Red Light for Redshirting

By Avalon Kelly

Commonly known as “redshirting,” waiting an extra year before sending a child to kindergarten has gained popularity in recent years.  Parents point to social skills, intellectual development, and physical development as factors in this decision.  Redshirting provides an extra year for students to mature and prepare for kindergarten, especially for boys, who are three times more likely to be redshirted.  However, an increased normalization of redshirting threatens the equal opportunity provided by public education due to economic factors.

With the rising number of parents choosing to redshirt their boys, students who come from a low-income background have been put at a disadvantage.  Waiting an extra year to start kindergarten means paying for another year of childcare or preschool.  As a result of this economic pressure, children from high-income families are redshirted twice as often as those from low-income families.  

Public schools are supposed to provide an equal opportunity to education for all students, however, this equality is threatened by redshirting.  After having a year to gain skills that other children did not, redshirted students come into first grade with a more expansive skill set; expectations for first-grade students are becoming increasingly higher.  Students who did not have the opportunity to redshirt are now held to the same standards as kids a year older than them.  Being labeled as “falling behind” or “lacking in necessary skills” at a young age can harmfully impact students for the rest of their lives.  Overall, redshirting threatens the academic equality currently presented by the public school system.

If the practice of redshirting continues to rise due to its developmental benefits, public schools must offer a “transitional kindergarten” option to all students.  At this time, only three states (California, Massachusetts, and West Virginia) require public schools to offer free transitional kindergarten.  Unless this option spreads to other states, redshirting should be given a red light.