« Edujobs, Fiscal Relief, Child Care, and Distribution | Main | Who's Minding the Kids? »

Don't Rush to Redshirt

I think my fellow EdWeek blogger, friend, and sometime debating partner Richard Whitmire is being flippant in titling this post on new research linking ADHD diagnosis to being relatively young for grade "Here's Why Smart Moms Redshirt their Sons." (btw, Don't Dads have any say here??)

At least, I sure as heck hope so. Kindergarten redshirting (yes, it gets its name from college athletics) is the practice of enrolling a child in kindergarten a year after he or she is eligible based on age. It's become conventional wisdom--particularly among status-conscious professional parents and people concerned about the so-called boys crisis--to advocate redshirting as a way of give children an early leg up academically and compensate for the fact that boys, on average, hit developmental milestones (particularly for verbal and fine motor skills) somewhat later than girls do.

But the evidence, on average, doesn't back this conventional wisdom up: Redshirting does appear to give slightly older children a mild competitive advantage early in their schooling, but that advantage fades out over time. And redshirting can actually have disadvantages as youngsters grow up: Later school start is associated with lower educational attainment, lower earnings at age 30, and decreased lifetime earnings. Differential rates of redshirting for boys and girls (boys are more likely to be redshirted) may in fact partially explain gender gaps in educational attainment. There are also economic costs for parents, who may have to pay for an extra year of childcare or preschool if they redshirt, as well as an additional year of supporting children who enter the labor market a year later.

The research Richard cites, which finds that the youngest children in a grade are identified for ADHD at higher rates than older students*, doesn't change this. Experts interviewed in the piece raise a variety of caveats; for example, older children may be underdiagnosed (although this seems unlikely).

More important, if younger children are being overdiagnosed with ADHD, the solution is not to redshirt them--after all, someone has to be the youngest in the class, so all redshirting would do would be to change who the youngest students are, setting off a kindergarten arms race. Rather, the solution is for parents, teachers and medical professionals to recognize that young-for-grade children are disproportionately diagnosed, and in response to apply extra caution in evaluating and diagnosing these children, and to evaluate children's behavior against norms for their age, not their grade.

That doesn't mean that redshirting is never the right choice--Children's cognitive and social development is highly variable, and waiting a year does make sense for some children. But that's a decision parents, pediatricians, and educators should make on an individual basis, based on the needs of their individual child and what a school can offer him or her, not based on these findings or a generalized belief that redshirting is somehow a solution to bigger educational challenges.

*This is how the studies are being reported and the easiest way to describe them, but it's not entirely accurate: Both studies used a regression discontinuity design and compared ADHD diagnosis rates for children born the month before their state's kindergarten entry cut-off (who might be expected to be young for grade) with children born the month after the state's kindergarten entry cut-off (who might be expected to be among the oldest in their grades).

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

AFT
Alex Grodd
Ana Menezes
Andrew Kelly
appropriations
ARRA
Aspire Public Schools
authorizing
Better Lesson
Bill Ferguson
certification
charter schools
child care
children's literature
choice
civil rights
CLASS
Core Knowledge
curriculum
D.C.
democracy
early childhood
Early Learning Challenge Grant
economics
elections
English language learners
entrepreneurship
equity
Evan Stone
fathers
finance
fix poverty first
Hailly Korman
harlem children's zone
HEA
Head Start
head start
health care
Higher Education
home-based child care
homeschooling
housing
How we think and talk about pre-k evidence
i3
IDEA
income inequality
instruction
international
Jason Chaffetz
Jen Medbery
just for fun
Justin Cohen
Kaya Henderson
Kenya
kindergarten
KIPP
Kirabo Jackson
Kwame Brown
land use
LearnBoost
libertarians
LIFO
literacy
Los Angeles
Louise Stoney
Mark Zuckerberg
Maryland
Massachusetts
Memphis
Michelle Rhee
Michigan
Mickey Muldoon
Neerav Kingsland
New Jersey
New Orleans
NewtownReaction
Next Gen Leaders
Next Gen leaders
nonsense
NSVF Summit
NYT
organizing
parent engagement
parenting
parking
pell grants
politics
poverty
PreK-3rd
presidents
principals
productivity
QRIS
Race to the Top
Rafael Corrales
redshirting
regulation
religion
rick hess
Roxanna Elden
RTT
san francisco
school choice
social services
SOTU
special education
Stephanie Wilson
stimulus
story
Sydney Morris
tax credits
Teacher Prep
teachers
technology
Title I
unions
urban issues
Vincent Gray
vouchers
Waiting for Superman
Washington
West Virginia
zoning