This practice is an arms race in upper-middle class families, especially for boys. Those families can afford the extra year of preschool, childcare, or a stay at home parent.
Furthermore, the actuarial implications of this are significant. I have read studies that estimate the delay of one year to the earning years for an entire population without changing retirement age or benefits produces a 3% shortfall. Add a "gap year" between high school and college and we are in serious financial jeopardy. (No cheap digs about living in a state issuing IOUs, please.)
Anyway, back to my aha! moment today.
The multiple choice tests to identify "gifted" kids compare a kid's score relative to a nationwide sample of kids in the same grade. A borderline kid with an extra year of schooling under their belt has a relative advantage. Those older kids are more likely to be males and from upper-middle class backgrounds.
You can buy your way to a gifted kid. That is sooooo unfair.
- Parents who back this practice like to ask, "Do you want your child to be a leader or a follower?"
My answer has always been, "Neither". I would be surprised if anyone was able to lead Iris. I would be equally surprised if anyone actually follows her.
- BTW, the birthday cutoff for kindergarten enrollment vary by states. In some states, it can be as early as June. In others, notably California, the child need only to turn 5 by Dec 2 of the kindergarten year. If no kids were redshirted, and births are distributed evenly throughout the year (they aren't), the kindergartners in CA are half a year younger than their cohorts in the early cutoff states. That accounts for some of the differences between low and high scoring states on national tests.
- I realized this because Iris is attending the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) camp this summer. Look at their testing requirements for Grades 2-6.
"Achievement at the 95th percentile or higher on one or more areas of a nationally normed standardized test."
When we received Iris' scores in the mail, I learned they were comparing her against kids in the 3rd grade, not kids the same age. Our school district does the same thing for GATE identification. She's a November baby and she had skipped a grade, pitting her against kids 1-2 years older. Luckily, she made the cut.
But what about a bright kid from south Los Angeles whose parents put her in school at the earliest opportunity to save on babysitting costs? What if she barely missed the cut? Should she be denied the opportunities given those whose parents could afford the extra year?
The Lengthening of Childhood:
New England Public Policy Center Working Paper No. 08-3
by David Deming and Susan Dynarski, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
You can download a pdf of the entire paper.
Forty years ago, 96 percent of six-year-old children were enrolled in first grade or above. As of 2005, the figure was just 84 percent. The school attendance rate of six-year-olds has not decreased; rather, they are increasingly likely to be enrolled in kindergarten rather than first grade. This paper documents this historical shift. We show that only about a quarter of the change can be proximately explained by changes in school entry laws; the rest reflects "academic redshirting," the practice of enrolling a child in a grade lower than the one for which he is eligible. We show that the decreased grade attainment of six-year-olds reverberates well beyond the kindergarten classroom. Recent stagnation in the high school and college completion rates of young people is partly explained by their later start in primary school. The relatively late start of boys in primary school explains a small but significant portion of the rising gender gaps in high school graduation and college completion. Increases in the age of legal school entry intensify socioeconomic differences in educational attainment, since lower-income children are at greater risk of dropping out of school when they reach the legal age of school exit.Addendum:
Steve Sailer notes in Redshirting:" A Kindergarten Arms Race that:
The urge to redshirt is also found among state legislators. From 1975 to 2000, 22 states raised the minimum age at which a child is allowed to start kindergarten by moving the cutoff birthrate back earlier in the year. This has the effect of making younger children redshirt involuntarily. Only one state cut the starting age, and that by a mere two weeks.
Somewhat similarly, states have been moving to raise the age of their students so that their students will achieve higher average scores on national tests. A 1999 California law changing the minimum birthdate from December to September explained, "Comparisons between California pupils and pupils in other states on national achievement tests in the later grades are likely to be more equitable if the entry age of California pupils is more closely aligned to that of most other states."
Of course, even if its test scores go up, California won't necessarily be doing a better job of educating its children. It's just doing what educators all over have known for years. The easiest way to have your students score better on measures of educational performance is to start with students who score better on the measurements even before you try to educate them. Requiring students to be older when they start at the front end of the educational process is an attractive, if sneaky, approach to getting seemingly more impressive results out the back end.
This is true both with kindergarteners and professional students. For example, master of business administration programs are largely evaluated on the starting salaries of their graduates. Back in the '70s, business schools realized that the higher the salary a student earned in his last job before entering the MBA program, the higher his likely starting salary upon graduating.
So, elite business schools virtually stopped taking new college graduates. Entering MBA students at the famous Wharton School at the U. of Pennsylvania now average a full six years of work experience. Those spectacular near-six-figure starting salaries that MBA schools trumpet are less amazing when you realize that it's not uncommon for the average student at a top school to have left behind a job paying $65,000 or more.