What Is the Definition of Academic Redshirting?

Identifying the Pros and Cons of This Schooling Trend

Kindergarten class
Getty Images/Tetra Images - Mike Kemp

What is the definition of academic redshirting? Learn more about this schooling trend, its pros and cons and why some parents are keen to practice it with this review.

What Does Redshirting Mean?

Redshirting is the practice of postponing an age-eligible child's kindergarten entry by a year, typically one whose birthday is very close to the cut-off date. For most districts nationwide, the cut-off-date falls in or around September.

Redshirting is also known as holding out a year, delayed school entry or postponed kindergarten entrance.

Why Is Redshirting Practiced?

Academic redshirting is often done in order to provide some extra time for social, intellectual or physical maturation of the child. Think about it. A child with a birthday in fall is nearly a year younger than students who have birthdays at the beginning of the year.

Even a 10-month age gap can make a big difference at this young age. Although all of the children in a class may be born in the same year, those born at the beginning of the year likely have cognitive and psychosocial advantages over the children born later in the year.

Writer Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out research indicating that children born late in the year never catch up to their older classmates. Moreover, they may score lower on standardized tests and struggle otherwise academically because of the age gap.

A Physical Advantage

In rare cases, a child may be academically redshirted in order to give him the advantage of an extra year's development when playing sports in high school. This is an ill-advised move, given that when a child is 4 or 5 years old, his parents simply won't know whether he'll enjoy sports, let alone which sport he'll excel in.

And in some sports, such as gymnastics, being smaller is actually an advantage over being bigger.

Unfortunately, some students, no matter how much of an age advantage they have, will never excel in athletics or simply find them uninteresting, even if they do have the capability to perform well in them.

Disadvantages of Redshirting

Delaying the year a child begins kindergarten has cons as well as pros. For one thing, it can adversely affect a family financially. No kindergarten means another year of paying for preschool, which places a financial strain on many families. If your family's financial resources could best be used elsewhere, you might want to consider redshirting.

Redshirting may mean that your child won't be at a physical or cognitive disadvantage in class, but it also means that she'll be hitting all of her milestones in life a year later than necessary. Rather than graduating college at, say, 21 and getting a head start into the world, she'll be graduating college at 22 going on 23. And if she wants to spend a year traveling around Europe or a couple of years in the Peace Corps. or something similar, her entry into the workforce or so-called "real world" will be even later.

Given these drawbacks of redshirting, it's important that parents not jump into the practice simply because it's a trend and all the other parents seem to be doing it. If your preschool child appears to be socially and emotionally ready for kindergarten, despite having a late birthday, there's no reason to hold the child back. Before redshirting, plenty of children didn't delay kindergarten and turned out just fine.