Kindergarten students at e-STEM charter school
e-STEM Kindergarten teacher Laura McCammon
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Making a child repeat a grade can be a difficult decision for parents. The child's birth date often plays a factor if students are ready to make the next step.
Researchers have called this "academic redshirting" after the common process used in sports to lengthen an athlete's time on a team.
Debate is still in the air if holding a child back gives them an academic edge over other students. As we find out, teachers and parents are looking at more than academics when they hold a child back.
Kindergarten teachers can often tell which of their students are the younger or older kids in their class. Not just by their size, but how they perform.
"Their fine motor control isn't as developed as other students. Their handwriting may not be as neat," says e-STEM Charter School kindergarten teacher Laura McCammon.
McCammon has one student in her class who will repeat kindergarten because of their age. She doesn't know of any parents who have held a child back just to give them an edge over other kids similar to what is done in sports.
"I don't' think they are looking for it to necessarily say my child is going to be bigger or better than the rest of the students," says McCammon. "Some parents who have June or July birthdays, they want their children held back because things haven't clicked yet. That happens almost every year."
She shows us the difference in writing. The younger child's writing is not as neat and words are spelled incorrectly compared to the older child's writing. There's also a noticeable difference in their stick figures.
"Sometimes their parents want that extra year so maybe they're not always struggling," says McCammon.
Amy Sedivy-Benton has a son with a summer birth date and started him late in kindergarten although, her Pre-K teacher said he was right on track academically.
"Initially, to be honest, I was crushed because he's my kid. She says it's not because he's not bright. It was the social aspect," says Sedivy-Benton. "So, here my son might be bright, but he might be socially inept. He's going to get eaten alive in middle school."
She started him late so he could mature despite her research on academic redshirting.
"By third grade they are performing at the same level," says Sedivy-Benton
She knows because Doctor Sedivy-Benton is an assistant professor of education at UALR.
"There are no ill effects and there are no great gains either," says Sedivy-Benton.
But from a personal experience, she says it was a good choice.
"He hung out in Pre-K another year and now he's in kindergarten and he has buddies and friends. He's doing fine academically, but that wasn't my motive. It wasn't to make him stronger in sports or increase him academically. It's the social growth I've seen. I'm happy in my decision." Says Sedivy-Benton.
It's a decision that McCaammon helps parents work through every year.
The state passed a law in 2007 pushing back the age requirements for kindergarten. They must be five years old by August. Before, it was October.
It's an acknowledgement that two months can make a difference in a child's development.
State law also says if parents still don't think they're child is ready for kindergarten, they can enroll them in Pre-K like what Dr. Sedivy-Benton did with her son.