2013 Canadian research worth reading

A friend of mine who teaches in a Canadian primary school was shocked to learn that most 4-year-old children in England MUST start school at age 4 OR lose their Kindergarten (Reception) year of teaching. I decided to take a look at some of the latest research going in Canada, and found this:

School Start Age and Hyperactivity in Canadian children by Kelly Chen, Nicole Fortin, Philip Oreopoulos and Shelley Phipps (powerpoint presentation)

*Children who are young relative to classmates exhibit more symptoms of hyperactivity, as assessed by parents
*This is true, even controlling for pre-school hyperactivity
*Children with higher levels of pre-school hyperactivity (more likely to be boys), have a particularly difficult time

Policy suggestions:
*Staggered school entry (twice per year?) and/or extra accommodation for relatively young children?
*More recess?
*Finland model (formal schooling starts at age 7)?

Young in Class: Implications for Inattentive/Hyperactive Behaviour of Canadian Boys and Girls by Kelly Chen, Nicole Fortin, Philip Oreopoulos and Shelley Phipps. March, 2013

We find strong causal links between being young at school for Canadian children aged 4 through 9 and parent reports of inattentive/hyperactive behaviour at home and. Ours is the first Canadian study to exploit variation across time and place in school entry cut-offs using nationally representative data. In carrying out our analyses, we use both difference in difference and regression discontinuity research designs. Obtaining the same results using these two different research strategies is novel in the literature and strengthens our comfort in the plausibility of our conclusions. Importantly, increases are observed both for children with clinical levels of hyperactive behaviour and for those whose behaviour would classify them as well below clinical levels and, associations between being young in class and these behaviours is the same for boys and girls.

Given the longitudinal structure of our data, the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, a contribution of our research is that we are able to control for parent reports of child inattentive/hyperactive behaviour at ages 2/3, before the children start school.

We find that being young in class exacerbates an underlying tendency toward inattentive/hyperactive behaviours, perhaps even pushing some children to clinical levels. Since boys are reported to have higher levels of inattentive/hyperactive behaviour prior to starting school, in this sense, the problem we identify is more of a ‘boy’s’ than a ‘girl’s’ issue.

Finally, we examine the idea that higher levels of inattentive/hyperactive behaviour at age 6/7 are associated with lower academic achievements and aspirations at age 14/15; and, in particular, that differences in inattentive/hyperactive behaviour helps to explain subsequent gender differences in academic outcomes. Our data show that boys have significantly worse academic performance than girls for all measures studied except self confidence. However, the size of the ‘boy’ coefficient falls considerably once we control for inattention/hyperactivity at age 6/7 (in both OLS and IV estimates. Researchers and policy makers concerned about the ‘boys’ problem’ in Canadian schools, might direct further research attention to understanding how to help very young boys make the transition into school.

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