Nearly 10 percent of parents are opting to “redshirt” their Kindergarten-eligible sons and daughters, waiting an extra year to start their schooling. The underlying assumption of the decision is that a more emotionally and mentally mature youngster will have a leg-up on his or her weaker peers. (Recall that Gladwell made this argument about Canadian hockey players in Outliers.) But, according to neuroscientists Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt, these parents are wrong. Older Kindergarteners may start out slightly ahead, but their younger classmates catch up in math and reading quickly—and these “redshirted” students actually perform worse by high school. This is a strong argument for starting school early, especially for the youngsters who don’t interact with older children or challenging content at home (the two main spurs of cognitive development, according to Wang and Aamodt). But don’t raise that “early-Kindergarten-for-all” placard, just yet. Child development can be catalyzed through all sorts of avenues outside school. And engaged parents deserve the right to choose whether four or five is the right age for little Susie to take her first school-bus ride.
|Click to listen to commentary on redshirting Kindergarten from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
“Delay Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril,” by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt, New York Times, September 24, 2011.
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