Monday, September 04, 2017

Is your child ready for kindergarten?

The rules should allow flexibility about this.  A smart kid should definitely NOT be held back but it may beneficial for a slower kid.  Smart kids in higher grades are normally found to cope well, both academically and socially -- and it gives them an extra year in the workforce

Both of my children have summer birthdays. Months before my oldest, Max, approached kindergarten, the questions from friends and family started. Everyone wondered if my husband and I were going to send him to kindergarten on schedule or hold him out until the following year.

The practice of delaying a child’s entry to kindergarten is called red-shirting, a term borrowed from collegiate sports where the youngest players sit out their freshman year to give them time to mature into better athletes. Malcolm Gladwell drew attention to the concept in his 2008 book “Outliers”: “In competitive situations, a person who’s relatively older than the others will probably be the one who wins.”

The practice of red-shirting has grown substantially over the years. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that more than nine percent of children are age 6 when entering kindergarten — nearly triple the rate in the 1970s. In affluent communities, where parents can afford an extra year of preschool, the number can be even higher.

Parents seem to wrestle most with the red-shirting decision when they have a son whose fifth birthday falls just before the cutoff date for kindergarten eligibility, which, in Massachusetts is generally around Sept. 1. If the child starts kindergarten “on time,” he will be among the youngest in his grade. If he is red-shirted, he will be one of the oldest. More than 70 percent of red-shirted children were born during the summer months, and it is twice as common among boys as among girls, according to economist Diane Whitmore Schazenbach.

“Parents who have college degrees are twice as likely to red-shirt their children as high-school graduates are,” says Schazenbach, a professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University, who has conducted multiple studies on red-shirting.

“Generally, the research isn’t as clear cut as Gladwell suggests,” says Schazenbach, who used data from Project STAR, an experiment in which students were randomly assigned to classrooms prior to kindergarten entry. The random assignment of students to classrooms however, meant that pairs of children with the same birthday fell into different positions in their classroom distribution by the luck of the draw.

“The study shows that the benefit of being older at the start of kindergarten declines sharply as children move through the school grades. In the early grades, an older child will tend to perform better on standardized tests than his younger peers simply by virtue of being older,” says Schazenbach.

This makes sense: a red-shirted kindergartner has been alive up to 20 percent longer than his on-time counterpart, his brain has had that much more time to develop. The question becomes, does the benefit last? Schazenbach continues: “This initial advantage in academic achievement dissipates over time and appears to vanish by high school when the red-shirted student is at most 7 percent older than his peers.”

The younger students on the other hand, experienced positive affects from being in a relatively more mature environment: in striving to catch up with their peers, they also tend to do well. “Because older classmates tend to be higher achieving and better behaved, they model positive behavior, and the younger students achieve great academic gains from learning and competing with older ones,” she says.

The decision to delay a child’s entry to kindergarten is typically made in the spring prior to the start of a school year, when information can be limited and uncertain.

“It’s a poor predictor of what their skills will be in September or October,” says Martin West, an associate professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education. “Their social and emotional development happens in spurts. A child can have dramatic progression in a matter of months, over the summer.

“In the region’s better-educated, more-affluent communities, there’s a perception that if parents don’t red-shirt a child with a summer birthday they will be placing him or her at a disadvantage,” says West. “But in our reading of the evidence it’s clear that they don’t need to feel that pressure.”

Still, even with that knowledge, the pressure can be hard to resist.

Erin Mancinelli wasn’t aware of the concept of red-shirting as her son — who has an August birthday — approached kindergarten until the spring of his second year of preschool when fellow parents started asking whether she was going to hold him back.

“As soon as people put the idea in your ear, you can’t not think about it,” recalls Mancinelli. “I was thinking he would be fine to start and his teacher thought he was ready.”

However, after a conversation with her father, Mancinelli’s opinion shifted. “My brother had a late August birthday and my dad reminded me that he always had trouble keeping up with his peers. My parents ended up having my brother do a post-graduate year before college so he could catch up,” she says. “Rather than having to do that it seemed better to delay his start now.”

Yet for a long time, Mancinelli regretted her decision. Her son seemed bored in kindergarten, and didn’t feel challenged in first grade either. At the start of third grade, however, the family moved from Sandwich to Falmouth. “He had trouble adjusting and for the first time, the work wasn’t as easy for him,” she said. “I was really glad he wasn’t a year ahead at that point.”

Schazenbach and West agree that the decision to red-shirt a child must be made on a case-by-case basis.

While the evidence of academic benefits to red-shirting may be unclear, some studies point to social boosts.

A study published in the National Bureau of Academic Research examined data compiled among Danish students, where most children enter kindergarten at age 6. The study asserts that giving children a leg up in maturity and social/emotional skills results in significantly lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity.

The social and emotional aspect was what Norwell mother Megan Bloomfield was focused on when she decided to delay her son’s kindergarten enrollment for a year. “We didn’t do it for academics — because it seems pretty tough to tell if your kid is going to be an academic star in preschool — or for sports,” says Bloomfield. “He was very quiet and very shy. I wanted to him to have another year to develop socially.”

Bloomfield’s son starts first grade this year and while Bloomfield says they struggled a little to keep him challenged in kindergarten, he was one of the most social kids in the class, a dramatic change from the prior year. “We didn’t hold him for what would happen in kindergarten or first grade,” says Bloomfield. “We did it for his whole school career.”

