The state of Texas has a new law that makes it much easier for public school parents to “COVID redshirt” their children — and that doesn’t just apply to kindergarteners.
Before the start of the school year, Texas passed a law that allows parents of elementary and middle-aged children to ask school officials to allow their child to repeat a grade; parents of high school students could ask their children to repeat specific courses. If the school administration disagreed on the need for a red shirt, they could convene a committee and hold a hearing before finally deciding the matter.
The same law also allows parents of kindergarten and kindergarten students to enroll their children one year late if they did not enroll last year due to COVID-19.
The new law, covered by the Dallas Morning News, is an unsurprising expansion of parental choice.
Reports about how kindergarten will be a mess this fall due to the redshirting pandemic have abounded in recent months. Indeed, for fairly understandable reasons, kindergarten enrollment has plummeted during COVID-19. Parents who would have enrolled their children in kindergarten absent a pandemic have not done so, choosing instead to wait until their children can be in real classrooms. This trend has been confirmed by large-scale reporting projects (like this incredible story based on data from The New York Times) and local stories of districts and states bracing for an influx of kindergartners after seeing enrollment numbers plummet locally and nationally.
Many parents were considering enrolling their children in kindergarten for the 2021-2022 school year for the first time. Others want their children to repeat kindergarten in person after spending their first year of school online.
For some children, the Texas Rule can be extremely helpful, especially for very young children for whom school is just as much about learning how to sit in a classroom and engage with others as it is master their ABCs and their 123s.
Parents’ concerns are understandable, but the situation is not ideal for kindergarten teachers who will find themselves with massive classrooms (too) full of students of very different ages and educational experiences.
And the Dallas Morning News reports that there were approximately 75,000 fewer kindergarten and kindergarten students enrolled in Texas schools in January 2021 compared to January 2019, suggesting that the new law will benefit younger children more than older children .
But for education experts who have been sounding the alarm over a so-called education bubble for about a year, it’s a sign that kindergarten in particular will be a total mess when schools start.
In other words, the law could lead to an even more chaotic school year for educators, and while parents have the advantage of having more decision-making power, it’s hard to say what kind of parents actually went through the program in Texas and in general.
Historically, redshirting has come from wealthier white parents who can afford to keep their children out of public school for another year – and being held back in school can actually have damaging effects on self-esteem. children’s self-esteem and their likelihood of graduating. But repeating a year after going through COVID-19 could be totally different and could give children another chance to engage in the social-emotional learning they missed last year alongside academic education.
Either way, this is just another way COVID-19 has turned K-12 education upside down, for better or worse!