Friday, September 27, 2013

Dept. of Nobody Knows Anything: redshirting children

See also Expert Predictions and Medical Science?
New Yorker: ... Redshirting is the practice of holding a child back for an extra year before the start of kindergarten, named for the red jersey worn in intra-team scrimmages by college athletes kept out of competition for a year. It is increasingly prevalent among parents of would-be kindergartners. In 1968, four per cent of kindergarten students were six years old; by 1995, the number of redshirted first- and second-graders had grown to nine per cent. In 2008, it had risen to seventeen per cent. The original logic of the yearlong delay is rooted in athletics: athletes who are bigger and stronger tend to perform better, so why not bench the younger, smaller ones for a year? The logic was popularized in “Freakonomics,” in which the authors, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, pointed out that élite soccer players were much more likely to have birthdays in the earliest months of the year—that is, they would have been the oldest in any group of students that used a January 1st cutoff for enrollment.

On the surface, redshirting seems to make sense in the academic realm, too. The capabilities of a child’s brain increase at a rapid pace; the difference between five-year-olds and six-year-olds is far greater than between twenty-five-year-olds and twenty-six-year-olds. An extra year can allow a child to excel relative to the younger students in the class. “Especially for boys, there is thought to be a relative-age effect that persists across sports and over time,” said Friedman. “Early investment of time and skill developments appears to have a more lasting impact.” Older students and athletes are often found in leadership positions—and who can doubt the popularity of the star quarterback relative to the gym-class weakling?

It’s this competitive logic, rather than genuine concern about a child’s developmental readiness, that drives redshirting. Many parents decide to redshirt their children not because they seem particularly immature or young but because they hope that the extra year will give them a boost relative to their peers. In light of modern competitive demands, why wouldn’t you want your child to have that edge? The psychologist Betsy Sparrow calls it “gaming the system”—and the data on who chooses to redshirt bears out that classification: the people most likely to redshirt their children are those who can most afford to do so—that is, the white and the wealthy. Families in the highest socioeconomic quintile are thirty-six per cent more likely to redshirt their children than those in the lowest, and while close to six per cent of white children are redshirted, the figure falls to two per cent for Hispanic children, and less than one per cent for their black peers.

The data, however, belies this assumption. While earlier studies have argued that redshirted children do better both socially and academically—citing data on school evaluations, leadership positions, and test scores—more recent analyses suggest that the opposite may well be the case: the youngest kids, who barely make the age cutoff but are enrolled anyway, ultimately end up on top—not their older classmates. When a group of economists followed Norwegian children born between 1962 and 1988, until the youngest turned eighteen, in 2006, they found that, at age eighteen, children who started school a year later had I.Q. scores that were significantly lower than their younger counterparts. Their earnings also suffered: through age thirty, men who started school later earned less. A separate study, of the entire Swedish population born between 1935 and 1984, came to a similar conclusion: in the course of the life of a typical Swede, starting school later translated to reduced over-all earnings. In a 2008 study at Harvard University, researchers found that, within the U.S., increased rates of redshirting were leading to equally worrisome patterns. The delayed age of entry, the authors argued, resulted in academic stagnation: it decreased completion rates for both high-school and college students, increased the gender gap in graduation rates (men fell behind women), and intensified socioeconomic differences.

As it turns out, the benefits of being older and more mature may not be as important as the benefits of being younger than your classmates. In 2007, the economists Elizabeth Cascio and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach decided to analyze the data of Tennessee’s Project STAR—an experiment originally designed to test the effects of classroom size on learning—with a different set of considerations: How would the relative class composition affect student performance? Their approach differed from most studies of redshirting in one crucial way: the students had been assigned totally randomly to their kindergarten classrooms, with no option for parents to lobby for, say, a different teacher, a different school, or a class in which the child would have some other perceived or actual relative advantage. This led to true experimental variation in relative age and maturity. That is, the same student could be relatively younger in one class, but relatively older in another, depending on his initial class assignment. The researchers discovered that relatively more mature students didn’t have an academic edge; instead, when they looked at their progress at the end of kindergarten, and, later, when they reached middle school, they were worse off in multiple respects. Not only did they score significantly lower on achievement tests—both in kindergarten and middle school—they were also more likely to have been kept back a year by the time they reached middle school, and were less likely to take college-entrance exams. The less mature students, on the other hand, experienced positive effects from being in a relatively more mature environment: in striving to catch up with their peers, they ended up surpassing them. ...

