Thursday, September 06, 2007

Smart Kid Left Behind...

The biggest trend in education today is holding "smart" kids back. It's called "red-shirting", after the practice of keeping college athletes out a year while they grow bigger. A 2005 government report suggested that nearly 10% of American students in kindergarten were eligible to have enrolled the year before. The typical red-shirt is a boy with white, well-educated parents who know how good it feels to be at the top of the class. It's particularly a problem in private schools; an analysis showed that wealthy districts in Connecticut red-shirt at rates of up to 20%, while low-income district rates are 2 to 3%. Ironically, of course, the more families who do it, the less advantage there is. Perhaps more ironically, it doesn't seem to work. Most studies conclude that red shirts do no better than younger kids in the long term.

So, this is an article that I read last night in U.S.News and World Report. I know more and more people doing this. What do you all think about this? Does anyone have any advice here? My little girl has just turned 6 years old in late July and now I am push, push, pushing her in school with her reading and writing when many times she doesn't seem to really be eager to do it. I am always wondering is it her age and developmental stage? Should I hold her back as most of the kids in her class seem to be possibly a year plus older than her, which at this age makes a big difference. I am frustrated. She is reading just not at first grade level. I have heard many angles of this debate....there are the schools of thought suggesting that children shouldn't start school til they are 8 b/c their senses are not developmentally ready and then there are majority of people who start kids in preschool as babies b/c they are "sponges" and think they are getting them "ahead" of the curve. Is it wise? Do they all really even out eventually? Would she be bored if she were retained this year? I am constantly thinking,"should school be stress for a new 6 yr. old?" and thinking how she could be smartest kid in the class if i held her now and then reminding myself to constantly praise her and keep her home as a "soft place to fall". This whole subject has me consumed. I gotta get past this. aaaaagghhh! It's hard though - if everyone is doing it will my kid be at a disadvantage if I don't. .. that is my question?


Sarah said...

Good question! We struggled with this issue this year. Eldest is only 3-4 months younger than Kayden, right? But he just started 1/2 day kindergarten. He's sooo ready for so much more. So we struggled with perhaps putting him right into first grade. But "they say", for boys, that it's best to hold them back. So he's (one of) the oldest in his class. And I'm worried that he'll be bored, as he's not one to volunteer what he knows. I'm anxious for our first teacher conference so I can gauge what his teacher has learned about him. I know he hasn't told her that he can already read and spell SCARILY well (he reads the sports page!)

There's just so much uncertainty with this parenting gig, huh Kim? Hang in there!

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Go read this...

There's about a zillion comments, but it's worth reading.

Hope you're doing well and your baby boy is sleeping and happy!

ed's girl said...

Thanks Jennifer, these are two comments I liked from above said go to link...

I don't have a strong opinion on the matter and will support whatever choice you make.

However, here are my 6 cents (inflated,, well, due to inflation). They add up to one conclusion: you should send your kids to k-garten as soon as possible.

Cent 1: They've been through the day care system, which is great socialization, and will go through pre-K, which is wonderful preparation for writing, reading, math, and science.

Cent 2: You will be relieved by the time and money you'll save, which is a legitimate consideration.

Cent 3: Who cares what hopped-up wealthy New Yorkers are doing? These are the same people who signed their kids up for $20,000/year day cares two years before they were conceived to be sure that their child would get into Harvard. Your kids will do fine at k-garten and beyond. Remember your pre-chilid mantra, "My children are average in every way." It's a tough one to hold onto but it's worth the struggle to avoid the overbearing parent and anxious kid reality.

Cent 4: Unless your kids are diagnosed with a learning or social disability, they'll handle the challenges and grow, and they'd be bored stiff going through pre-K twice. It's not a good idea to protect them from all challenges.

Cent 5: I don't think you want to send your child the message that it's good to game the system in order to beat out the other kids. Competition on a level playing field is fine.

Cent 6: I'm not sure the state allows you any choice in the matter unless you're certified to home school. I've never heard you express a desire to home school.

As I say, I don't have a strong opinion on the matter.


[Sent by M, University English Professor and Dad]

8/21/07 8:05 AM
Oh, The Joys said...
I'd never heard of the term before today, but I was redshirted and I am grateful for it. But not for any of the reasons mentioned in the article or in the discussions below. I am a little amazed my reasons haven't been mentioned yet.

Being the oldest in my class never mattered much to me until puberty. Since boys generally hit puberty later than girls, there is already a maturity gap between genders, regardless of redshirting. Being held back as a boy meant I was on more equal footing with girls, both academically and socially. I did not have to worry that I might be the last kid in class to start showing signs of puberty, and this was a big relief, given how cruel boys can be to each other. I had an extra year to get comfortable with myself with respect to changing in the locker room, kissing girls, dating, drinking, smoking, and drugs. I was one of the first in my class to get a driver's license, which my Mom liked because she trusted me driving myself a whole lot more than she trusted my riding in someone else's car with someone else's teenager at the wheel. Most of my early girlfriends were younger than me, which meant I was under less pressure to explore new things faster than I wanted to. Other kids with my same birthday were a year ahead of me, getting exposed to sex and drugs a year earlier than me. Puberty and school were hell enough already without having to deal with these things earlier than I had to. I got an extra year to develop my sense of identity in the absence of these pressures, and I believe to this day I have greater self-confidence in everything I do as a result.


