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A Solution to Redshirting: Break Up Classrooms

By Deborah Song


Research shows that older children in a given classroom outperform younger ones.  With some older children as much as a year ahead in age of their younger counterparts, older students have a leg up by simple laws of biology.  The argument and controversy surrounding redshirting, the practice of holding your child back from kindergarten until he turns 6 years of age, is not whether older children are advantaged but for how long this benefit lasts.

Proponents and parents who redshirt believe advantages can last a lifetime.  While redshirting critics dismiss the practice because they claim initial benefits even out by the third grade.  So what’s the big deal?  Life isn’t always fair anyway. 

But why chalk it up to tough luck when you don’t have to?

Malcolm Gladwell offers a strikingly simple solution in his book Outliers. Instead of lumping students by a single school grade, why not break up the class by birth months?  One kindergarten class might have kids born in January , February and March; another with students born in April, May and June.  And so forth.

It would involve more administrative work.  But it wouldn’t cost much more money. Many schools offer at least three or more classes per grade anyway.  Schools could stream students in this fashion throughout elementary and beyond.

The proposition, at least upon initial consideration, seems so plausible, affordable and reasonable, you have to wonder why more attention hasn’t been paid to it

Posted on Sep 25, 2014

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