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Youngest Students Most Likely to Be Retained in Kindergarten, Study States

The youngest kindergarteners in any class are about five times more likely to be retained in school compared to their older peers, a new study states.

Moreover, educators don't tend to modify their teaching to include a variety of age groups present in kindergartens—but they should make such accommodations, wrote Francis L. Huang, assistant professor in the University of Missouri College of Education, in her study "Further Understanding Factors Associated with Grade Retention: Birthday Effects and Socioemotional Skills," published in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

"Research on retention has been somewhat more consistent in suggesting that holding children back a year is not the most effective practice," said Huang, in a statement. "Requiring children to repeat a grade is not only expensive for parents and school districts, but it also can affect children's self-esteem and their ability to adjust in the future."

It stands to reason why such students are retained, she said. The age difference between the oldest children and their youngest peers in any kindergarten might be 12 months—a difference of 20 percent less life experience, Huang wrote.

That might account for the fact that younger children have shorter attention spans and less advanced social skills when compared to those of older peers, she stated. But teachers should note this and strive to tweak lessons so that children can make the most of them, she said.

The researcher relied on statistics from the nationally-representative "Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99" for her report which is available for purchase here.

The study comes at a time when many parents are making the decision to retain children themselves. To read more about the so-called practice of "redshirting," click here.  

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