Few researchers would dispute that, in the immediate term, being relatively bigger, quicker, smarter, and stronger is a good thing. Repeatedly, the studies have found exactly that—older kindergarten students perform better on tests, receive better teacher evaluations, and do better socially. But then, something happens: after that early boost, their performance takes a nosedive. By the time they get to eighth grade, any disparity has largely evened out—and, by college, younger students repeatedly outperform older ones in any given year.

38 comments:

ktistec said...

Where I grew up in California, it's not uncommon to hold a less bright or mature kid back if they are near the boundary. This would put a strong selective pressure on the younger pupils in a grade to be more intelligent. Meanwhile, the ones who are held back would put a drag on the scores of older students in the cohort. Considering this leeway existed for August, September and October birthdays with a smattering of November births as well, this effect would significantly skew the data if unaccounted for.

5371 said...

Being challenged is better for the talented than having things easy. Simple to understand, but apparently not for the authors of "Freakonomics".

Richard Seiter said...

As a November baby (we entered school by calendar year) I strongly agree with this statement regarding academics. As someone who is below average height and was also late growing I think from an athletic and social point of view Freakonomics might have a point (the challenge can be good for personal growth, but the outcomes can be limiting IMHO). One of the best students (and a good athlete) in the HS class following mine was a January baby who started early. That seemed to work well for her.


It would be interesting to know if the studies do any evaluation of how entry timing results differ for different "types" of students.

Richard Seiter said...

I suspect the combination of "While earlier studies have argued that redshirted children do better both socially and academically"

and "the people most likely to redshirt their children are those who can most afford to do so—that is, the white and the wealthy. Families in the highest socioeconomic quintile are thirty-six per cent more likely to redshirt their children than those in the lowest, and while close to six per cent of white children are redshirted, the figure falls to two per cent for Hispanic children, and less than one per cent for their black peers."



is not a coincidence. I wonder how much of an effort those earlier studies made to correct for all the potential confounding variables.

oregonlocal said...

I was a January baby who graduated HS 5 months after I turned 17. Lot's of smart kids with decent grades were late fall/winter babies in my class. There was one kid who was also 17 and matriculated at Jefferson Medical College's accelerated undergrad/medical school program and got his MD at 23. This coincides with average peak intelligence so I gotta believe that high school lasts way too long in this country. I would argue that freshman at college should have an average age of 16. There seems no reason one should not study the theory of a function and do differential equations etc. in high school at 15.

stevesailer said...

My father was redshirted in 1923 in Oak Park, IL, so it's been practiced on a small scale for, roughly, ever. In turn, however, he insisted to the school that I be admitted to first grade despite being a few months younger that then cutoff.


In general, early admission and being sped up was common in mid-Century America. For example, Barack Obama's mom was offered admission to the U. of Chicago at age 15. The U. of C. regularly admitted 15-year-olds, such as James D. Watson and Philip Glass (but also one of the Leopold and Loeb killers). That's really faded over the generations.

Bobdisqus said...

That is it we can make the heritability of IQ go away and close the gap we just have to mandate a starting age by race, but which order and wait isn’t race a social construct so now I am all confused again.

Then again sports and academics are not quite the same thing and perhaps both are right in their realm. Steve Sailer has put up a few posts over at isteve about the redshirting of kids for sports. I seem to remember them being baseball related. Perhaps it is just that those highest socioeconomic quintile types are not bold enough to go in for a penny in for a pound and alter birth certificates to get that two year advantage.

