by John Martin, CNN
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community. Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.
(CNN) – Donna McClintock, the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. wrote last week's op-ed on redshirting kindergartners. You may have heard the term applied to college football players, but this isn't a sports story. Academic redshirting means holding a child back from school until he or she is ready. In the U.S., most kindergartners are five-year olds, so a redshirted kindergartner is usually six. McClintock says that when asking whether to redshirt a young child, "parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend."
Some readers questioned whether any child should ever be redshirted:
Rob Breisch: I can honestly say by my own example that it's far better not to redshirt your children – you are causing a life of issues from being not good enough for anyone's standards,and your children will face ridicule all their lives about it. So do them and yourself a favor – advance them and if required spend more time helping them learn.You can destroy a child by just setting them back like it's no big deal. Your child is not a toy nor a rat – so treat them with more respect and dignity and reach out and help them along – but don't make them repeat any grade!
Scott B: I know holding my kid back would be a very last resort. Regardless of what the article says, I went to school and remember how some of those held back kids were treated. About the only time it was a good thing was when they had a car before most of the class. Also, unless the kid simply can't cut it, I'd rather they be in a learning environment that challenges them more than I would want them to get better grades.
Amy: Everyone says "each child is different," and that's certainly true to some extent; however, there is a tendency for some parents to think that their child is particularly unique, different, special, etc. and must be treated differently (i.e. holding him/her back) because of that dazzling uniqueness.... With respect, I think some parents (especially moms) need to stop obsessing about this. Kids are more capable than many parents give them credit for.
Jeanne: What really annoys me is the parents who hold their kids back, so their kids are more than a year older than my kid, and then they claim that the curriculum isn't challenging enough. That is because your 7 1/2-year-old is supposed to be doing second grade work, not first grade.... So then the kid needs differentiated instruction, special trips to the library, and reading enrichment. Meanwhile my age appropriate 5-year-old summer birthday learns at the pace of the curriculum, because that is the age it is designed for. No, she's not special or advanced like your kid, but hey, she's a year and a half younger, and would have gone nuts being stuck in preschool another year. I still think my kid is getting the better end of the deal.
Many readers acknowledge, as does McClintock, that the situation for each child is different:
smithwolfpack: My son has a late September birthday. Our school district's cut-off date for entering Kindergarten is September 30. If he had started Kindergarten when he could have, he would have been 4 years old the entire first six weeks of school. My husband and I chose to wait to let him start Kindergarten until the next year. It is definitely an individual's choice and waiting to start our son was the right choice for us.
John: Just because PUBLIC KINDERGARTEN doesn't start until 5 or 6 years old does not mean the child is not learning, both formally and informally, in a pre-school program. I decided to hold my son back as he is extremely immature and does not have any ability to control himself and focus on learning. I think it would have been to his disadvantage to start him this year as he couldn't even write his name (and we were trying to teach him, he just didn't care). In contrast, my older child started right on time and has thrived the entire way.
J: My parents waited an extra year to put me in Kindergarten, and then I ended up skipping 2nd grade because it was apparent I was at a much higher level of math and reading compared to what the class was teaching. You can always correct later, and I imagine it might be easier to skip a grade than having to repeat one.
Angela: When my daughter was ready for K (she had just turned 5) she was socially on target, but having a hard time with her letter sounds (the result of chronic ear infections). I choose to start her anyway. I regret it.... While she is now in 4th grade but reading on a mid 5th grade level, she is now socially/physically behind. Many of the kids are hitting puberty and talk about boys/girls nonstop. My child is still very much a child.
And some wonder if holding students back, or even advancing them early, might work well in other grades, or not:
Todd in DC: Kindergarten? I thought the article would be about 4th and 5th graders, or even high school students and about whether they should be held back or socially promoted. Whether you should keep your kid with your peers, or if you should graduate a child with sub par math, reading, and science skills.
Ima Teacher: As a teacher, I have seen many students who were not ready for the next grade level and would benefit, I thought, from repeating their current grade level. However, our school district frowns upon retention and makes it so difficult for a teacher to retain a child, that many teachers just don't bother trying.
