When Should Kids Start Kindergarten?
This morning I wanted to share an article that I found in the Detroit Free Press. It regards current legislation in Michigan to roll back kindergarten starting ages to ensure that children are 5 years old when they start school. Michigan requires that students turn 5 by December 1st; this new legislation would slowly roll back that cut-off date to September 1st. The main reason for these changes is the increased academic demands in kindergarten; demands that are only set to increase with the implementation of the Common Core Curriculum. This is an idea that I have given a lot of thought to and one very close to my heart. I started school in Arizona, a state which, like many other these days, has a September 1st cut-off date for kindergarten registration. My brother, whose birthday is November 4th, therefore began school a year later than he would have if we had started school here in New York, which is one of the ten remaining states to cut off kindergarten registration at December 1st. Therefore, because of this discrepancy, when we moved back east during our elementary years, my brother was easily one of the oldest kids in his class. Yet, I would argue that, overall, this was a good thing. My parents could have pressed for him to enter school earlier (there are ways around cut-off dates in states that set them in September), but since he needed speech therapy they thought it prudent to keep him in a preschool program that would cater to those needs for another year. This decision was made easier by the fact that there was no pressure to put him into school earlier; in fact the pressure was the opposite. Ultimately, this helped him get the interventions that he needed to succeed in school. He continued speech once he got into public school, but only for the first few years and over time “caught up” to his New York peers by graduating college in three years. I guess the point here is that, at least in my brother’s case, the later cut-off seems to have helped. He was able to stay in preschool for another year without an attached stigma (at least in Arizona) and work on gaining ground with his speech. Though a minor special needs issue, this example really seems to highlight the benefit of the later cut-off for borderline kids and those truly not ready for the academic demands of full-day kindergarten and earlier standardized tests. This issue is not over for me though. My younger daughter’s birthday is September 19th. If she begins school in a state with a September 1st cut-off, 18 days will put her into that later grade. However, just like my parents and those in Michigan, I will have the choice of challenging the cut-off and placing her in school for the earlier year if I think she’s ready. And there’s the thing; if we stay in New York I would effectively be “holding her back” if I decide to keep her in preschool for that extra year, no matter if it’s the right choice. So, from that stand point this legislation seems to make sense. See for yourself by reading the Detroit Free Press article here and let me know your thoughts. As educators and parents, which do you feel is the better choice: challenging to put fall babies in school a year early (September 1st cut-offs), or challenging to keep them back (December 1st cut-offs)? From an academic standpoint, what will be the best route to offer parents? My vote is for September 1st, what’s yours?