If we control for parental IQ what are we left with?

oregonlocal said...

"the figure falls to two per cent for Hispanic children, and less than one per cent for their black peers."



It's called "social promotion." We can't give them low self-estemm now can we? Of course it leads to the widespread phenomenon of HS grads who can't read or write.

David Stern said...

Yes, in England we started school in the year we turned 5, so I was still 4 years old when I started primary school. There were also 14 years of grade school.

Richard Seiter said...

Sure. You can either try reaching me via G+ or Facebook (my name is fairly uncommon) or send me an email at r at sonic.net

Diogenes said...

is this an example of statistically significant but otherwise insignificant?

i remember explaining this distinction to a school psychologists a long long time ago. he thought i was talking gibberish. but what can one expect from psychologists?

Diogenes said...

and in the southern hemisphere who are the cleverest and best rugby players?

Cornelius said...

It's reasonable to assume that redshirted children with relatively high IQs will suffer. Those kids are already held back by an educational system that does little to cater to their needs. Every year of mental age they exceed their school age peers by just adds to their suffering.


I entered school early - started kindergarten at 4 - and I still had a very hard time. It wasn't until I got to college and started taking real math and physics courses that I really came into my own. Grade school was a nightmare for me. The teachers and students were all idiots.

Bellcurveoli said...

Thanks, Steve. I feel better already. My family emigrated to the west years ago. I could not get into sixth grade but was accepted to seventh grade at a private school since the test for the former was an achievement test and the test for the latter was an aptitude test and I barely spoke English then. I ended up doing just fine and eventually graduated from US medical school before turning 24. Just recently, I allowed my smarter younger daughter (WISC-IV IQ 144) to skip second grade and enrolled her in third grade at a private school, after a year and half of homeschooling. To me, she is struggling a little primarily since she is bilingual and biliterate (yes, there is a cost to it initially!) though she is as happy as a clam. I am pretty certain she would catch up over the next couple of years. I like it that she is finally getting challenged (though she says no one would throw dodge ball at her, probably for fear of knocking her over due to her small size, been a May baby and almost 2 years age difference compared to her eldest classmates).

Diogenes said...

i can't say all my fellow students were idiots. at least three were smarter than me. but that doesn't mean the weren't idiots, does it?



usnews put my public hs in the 98th percentile and third in the state, but i can say many many years later that i can't believe i didn't set fire to the place. my teachers were lazy morons without exception.


my dad attended a uni school all grades. even though my mom was "poor" (according to her) she attended rc schools. so my parents were clueless. i applied to the local jesuit hs, but they wouldn't take me.

Diogenes said...

i agree with you there.


after sputnik the big push for sci and maths worked. in sci and math my brother and i make may mother and father look like the dumb kids and they made their parents look like the really dumb kids.


my grandfather learned greek at stonyhurst, but a graphing calculator was pure confusion for him.


what's the limit? if all the other subjects were reduced in time allotted?

Diogenes said...

the only richard seiter i found has something to do with prisons.

Diogenes said...

o'bama's mom, really? i'll have to look that up. still, watson was like feynman, measured iq < 130. he said so himself.



his dad had another very smart son, pace the racists. but the mother was jewish, so maybe o'bama sr wasn't so smart. he must've had something. in america, high iq white women are very unlikely to marry black men for whatever reason.

Diogenes said...

all is studied until 16 was the biography of the dear leader and the great leader.

Richard Seiter said...

That's not me (I said uncommon, not unique. I thought demographics would help folks differentiate.). For years I was the only one by that name who showed up on the net, but as it's become more widely used that's not the case.

Diogenes said...

even better would be if children like your daughter attended schools full of students like herself.

i remember my suburbs talented and gifted had 1/4 of the school, so not so talented or gifted.

how do other countries deal with the very smart?

Diogenes said...

or talk surfer jive.


i remembered correctly, "soc" is a term from the outsiders. "sosh" is never used.

Bellcurveoli said...

