Early School Outcomes for Children Who Delay Kindergarten Entry

Early School Outcomes for Children Who Delay Kindergarten Entry

Jordan E. Greenburg, Adam Winsler
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4435-8.ch013
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This chapter explores the transitional practice of voluntarily delaying a student's kindergarten entry through a combination of reviewing prior literature and also presenting new research findings. Using data from a large, predominantly low-income and ethnically diverse sample, the authors examine early elementary school outcomes for a group of children (n = 305) who delayed kindergarten entry in comparison to their on-time peers. Results indicate that children who delay kindergarten entry slightly outperform their peers in the kindergarten year, but these differences disappear by the end of 1st grade. Results were similar for students with disabilities. Overall, delaying kindergarten entry did not seem to provide sustained academic advantages for this sample of students. Implications for delaying kindergarten entry are discussed.
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As children near the transition into formal schooling, many parents wonder whether their children are developmentally ready to handle the curriculum, even if they are legally eligible to enroll based on age. Concerns about school readiness push some parents to delay their children’s entry into kindergarten, also known as “academic redshirting,” to allow their child to enter kindergarten as an older, presumably more mature and capable student. The term “redshirting” is borrowed from collegiate sports, where younger players (generally first-year students) will sit out a year of eligibility in order to give themselves more time to develop and improve their athletic skills by the time they reach their final (extra) year in school (Graue & DiPerna, 2000). The terms “delayed entry” and “redshirting” are used interchangeably throughout this chapter. This transition practice assumes that children who are older when they enter school will be more socially, emotionally, and academically prepared to handle the demands of formal schooling. Despite the intuitive appeal of delaying kindergarten entry, little empirical evidence suggests that holding children out of kindergarten benefits them later on. Only a handful of studies have explored whether delaying entry is associated with more positive outcomes for students later on.

This chapter explores previous research regarding predictors, correlates, and outcomes of delayed kindergarten entry, and presents new research regarding outcomes from an ethnically diverse sample of predominantly low-income children in a moderately sized, ethnically diverse, urban, U.S. community. Specifically, the research presented in this chapter examines the extent to which delayed entry is associated with academic outcomes in early elementary school (kindergarten through 2nd grade), controlling for selection effects (the pre-existing differences between those who do and do not delay school entry). It also explores whether delayed kindergarten entry is differentially associated with early elementary school outcomes for the important subgroup of children who are identified early on as having a disability of some type requiring special education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Grade Retention: Having a child repeat a school year, often due to poor academic performance the year prior.

Academic Redshirting: Another term for delayed kindergarten entry.

Delayed Kindergarten Entry: A transition practice in which children are held out of kindergarten for a year despite being eligible to enroll based on age.

Propensity Score: The probability of receiving a “treatment” (e.g., delayed kindergarten entry) based on observed covariates.

Negative Selection: In reference to delayed kindergarten entry, choosing to hold a child out of school due to concerns about poor school readiness/development.

School Readiness: A term often used to describe how prepared children are to start formal schooling. Readiness encompasses several domains including cognitive, language, motor, social, and emotional development. Most researchers and educators also consider the preparedness of schools to support children’s learning to be a key component of readiness.

Positive Selection: In reference to delayed kindergarten entry, choosing to hold a high-functioning (most often typically developing) child out of school in order for the student to gain an advantage over peers.

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