rails in terms of education having become mainly about being a competition among students, not what education is supposed to be about, and certainly not what may be best developmentally for the child.  This isn't a story about "blaming" parents. They are just trying to have their child have the best shot in this education system that is presently set up  to sort, rank, and measure progress according to a "standard."   Parents want to insure that their kids don't fall short and be pegged as such. Just check out the other Kindergarten story below, with the craziness of test-prep at this age.  This type of behavior is  actually being encouraged by the school system. Then, blame is placed at parents for being overly concerned about test scores, and messing up the system, and so the circular reasoning continues with no end in sight . . .  with mainly students and teachers being caught in the crossfire and taking the brunt of the effects.

According to CBS, the movement is often cited as attributed to the findings by Malcolm Gladwell, (also featured in the video below), in the best selling book "Outliers," which "has become the Bible for parents of 4 and 5-year-olds:"

   "In that part of the book, I'm talking about a concept called "cumulative advantage" and that is the idea that a little extra nudge ahead when you're 6 can mean that you're slightly better positioned when you're 7, and that means you're slightly better positioned when you're 8, and so on. And you can see this pattern in one field after another."
                                                                       - Malcolm Gladwell

Countering the Gladwell view, Samuel Meisels, president of Chicago's Erikson Institute, "says while redshirting may be appropriate for some kids, it mostly amounts to educational quackery."

 "I think that as children get older that whatever advantage is conferred
by starting school a year older decreases dramatically.
- Samuel Meisels

60 Minutes:  "He says kids develop at different rates. He points to studies that show negative consequences of redshirting; including increased behavioral problems in older kids who may be bored in classes that are just too easy for them."

Meisels: We see more dropouts among children who are held out. We see less achievement despite the fact that some research shows it one way, more research shows it the other way. At best we could conclude that the research is split on this and there's another moral lesson for the parents which I know most parents don't wanna hear. And that is this is inequitable.

Gladwell: Parents are grasping at every straw available to them to try and maximize their children's chances of doing well in the world. I wonder if we'll look back on the way children were raised in our particular time and place and say, "What were we thinking?"

The Test-Prep Kindergarten Nightmare

  • w w

    Don't do this. You don't know what the future holds. My nephew was very bright, eager to learn. Sister missed deadlines to put him in private/public schools. Already year late.

    Middle of 8th grade, moved across country, didn't meet standards and held back. 10th grade, moved back, held back again. Had to fake age and residency to get a school to accept him as an over-age senior. Summer schools weren't enough, he was denied graduation and now has to pay for GED at 20.

    Please prioritize education enough to keep kids on their normal age and grade track.

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