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Red-shirting in Kindergarten

Courtesy of U.Va.'s Curry School of Education

If you’re a parent or grandparent with young children, you’ve probably heard about red-shirting – a term borrowed from the world of college sports. 

It refers to keeping a child back in school, so he or she will be a little older than classmates and have some academic and social advantages. 

"In some communities, red-shirting has become so prevalent that parents in those communities feel a lot of pressure to do it.  So many kids are doing it that if I don’t do this for my kids, they’re going to really be behind," found University of Virginia Assistant Professor Daphna Bassok.

Some news reports indicated up to 20% of kids were red-shirted, but Bassok’s study showed the numbers nationwide were far lower – closer to four percent, and the prevalence depended very much on socio-economics. “Basically, red-shirting doesn’t happen for black kids at all, and we find that among high income families, the likelihood that you’re going to red shirt is almost three times as high as among kids in poverty, which makes a lot of sense, because pre-school or  child care or any arrangement where you might put your child is very expensive.”

And it may not be worth the extra investment unless a child is really not ready for kindergarten – unable to handle the stress of group activities, the anxiety of a new place or the challenge of academics.  On average, Bassok found parents thinking about red-shirting had kids who were not far behind their peers – even though they were younger.

The UVA study is published in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.