Special Report: Should you red-shirt your pre-k child?

CSRA (WFXG) - Students all across the CSRA are looking forward to summer break, but it's time for parents to think about next year.

Kindergarten enrollment is open to anyone who's at least five years old by September first. So why aren't parents rushing to sign their kids up? They may be red-shirting them.

In a race to find shapes and numbers, Mason Rickenbaugh is an expert swatter. And if you're not looking, he might playfully swat your legs. His mom, Emily, tells us Mason, like many other boys, isn't one to fully keep his hands to himself yet. "He's a smart kid. He just... maturity wise, in terms of keeping his hands to himself. He works a little quicker than others, so he needs to learn to sit still."

If this "Pre-K Powerhouse" had been born just over a month sooner, he'd have qualified for Kindergarten. A four-just-turned-five-year-old, when he could've started school, full time.

Mason Rickenbaugh
Mason Rickenbaugh

Mason Rickenbaugh (WFIE)

Dr. Suzanna Jones says, "No, it's not worth it. 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."

Education professor Dr. Suzanne Jones wrote her dissertation on the life-satisfaction of academically red-shirted boys. She surveyed one hundred 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.

"And 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. 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," says Dr. Jones.

That big decision about when to send your child kindergarten is one Dr. Jones says parents should make, not with their five-year-olds in mind, but their future high schoolers; because the younger the child, the less time he's had to develop: physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially.

Mason's mom, Emily
Mason's mom, Emily

Mason's mom, Emily (WFIE)

Dr. Jones says, "It is about an entire lifetime of being the youngest and having to keep up in a whole bunch of areas, not just academically."

Gifted-Education Specialist Tamara Fisher has more than twenty 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 one to two new gifted students. It's what's right for them, and they have all been successful. "And so any concerns about them being less mature, usually wear off within a few months to a year."

As for Mason, he's been given what Dr. Jones referred to as "the gift of time," that extra year to develop, which research shows will help this delightfully grabby boy, reaching for everything, including the stars.

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