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Should CA keep 4-year-olds out of kindergarten?

Kindergarten. Image from woodleywonderworks' photostream on flickr.com/creativecommons

Senate Bill 1381 would phase in a Sept. 1 birthday cutoff date for kindergarteners, making sure the students are 5 when they start school. (The cutoff would be Nov. 1 in 2012; Oct. 1 in 2013; and Sept. 1 in 2014.)

Proponents say many 4-year-olds can’t compete with children who are up to a year older, and that they have a hard time keeping up with the new rigors of kindergarten, reports Jill Tucker of the Chronicle, who visited Oakland’s Thornhill Elementary School for the story.

The other advantage for the state is the estimated annual savings — about $700 million a year until the first group graduates from high school, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Half of the savings would be redirected to the state’s preschool program (though this might refer to the 3-hour preschool, rather than the full-day program that’s under threat).

What do you think?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • http://ideaing.wordpress.com Kari

    I was born 30 minutes after the cutoff in 1986 and very cranky when CA didn’t let me join my friends in Kindergarten. That said, my pre-school and parents did such a good job with education me that, once I was in Kindergarten, my teacher bumped me up to the first grade after one semester.

    The cutoff has to be somewhere, and I trust that things work themselves out. Besides, 50 years ago, most people didn’t even start their public schooling until they were six, and they seemed to turn out okay!

  • http://vgriffey.wordpress.com Virginia Griffey

    I started kindergarten when I was 4, and I did fine. I suspect the $700 million savings for the state has more to do with this bill than trying to protect the poor 4-year-olds.

  • Starshaped

    As a Kindergarten teacher, I’ve seen this idea trotted out before. A lot of parents of 4 year olds use Kindergarten as a babysitter. They don’t care if their kids are ready or not. This year I had 11 4 year olds. Half of which didn’t turn 5 until mid November. Some of the 4 year olds CAN withstand the rigors of academic Kindergarten. Others are totally lost. The age gap did cause some problems throughout the year although as we are about the to end, the gap seems to have lessened quite a bit. I think it would be a good thing to make the cut-off September 1st. Whether parents will agree, is left to be seen. On another note, with the possibility of HUGE Kinder classes next year, it might signal the rebirth of developmentally appropriate Kindergarten expectations, ie more play based instead of ‘you will read by the end of Kindergarten’.

  • Nextset

    These decisions are all budget driven now.

    But the atmosphere of desperation has not arrived yet.

    Wait till you see the dialogue 12 to 36 months from now.

    On a different take, the cities are mulling over their budgets currently. Every time a car dealer closes, or a large store closes, the city takes a huge cut in sales tax revenue which is critical since the state has confiscated so much of the property tax and even criminal fine revenue. Say good by to the municipal parks, swimming pools, transit and other things the students use. The sun will still rise but things are going to be different.

    The schools are going to have to make decisions on what is mission priority and what is not. That is the job of the boards. Good luck to them. Change is coming.

  • anon

    4-year-old and rigor??? geez. an extra year of playing won’t kill ‘em. Enjoy their perpetual recess and start at 6 or 7 is what I say.

  • Sue

    Hmmmm – I have a mixed view. Comes from moving from one state to another with a very different cut off, during the early elementary years.

    One of my classmates in our new home was born Dec. 2, one day too late for enrollment in the class a year ahead of ours. He was a bit bigger and stronger than the rest of our grade, but always in the bottom half academically.

    My sister was born in mid-November, almost a month too late for kindergarten in the state where we’d started school. She was a physically big girl, and she was at least a month older, and as much as 13 months older than anyone else in her grade, and always at the very top of her class. After six years of her being unhappy, our parents got her double-promoted – she skipped 8th grade and went to high school after finishing 7th grade at the top of her class, again.

    Some kids, like my classmate, benefit from being a little more mature before they start school. Some kids, like my sister, are happier and better able to fit in socially and academically when they are with other students closer to their age and developmental level.

    States have different age cut-offs for when kids can start kindergarten, and it all works out. If one kid is struggling, holding them back a year can do wonders – a couple of the kids in my older son’s autism spectrum program in OUSD have been held back a year at different points, and each of those kids really benefited.

    Sometimes a kid is advanced for his/her chronological age, and they benefit from being in a more advanced class.

    The state will do whatever they are going to do, and the reasons are obviously at least partly financial – and most kids and families will just go along with the new age cut off. And some families will notice that their child needs some adjusting to the standards, and will find a way to get an exception to the rules.

    It will all work out.

  • Anon

    My son was ready at age 4 to go to school and has been doing a great job with his classmates, some of whom are 19 mo older. It depends on the child – some are ready, some are not. My son has an older brother and wanted to go to school when older brother went. He excels both academically and socially.
    What is not developmentally appropriate is teaching elementary age students to take STAR tests.
    Education should be directed for the individual, not the convenience of the school board.

  • Katy Murphy

    Note: I believe the two above comments written by “anon” were written by different people.

    To avoid confusion, I’d suggest using your full name — or a more distinctive handle.

