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Redshirting Kindergarteners: A New Trend for Academic Gains

Kindergarten isn't what is used to be. Instead of half a day of painting and playtime, the classroom now has a more rigorous agenda than ever, including a full school day, math and reading worksheets, and homework many nights of the week.

Although this advanced curriculum is aimed at socially and academically preparing children as they begin their educational journey, it leads many parents - especially those with children who would be among the youngest in their class - to consider holding their child back a year to give him an academic boost against his classmates.

"Redshirting," an old sports term used to describe athletes benched for a season to extend their playing eligibility, is now used to describe holding back five- and six-year-olds as they enter into the school system. And it seems parents are taking it seriously. In 2008, the Journal of Economic Perspective stated that 40 years ago, 96 percent of 6-year-olds were enrolled in first grade. Today, that number has dropped to 84 percent. Although about one-quarter of the shift is due to school districts pushing the age cut-off dates to earlier in the year, the remaining shift is reportedly due to redshirting.

Additional research points to the same trend. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about nine percent of kindergarteners were redshirted between 1993 and 1995. Although more recent data won't be available for several more years, a 2007 report from the NCES estimates that number has jumped to 14 percent.



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