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Statistical Analysis Report

The Elementary School Performance and Adjustment of Children Who Enter Kindergarten Late or Repeat Kindergarten: Findings from National Surveys

November 1997

(NCES 98-097) Ordering information


Data from the 1993 and 1995 National Household Education Surveys show that about one child in seven in the U.S. either entered kindergarten late or was required to repeat kindergarten. Children usually enter kindergarten late because their parents hold them out until they are more mature. Children usually repeat kindergarten because they are required to do so by the school system.

The surveys found that there were similarities between the kinds of children who experienced delayed entry or kindergarten repetition, but also some notable differences.

The surveys found striking differences in the later school performance of children who were held out of kindergarten in contrast to those who had to repeat kindergarten. The school performance of first- and second-graders who had been held out of kindergarten was found to be better than that of first- and second-graders who entered kindergarten at the prescribed age. In contrast, children who were required to repeat kindergarten were doing worse than other first- and second-graders. Specifically:

  • In 1993, first- and second-graders who had been held out of kindergarten until they were older were less likely than other children to receive negative feedback from their teachers concerning their academic performance or conduct in class. In 1995, the delayed entry students were less likely than students who entered kindergarten on time to have repeated first or second grade.

  • First- and second-graders in 1993 who had repeated kindergarten were more likely than children who had not repeated to receive negative feedback from their teachers. Also, first- and second-graders in 1995 who repeated kindergarten had more school performance problems than children who did not repeat.

    When demographic, socioeconomic, and developmental factors were taken into account, the differences in school performance were reduced, but remained significant in the 1993 survey. In the 1995 survey, however, controlling for these background factors essentially eliminated the differences between students who were held out and other first- and second-graders. The same was true of the performance differences between the students who had been retained and other students.

    The surveys did not find evidence that children who may have been at increased risk of experiencing difficulties in school benefited from (or were harmed by) delayed kindergarten entry to a greater degree than other children. The same was true of kindergarten retention. Specifically, for young male children and children who had developmental delays, neither delayed kindergarten entry nor kindergarten retention were found to have significant relationships with first and second grade school performance or adjustment.

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