KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The decision you make for your child in kindergarten will affect the rest of his or her time in school.
One University of Missouri study released Monday found the younger children are when they enter Kindergarten, the more likely they will be held back a year in school. The MU study said the youngest kindergartners are five times more likely to be retained by the school compared to older students.
The desire to compete and succeed pushed a trend among parents in recent years to "red shirt" their children a year, simply to give them an advantage.
When a child turns five, teachers at Pembroke Hill School said a majority of parents are asking: Do I enroll my 5-year-old in kindergarten or do I wait another year?
"The majority of my class is already 6," kindergarten teacher Tiffany Kelley said.
Kelley has very few 5-year-olds anymore in her classes. She said parents want their child to succeed but also, regardless of ability to move ahead, they also don't want their child to be the youngest one in class.
"Once there starts to be a trend - playground talk or ‘park talk’ as we like to call it - where parents are thinking, ‘Wait, your child doesn't turn 6 until when?" she said.
Pembroke Hill, and a growing list of other schools, requires kindergartners be 5 years old by July 1. Missouri and Kansas require a child be 5 in August.
"You have veteran students going into kindergarten, kids who've been in Mother's Day Out, kids who've been in preschool and pre-kindergarten," Assistant Head of Pembroke Hill School Carolyn Sullivan said.
It's why so often now what was once learned in first grade is now quickly becoming kindergarten curriculum, like spelling and reading.
Sullivan said each child is different and individual; if they're eager learners and emotionally mature they can do fine.
Educators warn, though, before making a decision to ask yourself if you're wanting "red shirt" your kindergartner for reasons other than academics.
One father told Sullivan a few years ago,
"He was always the littlest on the team and said he didn't want that for his children," one father told Sullivan years ago.
For parents wondering what to do, she suggested, "Know your child and why you're leaning one way or the other. Is this about your child or about you?"
She said it's a school of thought parents are not always willing to subscribe to.