Originally published in the April 2019 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.
When parents research schools and begin to dream about their child’s future success, they sometimes worry about how their child will measure up to their peers. Height and age relative to the class weigh heavily on parents when considering whether to redshirt children with spring and summer birthdays and those short in stature, especially boys.
“Redshirting” in preschool refers to the practice of strategically delaying a child’s entry into kindergarten to allow the child more time to mature or develop, with an eye toward securing an advantage in academics. Parents may intentionally strategize a redshirt option for their child by delaying their start to preschool or arrange with the school upon admission to repeat a year. Some parents redshirt their child expecting the child will lead instead of follow, excel academically, and be self-assured rather than shy.
There are no conclusive studies evaluating outcomes of redshirted students, but some research on immediate effects of redshirting suggests improvement in a child’s confidence in social interactions and behavior and increased academic performance at the same level or at a level superior to younger classmates. Other research shows the benefit of older peers as role models for younger students, but also suggests that parents keep in mind whether delaying a grade appropriately challenges their child. Researchers also caution parents to note the child’s suitability for relationships, possible fit and acceptance.
How can anxious parents feel assured that their child will reach their potential and be successful in comparison to classmates in kindergarten and beyond? More than timing of the start of school, enrolling your child in a high-quality preschool program that aligns with your family’s philosophy of education is critical. See the school first-hand, tour the campus and have your child spend a morning in a classroom with their potential peers to get feedback from teachers. Once the child is in school, parents should trust the home-school partnership and maintain open communication with teachers.
As Head of The Experiential School of Tampa Bay, the 3, 4, and 5-year-old program at Shorecrest Preparatory School, I believe that school-based determinations to provide a student an extra year in a grade are best made on a case-by-case basis. Each child’s unique needs and circumstances must be considered carefully by their teachers, parents, school administrators and support service specialists as a team. Most students advance from preschool to prekindergarten and then to kindergarten with their chronological age peers. However, in some rare instances, the optimal path forward is to offer a child another year in their present grade level to develop socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively. Cases of trauma, developmental delays, executive function, self-regulation challenges and other factors may raise concerns that merit deliberation.
High-quality early childhood programs, like The Experiential School of Tampa Bay at Shorecrest Preparatory School, meet students where they are and encourage them to “Be More” by building strong relationships, differentiating teaching and learning experiences, and working as partners with families. Knowledgeable teachers thoughtfully communicate grade level and program goals and meet with parents to discuss children’s unique development and progress.
An early childhood classroom setting with a low student-teacher ratio and individualized instruction ensures that families have access to information and experts to work alongside them and determine the best next step for their child.