SoArizona: Going forward and placed ahead in grades can be as damning as being held back. In college at 15 can be just as grueling.
Comparisons to other countries' education systems, particularly Finland's, are common in conversations about education in America, including this one.
Kathy: I don't think holding back is strictly a U.S. thing. According to information I learned at a PTA meeting, Finland, which is the number 1 country in the world for education does not start any formal education with their children until age 7. Teachers are held in high regard in there. They are highly educated and paid well. Children stay home with their parent(s) where they are taught preschool through the home. I have 2 boys, both late summer birthdays. I waited to start kindergarten with them. They were not emotionally ready. I am so happy I waited as they both are confident, excellent students. It really depends on the child.
yeltrik: This holding back is a singularly US phenomena and appears to be almost exclusively based what's best for the parent rather than the child...in my experience. Two of my siblings have held their kids back. One because they wanted them to have an athletic advantage in school. The other because they felt the kids would have an academic advantage. I've been living in the UK for awhile and there is no concept of holding kids back. Kids start school at age 4 here. Period. And I can tell you that my now 8 year old UK neice is well ahead of her 8 year old US counterparts. She was reading earlier, counting earlier, you name it. There's an entire population of kids here starting school at 4 and you'll never convince me that 6 is the right age to be starting a child's education. It's ridiculous.
Holly Korbey: Parents have a fear of the new kindergarten – developmentally inappropriate, it's entirely academic and kids spend most of their day sitting in a chair, doing "work." Most five-year-olds don't have the ability or the desire to learn this way, and parents understandably are freaked out by the kind of learning taking place. An easy way to fix this would be for parents to demand what is developmentally appropriate for five-year-olds and kindergartners in general: play-based curriculum. Used by Finland and South Korea and many other high-achieving systems, this allows the children to develop motor skills, social skills and resiliency before turning to academics in first grade.
Gia: I am from Asia ,to hold a child back for a year is unheard of unless the school force to do so.
Bettycrocker: I come from India where no matter what, kids are sent off to Lower Kindergarten at age 4. Again the kids who can cope do well but those who have issues continue to have problems throughout. It definitely hurts their confidence and before we know it they have a very hard time keeping up. Personally I think it's a parent's choice, you know your child best. But in my opinion the education system here in the U.S. is not as tough as in India. Though it seems like the kids are really pressured, I think its better to learn to study hard from a young age than being unable to cope later and drop out.
chelle: The cut-off in my area of Canada is December 31. My child started kindergarten at 4 and did not turn 5 until November. She was in pre-school for two years prior to that in French Immersion, her kindergarten was French Immersion as well. I think most children do quite well, you need to observe your child and consult with the school you are sending your child to.
jdoe: From my own experience, America as a whole is holding every child back. In Asia and Europe, kids are taught at least one grade level higher than in the U.S. I'm not saying that other countries do it better. I'm just saying that children have a lot more capacity for learning than we believe.
Another theme we see often in the Schools of Thought comments are issues of semantics. How do the terms we use in education affect our children? Here's what some of you had to say about redshirting and similar terminology.
Spijder: It makes even less sense in relation to the practice of delaying kindergarten to use a phrase relating to an increase of time on a team to a decrease of time in another group situation.
Hemyola: The concept "held back" misses the point. Not going to school does not have to "hold the child back." In fact, learning at at home can be a way to enhance faster learning and growth for many children with supportive parents. Likewise, going to school can actually hold a child back from growing and learning....
Experienced Teacher: There is no cookie cutter answer. It really does depend on the child. Yes, we are talking about your child and you do have the final say-so, of course. I am so tired of hearing the "bored" word. Your child by and large is NOT bored. They may not enjoy what they're learning, but they are not bored.
carlivar: The plural of anecdote is not data.
What experiences do you have with redshirting? Were you held back or have you considered redshirting your own children? Tell us your story in the comments section below.