Tuesday, 16 April 2024
    Boys should start school a year later than girls

    Boys should start school a year later than girls

    “It was a light-bulb moment for me,” Christopher Schroeder, an entrepreneur, an investor, and a father of two boys, told me. His son Jack had been accepted to Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School, in Washington, D.C.

    But “it was clear to the school that Jack should wait a year,” he said—not because of his academic ability, but to give him more time to become socially and emotionally prepared. “My view was that smart kids should be pushed forward as fast as possible,” Schroeder recalled. “But as I laid out my case to the head of the school, she listened patiently, waited a moment, smiled at me, and said, ‘What’s your rush?’ ”

    Jack started at the school a year later and ended up flourishing, largely, his father thinks, because of the decision not to rush him. When it was time for Jack’s younger brother, Ben, to attend the school, he also started a year later—at his parents’ insistence. “By then we were thinking, Why not? ” Schroeder said.

    The idea of a delayed school start—often referred to as “redshirting,” a term borrowed from athletics—got a burst of popular attention in 2008, when Malcolm Gladwell presented evidence in his book Outliers that children older than their classmates do better on academic tests and in life generally.

    The value of a later start, which many teachers and administrators call “the gift of time,” is an open secret in elite circles. And it’s a gift overwhelmingly given to boys. In the past few months, I’ve interviewed dozens of private-school teachers, parents, educational consultants, and admissions officers, largely in the D.C. metro area. I learned that a delayed school entry is now close to the norm for boys who would otherwise be on the young side. One former head of an elite private school who now consults with parents on school choice and admissions told me, “There are effectively two different cutoff dates for school entry: one for boys and one for girls.”

    Nationally, delayed entry is uncommon. Before the pandemic (which seems to have caused a surge in the practice), about 6 percent of children waited an extra year before beginning kindergarten. But here, too, some children were much more likely to be held back than others: specifically, those with affluent or well-educated parents, and who were white, young for their year, and male. Among summer-born boys whose parents have bachelor’s degrees, the rate was 20 percent in 2010.

    The reason little boys wear almost all of the red shirts is not mysterious; the fact that boys mature later than girls is one known to every parent, and certainly to every teacher. According to a Rand survey, teachers are three times more likely to delay entry for their own sons than their own daughters. The maturity gap is now demonstrated conclusively by neuroscience: Brain development follows a different trajectory for boys than it does for girls. But this fact is entirely ignored in broader education policy, even as boys fall further behind girls in the classroom.


    Why boys should start school a year later than girls (The Atlantic)


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