Sunday, March 3, 2019

Red Shirting Kindergarten

If you aren't familiar with the term, RED SHIRTING is a term used in college sports where a freshman is part of the team, trains with the team, but doesn't play. They are given a year to mature their skills before entering the fray. 

This term has become applied to the choice to allow young 5 year olds [as of the kindergarten cut-off age], children an extra year of maturity prior to entering kindergarten. 

This is more important for young 5 boys, those who turn 5 only a few months prior to the school cut-off date. In the U.S.A., this is almost universally right around September 1.

When the practice first started, it was used by affluent families to give their child an advantage in academics and sports. Now, with the pushing down of academic skills to developmentally in-appropriate levels in schools, the removal of recesses and free play time, and the requirements of sitting still and paying attention for far longer than is age appropriate, it is becoming a necessity for children born close to the cut-off date. 

When the K-12 education model was developed in 1847, life expectancy was 37 years. That is double now, but we are pushing academic expectations down and eliminating childhood freedom to develop normally. Children actually have MORE time available to develop, grow and learn, but we are pushing them to do academics that aren't even developmentally appropriate. 

Much of the internet hits on this topic are connected to a 60 Minutes pieces from 2012 and the book Outliers [2008, Gladwell.] If researching, please use CURRENT information. Since the introduction of Common Core Standards in 2009, which pushed required skill sets below developmentally appropriate practice [DAP], redshirting, especially for boys, has become not only more common, but necessary.
What seems to be the biggest reason that parents choose to delay their kids' enrollment into kindergarten?
It really does seem to be emotional development. In the data you can see, clearly, that this happens most for boys who are born in the summertime to highly educated parents. They want [their kids] to be able to walk tall into a classroom, advocate for themselves, be an active participant in their learning.

Dr. Suzanna Jones in her dissertation, Academic Redshirting: Perceived Life Satisfaction of Adolescent Males, found that:

On the Life Satisfaction Scale, redshirted students showed significantly higher levels of life satisfaction than those who had not been redshirted. The feelings described by subjects in the interviews offered substantial evidence that redshirted students were happy with the decision their parents made, and those who were not [redshirted] wished they had been. Although this was a small study, it suggests that parents who opt to redshirt their children may be setting them up for a generally more satisfying life later on.
Interviews with parents offered similar insights: “The parents of the redshirted students all said they would do it again, no questions asked,” Jones reports. “When I asked: If you had another child today born in the summer, what would you do? Automatically (they said): ‘We would redshirt.’ No considerations whatsoever. The non-redshirted group, seven of the ten said that they would redshirt the next time. Without consideration of anything—how they’re doing at school—they would just automatically, summer boy, we would redshirt.” 
One of my client's talked to her pediatrician last week about whether or not she should send her son to kindergarten next year. Her pediatrician, based solely upon her son's birthday and nothing else, said, "Absolutely not!" They discussed it further and her pediatrician said one thing that really stuck out to both of us, "The consequences may not show up until 6th grade." 

It's still rare, but there's been a troubling rise in suicide by children younger than 12.
...medical professionals and researchers have noted alarming increases in the last decade – deaths more than doubled from 2008 to 2016 – and rising numbers of young children visiting emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and attempts. [source]
Another client's pediatrician: "If you can keep him out another year, I would strongly advise it."

In a blog post it reads, "Our pediatrician told me that if we have a child born AFTER March, we should wait to send them (the cut-off here is September 1st)."