[Sent by J, Environmental Sustainability Expert and Dad]

Anonymous said...

You know, I taught second grade for 12 years. I had students in the lowest of the socio-economic scale, up to the very affluent. Same kids. Different issues, but same kids. Second grade is interesting because it’s really the last year a child learns to read, whereas third grade is the beginning of the real stuff, where they read to learn.

I found that if a child did not have a good basis in kindergarten, IT MEANT NOTHING. I remember hearing all the time “childhood is a journey, not a race.” Picasso didn’t speak until he was 6. Einstein was a horrible elementary school student.

What meant was attitude. Did the parents have a high expectation for their child? Did they encourage them to be the best person they could be, to love God, honor their parents, and understand the value of hard work? It’s so hard for me, as a parent and former teacher, to hear folks try to figure out the best for their children, not with fundamentals, but with flash cards, soccer practice, or big birthday parties.

Each child is different. My Ain was born in July. He was the only one in his preschool class who couldn’t write his name the January before kindergarten. I was encouraged to hold him back. But I also knew that he had a real love of learning, that with positive encouragement he would flourish and find his way. He is now a very successful student. Of course, the kid hears every day the history of his parents, his grandparents, the expectations we have for school. We talk about university education all the time- and even though my job robs me of the amount of time I’d like to have with my children, I know that my attitude towards school directly affects him, and my presence is absolutely a deciding factor in his success.

Which brings me back to second grade and beyond. Isn’t that the whole point of keeping a child back? To make them more successful later? Now, I would never profess to be an expert in ANYTHING in this whole wide world. I can only speak from my personal experience, and my limited perspective. But I must say, that in my teaching years, whenever we had a child struggling in school, or a child with low performance, it was invariably due to their self confidence. And where do they gain that confidence? At home. School helps- like a kind teacher, a nurturing classroom, innovative teaching, independent learning- all of that. BUT NOTHING has the impact of the parents. Ever.

So. Keep a child back or not? I think that depends on the personality of the child. My C is going into kindergarten this Monday. She is also a July baby, and she’ll be one of the youngest in her class. She is very ready- she can’t stop talking about school. I feel confident sending her because I see her showing signs of interest in letters, she loves to draw, but most of all, she loves being around other children together. She’s shy, but very social. I already see that math is going to be a struggle, which is so different from her brother. I can’t imagine holding her back- she needs to start her independent academic journey. She’s longing for it.

As you can see, I feel very strongly about all of this. But let me just give one more point that I think about ALL the time. We, the parents of young children in the USA, are so animate about competition in the early years, and making sure our children have all they can to be ahead. But that interest drops off around, oh, 9th grade. Why do I say this? Here I am, the mother of 4. My oldest just graduated from high school, my youngest is 6 months. I have a teenager, a child, a just-finished toddler, and an infant. I have it all. I thank God for these 4 every day, because they are my total wealth. There is nothing I care more about in this world than those 4 children upstairs. And the moment those children became part of my life, my existence changed forever.

I don’t believe that my child turns 18, and that’s it. I believe I am their partner, their confidant, and their financial security forever, until I die. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want independent, thriving human beings leaving my home, with hopefully graduate school educations and the tools in their hands to be more economically viable and stronger than I am today. I pray they all go off one day, live their adventures, travel, find the loves of their lives, and have children of their own.

If my child can read before kindergarten, if she can count to 100, if she can tell me all of the presidents before she’s six, is that a recipe for guaranteed success? HELL NO. If she knows all of that stuff, that means she can raise her hand more times than another child. Fabulous. Or even let’s say this- if she goes to the right school, or is taught by that latest innovative math program, or reads Catcher in the Rye by 3rd grade, is she on her way to becoming president? I still say probably not. Again, I say the basics: do they obey their parents? Do they respect their teachers? Do they believe in doing their best always?

I have friends that were terrible in school, and today they are millionaires. I have friends who did really well in school, and today they don’t “work”, and raise their children. I have friends that went to the best private schools money could buy, and ended up living off of their trust funds. I have a brother who was pretty unmotivated in school, and today is a rocket scientist heading his own tech company.

The whole point here is what can we as parents do to best suit our children. I don’t think we can create a better society of students by “tricking” the system and holding a child back. Instead, we should be encouraging our children to take school as seriously as they can and put academics and school life as their priority, keep supporting their educational choices as they grow, and gently push them to develop their talents and become strong adults. We should be encouraging our children to go for the highest achievements they can, to get PhDs, to invent, to travel, to take care of those in need, to read, to experience other languages and cultures, and to count the many blessings we have to be living in such affluence.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

[Sent by S, Former teacher, Jewelry Designer and Mom]

ed's girl said...

above is another comment from oh the joys link---great post (LONG,if you have the time to read, worth it)

Brooks, "You're My Everything!"...