You do make a good point. Unfortunately, we live in more rural county without HAG support. That's why we have to resort to skipping a grade.

FredRR said...

They took Richard Rorty at 15 too.

oregonlocal said...

"talk surfer jive"

And why shouldn't I? I am after all an avid surfer.



I'm sorry that whoever wrote the subtitles for your copy of the flick didn't know how to translate slang. Must have been another hodad like yourself.

Hacienda said...

Watson and Feynman < 130. No big deal I think. Have you read Feynman's political thoughts? Laughable.
A man of great spatial talents, who eats, lives, hero worships those in those in his field, and maybe above
all dreams the stuff from an very early age can become a Feynman despite not spectacular g.


Watson at less 130 is almost no mystery at all. Socially clumsy out of his sphere. Possibly a thief.

oregonlocal said...

"maybe aboveall dreams the stuff from an very early age can become a Feynman despite not spectacular g"


Didn't Shockley have an IQ in

Many studies have put the average IQ of non-Peace Prize Nobel winners in the low to mid 140's. It should be no surprise that many have IQ's of 130. There is a lot more to intellectual achievement than sheer brain power. IMHO hard work and creativity (quantifiable only after the fact) play equally important roles.

Of course our host Stephen tacitly implies that only Phd.'s in physics and math are really smart but that is sheer nonsense. Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf had an officially measured IQ of 168 in high school.

The average IQ of American presidents is estimated to be a tad above 120, about what you would expect from graduates from a decent university. In politics It helps to be a BMOC type rather than super smart. William Shockley only had an IQ of 130 too.

dxie48 said...

"(I fear affirmative action poster child Barack Obama may be in the low to mid-teens.)"

I read somewhere that in high school Obama was pondering on whether time was a fundamental dimension. No ordinary high school student would do that. Thus I was not surprised when I saw this,

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1341407
The Curvature of Constitutional Space: What Lawyers Can Learn from Modern Physics


where Obama's contribution was credited. No ordinary lawyer would dabble in General Theory of Relativity.

oregonlocal said...

Thief? I assume you are referring to their use of some new Franklin and Goslings X-ray crystallography pics of the DNA molecule that they had not previously seen. They had originally come up with an incorrect model based upon previous data. At any rate, of the three Nobel winners: Watson, Wilkins, and Crick, it was the non-Phd. Crick who immediately noted the double-helix structure in the new data.

oregonlocal said...

I'm sure he thinks in terms of the Special Theory thought experiments about flashlight beams bouncing off a fast moving spaceship ceiling as seen by an outside observer. I remember discussing this with my teacher in sixth grade.

Diogenes said...

schwarzkopf won a celeb jeopardy tournament, so his verbal iq was high.



BUT here's class again in america...in case you didn't know...



the us military is for the lower class (YET flag waving). whether enlisted or officers, to be in the us military is to be stupid.


at least this is the prejudice of bobos and swipls.

Diogenes said...

you're either joking or you've been fooled.

Diogenes said...

though it is very imperfect, AND MUCH LESS perfect than that of other countries, achievement in academia is the closest to a meritocracy the us has next to sports.



there are many academics who could never have made it outside academia, but they're a minority.


money isn't their motivation, obviously, i hope.

Diogenes said...

the smartest of anglo-american "philosophers" yet (if you'd read him you'd know) an imbecile compared, well, to all the smart people i went to school with at least.

FredRR said...

He said some dumb things, but I'm still a big fan. I like the bored, 'deflationary' tone he takes when discussing abstruse philosophical debates.

FredRR said...

Rorty talking about how great U. of C. taking him at a young age was for him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11CqZd3B8B8

Hacienda said...

Possibly a thief. I don't know the man, but I do know fairly
well the capabilities of scientists, having been around them
a lot. There is no more overrated lot of men than the scientist.
Morally blank. Presumed to be smarter than they really are.
Socially inept, and the better they are as scientists, the more
grating they are as people- Newton is the prime example.


Thanks for letting me vent.

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