  • Starshaped

    OUSD is disallowing retention starting next year so kids that need an extra year to get up to speed, academically and emotionally, won’t be able to stay back in Kindergarten another year.

    I agree the word ‘rigor’ and ’4 year old’ should not be allowed but the truth is, that is what is expected. What Kinders are expected to do by the end of the school year is aligned to what 1st grade was when I went to school in the 80′s. 1st grade has 2nd grade expectations, and so on. There is no milk and cookie time, no naps, and I have to use the word ‘academic’ with ‘free choice’ to have it fly in my schedule. California asks kids to have knowledge a mile long and an inch deep, which is doing no one any favors. There is a push for nationalized standards but it will never be accepted in California because it will be deemed not rigorious enough. So until we get over our need to jack of all trades and master of none, the rigor and Kindergarten will march merrily along.

  • former hills parent

    My daughter’s first grade curriculum in OUSD was equivalent to my youngest’s Kindergarten curriculum in San Ramon. Whether we like the term “rigor” or not, it is occurring in other communities. This is reality, whether we like it or not.

  • susan

    growing up in southern California in the 60′s we had a system of fall and winter classes, so if you turned 5 in November or December you began kindergarten in January, and were deemed a B-Kindergartener. When September rolled around you became an
    A-kindergartener. This continued through the grades, and everyone was first a B-5 or B-10, and then an A-5 and A-10. Students would eventually graduate high school in the winter or be part of the June class. As a teacher the idea makes sense to me…..don’t know why they stopped it (probably $$) but I recently heard of a district in the North bay that will accept new K’s in January……

  • Catherine

    In my daughter’s kindergarten class children ranged in ages from 4 years 8.5 months to 6 years 6 months – Nearly a two year range in kindergarten. It is now five years later. In fifth grade the differences are glaring. Beyond my own imagination. The students on the younger side did fine “academically” in kindergarten through second grade, however, beginning in third grade and especially in fourth grade when students were discussing motivations for the explorers coming to America, missions in California, colonization in the U.S. and around the world, civil war and recent Supreme Court decisions, the vast majority of the older students were much more willing and able to infer, argue both sides of the ethics debate and could “rewrite” the rules to create equity and social systems that benefited more of the population than the younger students.

    There is also the need for children to regulate their bodies more efficiently in public schools. For example, kindergartners must sit for 45 minutes at a time. If your child has difficultly playing by herself or himself at home (with out the TV or any other electronics) for at least 1/2 hour, they are not ready for kindergarten because of the requirements of self-regulation. Many parents want to talk about how “smart” their children are – smart is not enough.

    I cringe when I think about middle schoolers next year who are 10 years old. A 10 year old navigating 6 or 7 classes per day with little or no supervision. That’s what you get when you have a 4 year old kindergarten student.

  • CRV

    Most of the privates have a Sept. 1 firm cut-off. Most other States have a Sept. 1 or even earlier cut-off. We came from International schools that also have an earlier cut-off. California should definitely get with the program. My son could easily manage K when he was 4 (Nov. birthday), he is also tall for his age. My concerns were how he would manage middle school, as the youngest, and what about graduating high-school and starting college at 17 vs. 18? Academics are half of the picture, the other half is the social side of things. We had him repeat K at a private school and I’m so glad we did. We are off on another international assignment and would have really run into problems with a repeated 1st grade year or a significantly younger 2nd grader.

  • M

    Our public school tests incoming Kindergarteners and I believe, this system truly helps gauge particular child’s kindergarten readiness.

    When my daughter started K at 4.8 yo, she was among a group of many this age, while the age range in the classroom was over 2 full years. This was because the parents of some children made a (correct) decision that their kids needed more time before they start K.

    I spent a lot of time in the classroom and I can see that many younger kids do much better socially and academically than many older kids, because the older ones started school (after it having been postponed for a year or two) just because it could not be delayed any longer – they were aging out. At the same time, those younger kids who started early because they were ready, were truly ready to learn. My child graduated on top of her class, was on Student Council, participated in every extracurricular activity. Her teachers raved about her performance.

    She will be 10 when she starts middle school, and she’s entirely ready for it. She is mature and we made sure to provide her with plenty of opportunities for independence even before middle school.

    My point is: Admission to school should be done based on developmental readiness, not biological age. This works beautifully when implemented properly.

    Curriculum note: I grew up in Europe, and no, these kids here are not ahead academically, even in the best of schools. We did Geometry in 6th grade, Trig in 7, Calculus & Analysis in 8th. We really studied in depth, not to just pass a class. All of us did, not just the best ones. I won’t even start comparing science curriculum. . .

  • Third Grade Teacher

    We need to add to this discussion the problems that arrive later on. My class this past year was very immature. Students were still blaming their parents for lost homework or unfinished projects. We had frequent tears over inconsequential things and problems with group work and sharing. I was trying to teach third grade material to kids who were, in effect, second graders.

    Kids who start school early are emotionally and socially immature for all the grades that follow. I hated it but I had to simplify my curriculum and to accept work that was not grade level from students who were simply too young. These immature kids compromised the education of my students who were socially and emotionally ready and that is wrong.