Why? Because boys are entering school, being compared to girls who naturally show about an extra year of emotional and social advancement, along with the ability sit still, pay attention and follow directions. Girls with ADHD are usually not diagnosed, because even they have this ability to conform. When boys are not DEVELOPMENTALLY CAPABLE of performing at a similar level, they are termed bad, wrong, a problem. They are being labeled as LESS THAN from the moment they step into a school system. 
In some school districts, by the fifth grade 28% of boys had been diagnosed with ADHD. In other communities, being young for one’s grade increased the chances of being prescribed stimulants 20-fold.
This is even more relevant when you consider the link found between ADHD and increased suicidal thoughts and actions. 
The reasons for the increases are unclear. Few researchers have examined suicide before age 10, so little is known about suicidal thinking and behavior in young children.
 But as they look more closely, themes are beginning to emerge. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can make impulsive youth still more impulsive, was a common characteristic found in a 2016 study by researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus
The reason many countries do not being formal education until age 7 is because at that age nearly EVERY child, can be successful as they enter Piaget's concrete operational stage of development. The younger the child is at the time of entering school, the farther away they are from this very critical cognitive developmental advancement. 
Research has largely shown that the effects of redshirting on academics are positive, with older students likely to score higher on standardized tests than their younger classmates. One recent study by Northwestern University’s David Figlio indicated that later school entry was associated with higher rates of college attendance and graduation, as well as a lower likelihood of incarceration.
I currently have 3 July birthday boys in care who will turn 5 this summer. Two of the parents are having a debate about sending or not sending this fall. One set of parents knew from the time their boy was born that they would redshirt. 

Academically, I believe two of the three would be fine. While they are all exceptionally smart, the youngest one has more trouble listening to and following directions and processing stepped incremental instruction. He works better with back-stepped "big picture" instruction, which is not done in public schools. All the boys, however, are not able to control their emotions, still throw tantrums, have difficulty focusing and sitting still for any length of time. They have a VERY difficult time when they are not interested in the subject or activity, have been forcefully transitioned from a desired activity, or are anticipating the next one. 

Normal little boys, right?


However, in kindergarten these aspects of boyhood are NOT OKAY. 

In a study by John Hopkins University:
Notably, social-emotional readiness in kindergarten was a significant predictor of grade retention even after controlling for student scores on the other readiness domains of the MMSR, such as language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, and physical development and health.
It turns out that, by the fourth grade, students who entered kindergarten behind in social-emotional skills (the “Not Ready” group) were:
  • up to 80 percent more likely to have been retained;
  • up to 80 percent more likely to require special education services; and
  • up to seven times more likely to be suspended or expelled at least once.
The researchers also found that the most consistent characteristic associated with all three of these outcomes was being a male student.
One of the key elements of a successful student is how well their Executive Function has matured. Executive functions are "a set of skills that are essential for school achievement." They include:
  • Organizing, setting priorities and starting tasks
  • Focusing, shifting or sustaining attention and thinking flexibly
  • Regulating alertness and staying on task
  • Managing frustration and keeping emotions in check
  • Using working memory and recalling information
  • Self-monitoring and controlling impulses 
If a child doesn't have good executive function, at any age, they will have many more issues with behavior and academic skills. Executive function continues to mature into adulthood until about the age of 25. Girls' executive function usually matures earlier than boys'. 

When determining whether or not to redshirt your child, consider how well your child can perform the 6 steps the brain typically works through with good executive function skills when given an assignment/task:

1. Analyze a task. Figure out what needs to be done.
2. Plan how to handle the task.
3. Get organized. Break down the plan into a series of steps.
4. Figure out how much time is needed to carry out the plan, and set aside the time.
5. Make adjustments as needed
6. Finish the task in the time allotted.

An additional year of age also means an extra year of executive function maturity, which can lead to fewer behavioral problems and greater academic success, which leads, generally, to a more happy child.

We think of a kindergarten class as having a homogeneous group of same-aged, same-development kiddos. That's not true. Here's a table of birthday months [number in red] with ages, and developmental ages, that could be in a kindergarten class, last column. Consider that girls naturally have about an extra year-equivalent of "maturity," so this shows where girls would START off in comparison to the younger boys, at the purple line. Kindergarten girls would not normally act younger than that first purple line in their ability to conform to expectations within a class setting. The purple range also shows where redshirting boys would generally fall if held back.  

So in the first month of kindergarten, the class students can range from an immature boy with an August birthday who has a developmental maturity of 4, to a girl with a September birthday who turns 6 right after kindergarten starts, who has a developmental maturity of 7. 

These two children are being compared. 

By keeping the boy out for another year, redshirting him, at the start of kindergarten he is now just turned 6, developmentally 5, being compared to a girl who is developmentally 7. Still not a fair comparison, but the boy is significantly more likely to be successful. 

