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#10 K-Power - Kindergarten Red-Shirting

All schools in the United States should:

Not ‘red-shirt’ or recommend that parents hold out their age-eligible children, nor offer a sequenced two-year program with the intention that some children complete two years of kindergarten instruction.



The practice of delaying an age-eligible child’s entrance into kindergarten or first grade by a year in order to give the child an extra advantage or to give the child time to develop cognitively, social-emotionally, or physically. The term comes from the sports term redshirting, in which a college athlete sits out a year of play to have more practice time.   


Pre-retention is the practice of districts not allowing age-eligible children from attending kindergarten and instead placing them in a two-year kindergarten program due to children’s personal characteristics (e.g., a birthdate falling in the final three to four months of the cutoff date).


Why are some children red-shirted?

Some families red-shirt their child so that he/she will have a competitive advantage when starting school as the child will be smarter, bigger, and faster than classmates.  Others decide to red-shirt because they feel their child is not mature or developed enough to master kindergarten curriculum as kindergarten becomes more academic.[i]


Which children are more likely to be red-shirted?

Families from higher socioeconomic status are more likely to red-shirt their child.[ii]  For families from lower socioeconomic households, red-shirting is generally not an option as they cannot afford an extra year of paid pre-school or child care compared to free kindergarten.  Boys are more likely to be red-shirted than girls.[iii]


What does the research base say?

Lack of academic benefits in the long run

  • Some studies have found that there are some small academic benefits for older students in the early elementary grades[iv], while other find no difference.[v]
  • In the long run, however, this advantage fades by the time student is in 3rd grade.[vi]

Lack of long-run benefits

  • Deming and Dynarski (2008) note that there is “little evidence that being older than your classmates has any long-term, positive effect on adult outcomes such as IQ, earnings, or educational attainment. By contrast, there is substantial evidence that entering school later reduces educational attainment (by increasing high school dropout rates) and depresses lifetime earnings (by delaying entry into the labor market)."[vii]
  • Younger students have been found to earn more as adults than their peers who started kindergarten older.[viii]

Red-shirting or pre-retaining children may have a negative effect on social and behavioral consequences

  • Red-shirting has no social advantage and, in fact, there may be negative consequences, such as a feeling of failure for being held back or poor attitudes toward school.[ix]


Why children shouldn’t be red-shirted or pre-retained

  • Delaying children’s entry into school and/or segregating them into extra-year classes actually labels children as failures at the outset of their school experience. These practices are simply subtle forms of retention. Not only is there a preponderance of evidence that there is no academic benefit from retention in its many forms, but there also appear to be threats to the social-emotional development of the child subjected to such practices. The educational community can no longer afford to ignore the consequences of policies and practices which: 1) assign the burden of responsibility to the child, rather than the program; 2) place the child at risk of failure, apathy toward school, and demoralization; and 3) fail to contribute to quality early childhood education.
  • Public schools cannot ethically select some children who are eligible under the law and reject others. Children subjected to delayed entry disproportionately represent racial and linguistic minorities, low-income children, and males. Denial of entrance to school, blatant or subtle, increases the disparity between social classes and could be construed as a denial of a child’s civil rights. It places the financial burden for alternative schooling on parents. This is an equity problem.[x]

Red-shirting and pre-retention programs signal that a child is not ‘ready’ for kindergarten.  Achieving the skills and knowledge that standards promote should not be up to whether the child is ‘ready’ or not.  Schools and teachers should be ready to ensure all children who enter their kindergarten are able to meet the standards.  This requires a systemic approach that includes:

  • Teachers who know how to address the individual needs of children, which are based on assessment once children are in their classrooms
  • The engagement of parents in a variety of ways to support parent’s their desires for their children
  • Administrators and teacher leaders who support those teachers,
  • Administration and a governing body (e.g., school board) that understands high quality and the rationale for practices


Resources on Red-shirting and Pre-Retention[xi]

Bassok, D., & Reardon, S. F. (2013). “Academic Redshirting” in Kindergarten: Prevalence, Patterns, and Implications . Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis , 35(3), 283–297. doi:10.3102/0162373713482764

Bellisimo, Y., Sacks, C.H & Mergendoller, J.R. (1995). Changes over time in kindergarten holding out: Parent and school contexts. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 10(2), 205-222.

Cosden, M., J. Zimmer, & P. Tuss. (1993). The impact of age, sex, and ethnicity on kindergarten entry and retention decisions. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis,15(2), 209–22.