I ended up sending Max to kindergarten on schedule. He has always been strong academically and he excelled in kindergarten and first grade. Socially, however, the situation is more complex. Max is more of a watcher than a leader, he’s not always sure of himself in groups. I’ve wondered if this would be different had he been old for his grade, rather than one of the youngest.

Still, I feel that we made the right decision with Max. So much so, that my daughter, Emma, who turned five a couple of weeks ago, begins kindergarten this year.


A test for Harvard coming up

Controversial libertarian author Charles Murray is scheduled to deliver a speech next week at Harvard University, months after a similar appearance at Middlebury descended into chaos and violence when students interrupted his speech and injured a professor as she escorted him out of the building.

Murray, a political scientist, said Wednesday he is looking forward to speaking at Harvard and hopes the event will be calm. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Murray a white nationalist, a label he vigorously denies.

He said he feels much of the backlash he has experienced recently is actually anger that students feel after the election of Donald Trump as president.

“I think that there is a very large degree of protest that has nothing to do with anything that I’ve written,” he said. “It’s very uninformed.”

Murray, a 1965 Harvard graduate, is set to speak next Wednesday evening for about 45 minutes about libertarian approaches to limited government and his 2015 book, “By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.”

The author has drawn controversy for his 1994 book, “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” and his 2012 work “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” He has theorized that social welfare programs are doomed to hurt those they aim to help, and, most controversially, he wrote of ethnic differences in measures of intelligence.

Murray on Wednesday said many have misinterpreted his work on race and intelligence. He said “The Bell Curve” was intended to discuss whether IQ tests mean the same thing for different races but not draw a conclusion.

The location for next Wednesday’s event has not been disclosed by the group organizing it, the Harvard College Open Campus Initiative.

Conor Healy, a junior from Toronto who is president of the club, said the group exists to promote free speech and healthy debate. Healy said he finds Murray’s ideas interesting and believes his work is often misunderstood. He said he hopes students will question him vigorously.

“It’s better to have [controversial speakers] in the open and give students a choice to cross examine someone like Charles Murray,” said Healy, who studies government.

Healy also called the upcoming lecture an opportunity for Harvard students to prove they can behave better than those at Middlebury. He said Harvard is generally a place that encourages free speech, but there is a feeling that the school has an overall liberal bias that makes it taboo to discuss certain ideas.

“When you talk about free speech at Harvard, it is really less about the administration and more about the atmosphere on campus,” Healy said.

Murray has spoken several times at Harvard. When he came in 1995, the standing-room-only audience listened quietly to his speech, the Harvard Crimson reported at the time. The only disruption was at the beginning when about 40 members of Kennedy School minority action groups linked arms, stood up peacefully and walked out, according to the Crimson. Their seats were filled by others waiting at the door of a heavily secured auditorium.

It is unclear what type of protests might be in store for Murray this time. He said he hasn’t heard of any being planned. Some students have advocated for taking the opposite tack of those at Middlebury.

The group that organized the event said it purposely announced his visit shortly before it occurs to minimize opposition that could build. Only students with Harvard College IDs will be allowed into a location to be announced the day before the event. The group said it has reserved the space for two hours.

Murray said he has never before been the subject of the kind of violence that happened at Middlebury.

“It was very scary for about a minute and a half or two minutes, and that was when we were trying to get to the car,” he said.

He said the speech next week will be technical and academic, and he said he hopes for engaging questions. Murray said the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank where he is the W.H. Brady scholar, is covering his expenses, and neither Harvard nor the student group will pay him.

Murray was recently invited by faculty to speak at Assumption College in Worcester, but he said the school recently rescinded the offer. He said other speaking engagements were re-scheduled after Middlebury but none were canceled.

Murray called it “very sad” when schools shut down unpopular speakers. He said universities should pursue truth and cannot do so if they are also trying to further a social justice agenda.

“It’s bad to cut back speech of any sort,” he said.


Communist-style speech censorship at Cornell

In Communist regimes everybody was encouraged to report one-another for "deviations"

Cornell administrators are encouraging students who encounter "negative reactions" to the school's "Safe Place" project to report them to a "Bias Reporting Team member."

Campus Reform obtained flyers apparently created and distributed by the school's LGBT Resource Center. Among several questions the flyer asks and answers is, "What if someone discriminates against me because I support Safe Place?"

"Negative reactions tend to be very rare," says the answer. "If they do occur, report it to the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity, and Life Quality via a Bias Reporting Team member, such as the Coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center."

According to the flyer, Cornell's Safe Place project aims "to affirm LGBTQ identities and lives and promote and affirmative and supportive environment," and "to use inclusive language, avoid stereotyping, and not assume everyone is heterosexual," among other goals. The website included on the flyer redirects to the university's LGBT Resource Center page. The last cached version of the site that does not link to a 404 page is from 2008, but bears the same logo.

Two points: First, discrimination is, of course, wrong, but the term "negative reaction" is extremely broad. For a school that, as an example, encourages students to practice using transgender pronouns, the term could easily encompass the speech of well-meaning students who simply don't accept progressive concepts of gender identity.

Second, pay attention to the sheer layers of bureaucracy in the flyer, asking students who encounter "negative reactions" to report them "to the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity, and Life Quality via a Bias Reporting Team member, such as the Coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center."

The Coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center, who is a Bias Reporting Team member, which is part of the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity, and Life Quality? All this to report a "negative reaction" from a classmate.

Bureaucracies dominated by progressive administrators create and enforce these procedures. The broadness of the term "negative reaction" combined with the university's encouragement to students to report on their peers creates an infantilizing campus culture where students whose thoughts subvert progressive dogma are afraid to say so.


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