Friday, August 1, 2008

Redshirting kindergarteners and HS dropout.

A new study by economists David Deming and Susan Dynarski -- delaying children's entrance into kindergarten may affect graduation rates:
Forty years ago, 96% of six-year-old children were enrolled in first grade or above. As of 2005, the figure was just 84%. 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.
Hadn't thought of it that way before. Weak students in my lower level class who are 10th grade and 16 years old (and fairly mature in terms of body size and ability to do manual labor) are saying "Two more years? Screw it. I don't need an education, I already have a job." Those in 11th grade can talk themselves into "It's only one more year."

Students who are stronger academically or better off socioeconomically are less likely to go here. I'd like to see some real data that tried to answer this part of the question. What is the cause and is there something we can do or even should do about it?

I think the later entry into first grade for testing reasons (if the kid is a year older, he will do better) has been pushed for any number of reasons. Principals and ed experts push the idea so as to raise test scores of the district. Parents do it for socialization ("He's just not ready") or for athletic reasons ("so tiger can be the best") or for personal reasons ("I can't let him go yet.)

Funny how the law of unintended consequences seems to always hold true.

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