Starting Boys Later In School May Help Them Keep Up Developmentally With Peers

We are speaking in vast generalizations here, but have you ever wondered why girls start playing sophisticated make-pretend games while boys of the same age still put legos up their noses? 

According to the latest research in neuroscience, brain development follows a different trajectory for boys than it does for girls. To put it simply, girls mature quicker, and once school time comes around, this puts boys at a major disadvantage. When looking at almost every measure of educational success from pre-K to post-grad, boys and young men now lag behind their female classmates. 

Remember back in school when boys and girls used to argue about who was smarter and make fun of each other? Well, it turns out the ladies were right all along (probably). 

If you look at reading proficiency, for example, a 6 percent gender gap widens to 11 percent by 8th grade. By the time you get to high school, the most common grade for girls is now an ‘A.’ For boys, it is a ‘B.’ When it comes to GPA ranking, twice as many girls as boys are in the top 10 percent, and twice as many boys as girls are among those with the lowest GPA.

So why is this such a big deal? Well, a mental health crisis is disproportionately impacting our youth today, leading to an increasing rate of substance abuse and antisocial disorders, specifically among young men. Experts believe that lack of success in school could play a factor in these mental health issues as young boys grow frustrated and discouraged. 

If brain development is a biological issue, then extra time to mature could be the solution

Do other factors like social media, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and poor sleep also have a role to play in the collectively poor mental health of our youth today? Sure, but the way our school system is set up that is disproportionately hurting boys over girls is a relatively easy problem to fix. 

The solution? Redshirt the boys. Redshirting is a term used to describe the idea of delaying the start of school. This article argues that giving boys an extra year to mature before entering school might be the simple change needed to help them succeed. 

Redshirting is already a fairly common practice in affluent communities and private schools. Still, since it has not yet been adopted into public school policy, the choice is pretty much non-existent for most U.S families. 

The key takeaway? Mental and physical health trends are all moving in the wrong direction. If we want our kids to thrive, we need to start thinking of creative solutions to facilitate their health journey today so they can live a better life tomorrow. 

Redshirting may not solve every problem, but it does seem like a relatively easy solution that we can start with if we want to make some positive changes with our kids’ futures in mind. 

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