Redshirting actually levels the playing field academically between girls and boys.
New ‘Redshirting’ Study Reveals That Boys Are Held Back More Than Girls — and It’s Actually Helping to Close an Achievement Gap Between the Genders
That gender disparity produces the important effect of dampening achievement gaps favoring girls over boys. Cook finds that if the third-grade tests controlled for differences in age, the existing difference in scores between white boys and girls would be 11 percent greater.
Every child is different. The last boys I sent off to kindergarten were twins 5 years 8 months. One still had a LOT of trouble sitting still, paying attention, getting his assignments done on time and correctly. The other one has flourished. 
Using data from the North Carolina Education Research Data Center, [Duke professor Philip Cook] traced the birth dates, kindergarten entry years, and academic performance of thousands of North Carolina students born between November 2003 and August 2004. Overall, about 6.7 percent of children in the state began school late...The mean effect of an extra year of age is positive, and striking.
Here's a quick chart to use as a non-scientific reference. If your child, boy especially, falls into a birthday month in the red zone, it would be a good idea to talk to your pediatrician, school administrator and research CURRENT studies on this topic. 

I just read a blog post from a woman who was strongly encouraged to redshirt her August birthday daughter by the school personnel. She didn't. She defended her choice and said her daughter thrived - academically. However, her daughter couldn't keep up physically and had trouble socially. They eventually took her out to homeschool. 

From a highschool friend who is an elementary reading teacher:

...I totally agree. If it’s an option to NOT send them, I think developmentally that is the best option. We continue to push these little ones to do more and know more at younger and younger ages, yet many are just not ready for the structured setting that school now demands. In my current district kinder students don’t nap and many are exhausted by the end of the day. I am a reading teacher and when I test students the first thing I look at is their birthday. I know that the summer birthday kids can’t just overcome the year gap that the September birthday kids have. The Sept kids were probably walking and developing many skills when the summer birthday kid was just being born. No easy way to make up that time.

On a personal note... My son has a July 17 birthday and is now 24. I have regretted sending him since about 2nd or 3rd grade. He is smart, he graduated 8th in his class of 180 kids. Intelligence was never a concern. But his maturity just wasn’t the same as other kids his age. By 3rd grade there was no holding him back [option], plus academics wasn’t an issue. I remember him saying he couldn’t believe when he didn’t get 2 recesses any longer. Fast forward to high school and he wasn’t able to drive for quite some time because of his age and the bus wasn’t very cool in high school. All the school dances his freshman year he couldn’t drive to so we had to take him, again not too cool. He did great academically in high school but socially he was awkward and always behind all of his friends which was a difficult time. Fast forward to college and he just wasn’t ready for that independence. He went close to home his freshman year and we were very involved because he was home a lot so he was successful. His 2nd year not so much. He went 3 hours away and struggled with balancing his free time and his school work. He was finally old enough to be independent and didn’t know how to balance everything. He is 24 and has struggled to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. He has an associates degree and went through a line apprenticeship. He worked in the line field for 2 years and decided he wanted to go back in school. I am praying we are on the last leg of this journey but it’s been a long time coming. Graduating at 17 and going away to college shortly after that is just hard for kids. I truly believe you can’t throw a barely 5 year old in a kindergarten classroom and expect they will preform like the kids who are 6 or turning 6 soon. They need time to grow and develop. I know it’s not an easy decision but I experienced it personally and it’s been hard. [My son's] preschool teacher told us he would be bored if we didn’t start him, so we listened. I always wished we would have went with our gut feeling of not starting him until the following year.

D. M. former kindergarten teacher:

At least June through Aug. [birthdays]. I kept my Aug BD daughter back a year. Best thing I ever did!! A friend who is a reading teacher did with both kids. The other friend who taught kindergarten did with both of hers too.

Careful though. It’s not totally across the board. When I taught kindergarten I did come across a few who were ready both cognitively and emotionally.

Generally it’s usually much better to wait!!

C. M. child care provider:

My son will be 5 September 5th. He will go to Kindergarten at 6. Academically he is ready now, emotionally he is not.

The most common reason to NOT redshirt a child? Money. Even knowing their child would benefit from an additional year before kindergarten, many families simply can't afford an additional year of child care, or choose to put their money in another direction. Often, they believe that the choice is not really all that important in the long run.

It is.
tags: parents, parenting, kindergarten, school, pre-school, child development, delayed entry, 

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