Academic redshirting

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DarkOne
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Academic redshirting

Postby DarkOne » Mon Nov 7, 5:46 2016

Inspired by melsbell's "development balance" thread, I'm curious about your experiences related to academic red-shirting. If you're not familiar with the term, this is the practice of delaying kindergarten for children who would be on the younger end of the age range of their expected school year. The idea is that by holding the child back you avoid the perceived disadvantages to the child that come from being smaller/younger/less mature than their peers.

Where I live, delaying schooling for kids who are within 2 months of the cutoff seems to be fairly common. From the few studies I've read on the subject, the camp is split on whether there are any significant benefits/disadvantages -- both academic and socio-emotional -- to this practice. However, of all the people I've interviewed on the subject, the consensus seems to be in favor of this academic delay.

So, what are your experiences with academic redshirting? Did you or your parents consider it? Did you/they go through with it?
Do you feel like being among the oldest/youngest in a class gave you or your kids any noticeable advantages or disadvantages?
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Re: Academic redshirting

Postby antfancier » Mon Nov 7, 7:26 2016

Interesting. I didn't know there was a name for this.

This didn't happen where I grew up (nor did kids skip a grade or get held back if they over- or under-performed). I remember saying to my mum how all the 'dumb' kids in class had their birthdays in the summer (our year ran September-August) and she explained to me it's because they were much younger. At the time I was too young to really understand - or maybe I just didn't believe her. Thinking about it now, they probably would have benefited - or at least not been judged by the overly-confident smart arse little kid I used to be - if they joined the year below us. In the long run, their lives don't seem to have turned out any differently than those of us born at the beginning of the academic year. I can't obviously speak to their emotional/mental state or how it may have been affected.

As a teacher, I've found that sometimes those kids who are slower can actually benefit from being in a 'difficult' class. They learn and get inspiration from their peers, especially in structured pair and group work, but also just from being around slightly older children. I also know that it's nice to use those very high-achieving students as models of the behavior or outcomes you're looking for in class. I guess what I'm saying is that mixed ability classes can work well and you aren't necessarily at a disadvantage if you're on the lower end of the range.

Now I'm just going to contradict what I said. If it had been common practice, I would have been one of those kids moved up a grade. Instead, I was always the one who the teacher held up as an example for the class: "Look at antfancier's picture/model/story etc. She listened carefully/did it exactly right/thought of a good way to do..." With the shy type of personality I have, this had a negative affect on me. I hated being the center of attention, with literally the whole class staring at me. I began to hold back and not participate so actively because I was aware some other kids were jealous. This kind of mindset stuck with me right through to high school even.

Parents want the best for their children and for some that might mean holding them back for the next school year whereas for others it might mean keeping them in the harder environment to challenge them. I don't know if either one affects academic outcomes long-term.

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Re: Academic redshirting

Postby rowan » Mon Nov 7, 10:22 2016

We used to just call it "holding back" a grade.

My kid is on the younger side, but I don't think - for the most part - it's been an issue. I'm also a young'un for my class and I never found it to be a problem being in that class. However I think it's really kid-specific. We did talk about it, sort of in general terms about what we'd watch for when she went to school. I know people who have, it's mostly been a social thing.

In general I think we just need to recognize that kids are really variable, and what they might be "behind" in now they'll catch up and be fine later; holding back won't harm your kid, pushing them forward (by a month or so) won't harm your kid most likely. I do think by the time they're in school, though, that there are pretty big jumps in ability/understanding/brain stuff w/in 6 months. As in, 6 months ago my kid was definitely different than she is now. Not that it's like a step function or anything (though we do get those jumps as well, the timing placement is pretty random).
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Re: Academic redshirting

Postby Aum » Mon Nov 7, 15:15 2016

I don't agree with it. I was born in January and so I always ended up being one of the oldest children in class due to how birthddate determined placement. As a result I was always seen as mature for my age and had to put up with more crap from other students because I was the oldest. As an adult a year doesn't matter but as children it can make a big difference.

As an aside I think kids should be mixed anyway. The whole industrial model of everyone of the same age having to study together is outdated. My experience wasn't fair because I was wedged into the old model but if classes with diverse ages were the norm it would work out better.
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Re: Academic redshirting

Postby DarkOne » Tue Nov 8, 7:37 2016

GAh, I'm on the fence about this because I do see both sides of the argument. My kid has always been around kids who are older, and it seems like these kids are "pulling" her into their age group, teaching her behaviors of older children and and making her challenging herself. But she is NOT a patient one and frustrates easily. But also, I was on the older end of my class (March bday) and I remember that, while, the academic leaders were pretty well spread over the age range, the social leaders of the class were mostly the older kids, and I wonder if there's a correlation (we were only about 100 in my small school through high school, so it was easy to keep track of people's birthdays). I don't think in the long term I can tell one end of the age range is more successful than the other.
I have a couple of years to decide. I think I'll play it by ear and wait to see how my kid is doing when that time comes. sigh.
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Re: Academic redshirting

Postby melsbells » Wed Nov 9, 14:49 2016

My school system had a pre-first class where kids would continue on from kindergarten if they were evaluated as needing an extra year for developmental reasons. I don't know anyone whose parents had them start school a year late, but I remember the possibility being discussed with some of my cousins' kids. It's obviously a very individual assessment, but I would error on the side of holding back, just from what I've seen with Finnish schools where kids start the calendar year they turn seven.

This is also making me think of that Freakanomics podcast where kids born near the cutoff date for their year playing little leage hockey don't get as much play time as their older counterparts, therefore don't get as much practice, and self fulfilling profesying, end up being less represented in professional leagues.

On the other hand, if the concern is really about advantage/disadvantage compared to other students, redshirting kids is just putting them at the other end of the spectrum. Let's say all kids born in September are redshirted. Then wouldn't kids born in October have the same disadvantages previously embodied by the younger kids?

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Re: Academic redshirting

Postby Sonic# » Wed Nov 9, 15:54 2016

^ To your final question, maybe that would be true to some extent. But that makes me ask a different question:
to what extent is redshirting necessary because of the relative age of any members of a class (like, whether you're the *youngest* or the *oldest*) and to what extent is it necessary because of their absolute age (not yet being 5 and therefore being more likely to be developmentally behind on average)?

Because if it's more the latter, then redshirting everyone born in September would just mean that kids are, on average, one month developmentally ahead entering kindergarten. The difference in their maturity might matter less if they meet a baseline for maturity. But if it's more the former, then the hockey metaphor comes into play, with younger kids perhaps still getting less "play" in class.

And I could easily see it being both: those kids might have slightly lesser disadvantages, but some disadvantages would remain.

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Re: Academic redshirting

Postby Nachos » Wed Dec 7, 14:22 2016

I'm on the fence about this. I was always the youngest in my class because I was born 2 days before the cut off. I started school JUST after my 5th birthday (Go England.... not...) and this made a huge gap between me and the oldest kids in the class who were almost a whole year older. However, even though I might have struggled more then I'm ok now, you know? It might have even been helpful for me, pushing myself to learn more and try and be smarter. My sister was held back for a year in preschool in Germany because she didn't speak German well enough for the first grade and so she has always been the oldest in class and she's not really as academic as me. This is all anecdata of course, but interesting to ponder over.
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