Every few years the topic of redshirting arises at the State level. Legislators are currently debating the possibility of requiring children to start Kindergarten in line with the current December 31, cut off date, and not allowing the parent to choose to hold the child back until they decide he or she is ready – typically one year after the child is eligible to attend Kindergarten. While I do see both sides of the issue, I strongly feel it should be up to the parent to decide.
Fundamentally, I don’t believe that a one-size-fits all approach should be taken with children, particularly in regard to their education. As any parent can tell you, even within the same family, children have wildly different personalities and a wide range of abilities. Making the decision to send a child to school at four years old is probably one of the first big decisions parents of “ber” (as in September, October, November and December), have to make – and it is a big one that will likely set them up for their entire educational experience. While some children are ready, at 4, to sit through an entire day of structured learning activities that include reading and mathematics, and can achieve the required Common Core benchmarks, many more have difficulty doing so. You have to wonder if forcing children into that situation would be beneficial for anyone, parents, teachers, and, ultimately the student.
Legislators have looked at moving the cutoff date so that children would have to turn 5 by September 1. However, they found that children from low-income families would be most affected, as private pre-school opportunities are not always available, and there are too few early childhood programs at the state level. Adding those programs, legislators say, would cost millions.
Likewise, the affluent towns that coincidentally have the highest redshirting rates, say they would be faced with an equally unfair share of the financial burden if the option to hold ‘ber babies back as the number of incoming students would rise significantly in the first year, requiring schools to add classrooms and staff to their payrolls.
Interestingly, Connecticut has among the earliest enrollment age in the country, yet, our kids are being held to the same Common Core standards as their out-of-state peers. Connecticut’s kids are heading to college earlier – the ‘ber babies are 17 when they leave for school – and studying with peers who may be almost two years their senior.
It does not appear that the legislature will shift the cutoff date but enforcing a mandated age does not seem to be the solution either. Parents, not politicians, should have the final decision about what’s best for their child.