Is it smart to redshirt boys?

Students who are young for their grade risk an attention-deficit diagnosis, researchers say. The youngest students are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest students, concludes a Michigan State study. A North Carolina State study reached similar conclusions. Both are scheduled for publication in the Journal of Health Economics.

Misdiagnosing children can have long-lasting effects, says assistant professor of economics Todd Elder, author of the Michigan State study. In fifth and eighth grade, the youngest kids in a class were more than twice as likely to use Ritalin, a stimulant commonly prescribed for ADHD, compared with the oldest students, his study says.

Here’s Why Smart Moms Redshirt their Sons, writes Richard Whitmire of Why Boys Fail. Don’t Rush to Redshirt, responds Sara Mead on Ed Week.

It’s become conventional wisdom — particularly among status-conscious professional parents and people concerned about the so-called boys crisis — to advocate redshirting as a way of give children an early leg up academically and compensate for the fact that boys, on average, hit developmental milestones (particularly for verbal and fine motor skills) somewhat later than girls do.

But the redshirting advantage fades over time, Mead writes. And students who start school later tend to do worse over the long haul in educational attainment and earnings. (I see correlation-causation issues there.) I don’t see a clear answer here: Whether a child born near the deadline should wait a year depends on the child’s maturity, the demands of the kindergarten program and a bunch of other factors. Parents of young-for-the-grade children would be wise to question an ADHD diagnosis. If your child hyperactive? Or does he need a little more time to settle down and grow up?

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