Crone, D.A., & G.J. Whitehurst. 1999. Age and schooling effects on emergent literacy and early reading skills. Journal of Educational Psychology,91(4), 604–14.

Datar, A. (2006). Does delaying kindergarten entrance give children a head start? Economics of Education Review, 25(1), 43-62.

Deming, D. & Dynarski,S. (2008). The lengthening of childhood.  Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(3), 71-92.

Diamond, K. E., Reagan, A. J., & Bandyk, J. E. (2000). Parents' conceptions of kindergarten readiness: Relationships with race, ethnicity, and development. Journal of Educational Research, 94(2), 93 - 100.

Easton-Brooks, D., & Brown, A. (2010). The Effects of Age at Kindergarten Entry on the Reading Proficiency of African American and European American Students. Journal Of Research In Childhood Education, 24(2), 97-111.

Ferguson, P.C. (1991). Longitudinal outcome differences among promoted and transitional at-risk kindergarten students. Psychology in the Schools, 28(2), 139–46.

Graue, M.E. (1993). Ready for what? Constructing meanings of readiness for kindergarten. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Graue, M.E., & DiPerna, J. (2000). Redshirting and early retention: Who gets the “gift of time” and what are its outcomes? American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 509–34.

Katz, L.G. (1991). Readiness: Children and schools. ERIC Digest EDO-PS-91-4. Champaign- Urbana, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

Lincove, J.A., & Painter, G. (2006). Does the Age That Children Start Kindergarten Matter? Evidence of Long-Term Educational and Social Outcomes. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 28(2), 153–179.

Marshall, H.M.  (2003). Opportunity deferred or opportunity taken? An updated look at delaying kindergarten entry.  Youth Children, 84-93. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/Publications/ArticleExamples/RinRDelayingKEntry.pdf

Meisels, S.J. (1992). Doing harm by doing good: Iatrogenic effects of early childhood enrollment and promotion policies. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 7(2), 155-175.

NAECS/SDE (National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education). (2000). Still unacceptable trends in kindergarten entry and placement.

Shepard, L.A. & Smith, M.L. (1986). Synthesis of research on school readiness and kindergarten retention. Educational Leadership, 44(3), 78-86.

Shepard, L.A. & Smith, M.L. (1990). Synthesis of research on grade retention. Educational Leadership, 47(8), 84-88

Shore, R. (1998). Ready schools. Washington, DC: National Education Goals Panel.

Smith, M.L. & Shepard, L.A. (1987). What doesn’t work: Explaining policies of retention in the early grades. Phi Delta Kappan, 69(2), 129-134.

Spitzer, S., Cupp, R., & Parke, R.D. (1995). School entrance age, social acceptance, and self-perception in kindergarten and first grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly,10(4), 433–50.

Stipek, D. (2002). At what age should children enter kindergarten? A question for policy makers and parents. SRCD Social Policy Report, 16(2)

Stipek, D., & P. Byler. (2001). Academic achievement and social behaviors associated with age of entry into kindergarten. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 22(2),175–89.

West, J., Hauskin, E.G. & Collins, M. (1993). Readiness for kindergarten: Parent and teacher beliefs. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

West, J., Meek, A., & Hurst, D. (2000). Children Who Enter Kindergarten Late or Repeat Kindergarten: Their Characteristics and Later School Performance (NCES No. 2000-039). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.


[i]  Diamond et al., 2000; Marshall, 2003; Shepard & Smith, 1986 

[ii] Bassok & Reardon, 2013; Deming & Dynarski, 2008

[iii] Bassock & Reardon, 2013; Bellisimo, Sacks, & Mergendoller, 1995; Malone et al., 2006

[iv] Datar, 2006; Cameron & Wilson, 1990 Shepard & Smith, 1987, Stipek & Byler, 2001

[v]  Graue & DiPerna, 2000; Knudert, May, & Brent, 1995

[vi] Lincove & Painter 2006; Graue & DiPerna, 2000; Shepard and Smith, 1986; Stipek, 2000

[vii] Deming & Dynarski, 2008, p 1

[viii]  Angrist & Krueger, 1991; Mayer & Knutson, 1999

[ix] Graue, 1993; Graue & DiPerna, 2000

[x] Still Unacceptable Trends in Kindergarten, NAECS/SDE, 2000