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Special Report: Redshirting

Published: Mar. 2, 2017 at 12:10 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 11, 2017 at 7:10 PM CST
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It’s barely March, but school districts are already welcoming students for next year.
Why aren’t parents rushing to sign their kids up?  They may be Redshirting them.
More and more parents are waiting to send their “old-enough,”  “smart-enough” kids to Kindergarten, especially the boys.
What does being the oldest matter?   Students say, down the line, “it’s everything.”
In the course of our story, we popped in on Kiddie Garden Preschool in Boonville.  There, we met a 5 year old boy, Mason Rickenbaugh, who, with a September birthday, is already among the oldest in his class.
If he’d have been born just a month and 2 days earlier, Mason could very well have been in Kindergarten right now.
“No, no, no, no, no, no.”
Collin College Professor Dr. Suzanne Jones says her research shows, delaying Kindergarten for some students, leads to greater life-satisfaction by the time they reach adolescence.
She says, “If I had the most mature and academically ready and socially ready child on the planet ... and he was born right before the cut off date, I wouldn’t send him after finishing this research.”
Dr. Jones wrote her dissertation on the life-satisfaction of academically red-shirted boys.  She surveyed 100 teen boys, all born in the summer.  Half had been red-shirted, half hadn’t.  Not one red shirted student could think of a way that it hurt to be older, but the non-redshirted students went on and on in their interviews, about how much they hurt from being younger.
She added, “It could be something silly like, some of them mentioned girls or puberty or sports come into play.  ‘I wasn’t as big as the other boys, or I had to drive last in the grade.’ There were all these small things that they built up, and these students just could not stop talking about that.”
That big decision about when to send your child kindergarten?  That is one Dr. Jones says parents should make, not with their 5 year olds in mind, but their future high schoolers in mind, because the younger the child, the less time he’s had to develop physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially.  
“It is about an entire lifetime of being the youngest and having to keep up in a whole bunch of areas, not just academically,” Dr. Jones said.

Meanwhile, Gifted-Education Specialist Tamara Fisher says maturity gaps are easily made up.

Fisher has more than 20 years experience working with accelerated learners.  She says school cut-off dates are part of the assembly line approach to education in the US.  And they’re part of the problem.  Every year, she sees 1 to 2 new gifted students.  Early enrollment is what’s right for them, and all of her students have been successful.
“And so any concerns about them being less mature, usually wear off within a few months to a year,” Fisher added
As for Mason, he will naturally be one of the oldest in his class.  And according to Dr. Jones, that extra time to develop will help this delightfully grabby boy who likes to touch everything… reach his goals as he reaches for the stars.  

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