News

Kindergarten: 'Too much for 4-year-olds?'

Palo Alto teachers petition state senator to raise student age

Perched on a child-sized chair in her colorful, cozy classroom, Walter Hays Elementary School teacher Diana Argenti pondered a checklist of academic standards her 20 kindergarteners must master by this June.

There is reading; there is math; there is writing, spelling and more.

And there is something wrong with this picture, Argenti and her colleagues say.

Today's kindergarten academics are simply too much, too soon for many of the 100,000 California children who each year enter school before their fifth birthdays.

Argenti, along with Palo Verde Elementary School reading specialist Natalie Bivas and 287 of their Palo Alto teaching colleagues, have petitioned State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, to help make sure kids are 5 years old before they start kindergarten. That would mean changing the law to require students be 5 by Sept. 1 instead of by Dec. 2, as is currently the case.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

"Most teachers don't like to make waves we stay in our classrooms and do the best we can," Argenti said. "But I just wish the politicians could come out and spend a couple of days here."

In most cases, those who struggle are the younger ones, the ones who are still 4 years old when they start school, Bivas said.

"As the kindergarten curriculum has become more academic, we've noticed a bigger divide between the early readers and children who aren't really ready," Argenti said.

Most children begin to read anywhere from the ages of 4 to 7. Thus, on the first day of kindergarten, some won't know their letters and sounds while a precocious few will be devouring chapter books.

In their letter to Simitian, Argenti and Bivas cite a California Performance Review study in which "teachers report 48 percent of students are not ready for the kindergarten curriculum."

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

"At 4, these children are not socially, emotionally and developmentally ready to handle the academic demands of our curriculum," the letter says. "Today's kindergarteners are expected to read, to do mathematics and to use paper and pencil competently. Thus, many of our especially young students are those in need of retention and/or other special services to succeed."

California is one of very few states that permit kindergarten entrance for children turning 5 as late as December.

As kindergartens across the nation have stepped up academic demands, many states have pushed their birth-date requirements to August and September, with a significant majority now in that range. A few states, including Indiana, require even earlier birthdays.

Previous legislative efforts to move the California date have failed, for reasons having more to do with finances than educational needs, Argenti and Simitian said.

"I wish I could tell you it was thoughtful educational debate driving the conversation, but it's really about the dollars," said Simitian, who served on the Palo Alto school board from 1983 to 1991.

Some school districts, including Palo Alto, offer a pre-kindergarten "Young Fives" program for children who are old enough for kindergarten but show signs of immaturity that could prevent them from succeeding. Admission to Young Fives, which requires parent participation, is done after professional assessment of a child's readiness for kindergarten.

Argenti, who has taught at Walter Hays for 16 years, began as a kindergarten teacher then moved to first-grade for 11 years. When enrollment shifted four years ago, she volunteered to return to the younger children.

"When I moved back to kindergarten, I was curious about how it had changed -- it's changed a lot," she said. Kindergarteners now must be able to count to at least 30; arrange numbers in order from 1 to 20; know shapes such as cones, spheres, cubes, trapezoids and rhombuses; and read simple books.

Meeting those benchmarks crowds out the time kindergarteners used to spend on things such as cutting, sharing, taping, singing and working with clay.

"I don't think it's bad to have assessments and do benchmarks, but there needs to be fluidity with it because there's a developmental range," Argenti said. "The way things are set up now, you feel a lot of pressure."

Bivas, who works individually with first-graders on reading, opened "Animal Homes," a book she described as the lowest-level reader for the end of first grade.

"Porcupines put grass inside logs to make homes for their babies," the book said. "Other animals make their homes in logs, too."

"These books are hard," Bivas said. "I opened up a book today and one of the words was 'disgusting.' I'm reading to a child who still has all of his or her baby teeth.

"We (teachers) all feel that pressure -- racing, racing, racing to get to that benchmark."

A front row seat to local high school sports.

Check out our new newsletter, the Playbook.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Kindergarten: 'Too much for 4-year-olds?'

Palo Alto teachers petition state senator to raise student age

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Mon, Mar 30, 2009, 4:23 pm

Perched on a child-sized chair in her colorful, cozy classroom, Walter Hays Elementary School teacher Diana Argenti pondered a checklist of academic standards her 20 kindergarteners must master by this June.

There is reading; there is math; there is writing, spelling and more.

And there is something wrong with this picture, Argenti and her colleagues say.

Today's kindergarten academics are simply too much, too soon for many of the 100,000 California children who each year enter school before their fifth birthdays.

Argenti, along with Palo Verde Elementary School reading specialist Natalie Bivas and 287 of their Palo Alto teaching colleagues, have petitioned State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, to help make sure kids are 5 years old before they start kindergarten. That would mean changing the law to require students be 5 by Sept. 1 instead of by Dec. 2, as is currently the case.

"Most teachers don't like to make waves we stay in our classrooms and do the best we can," Argenti said. "But I just wish the politicians could come out and spend a couple of days here."

In most cases, those who struggle are the younger ones, the ones who are still 4 years old when they start school, Bivas said.

"As the kindergarten curriculum has become more academic, we've noticed a bigger divide between the early readers and children who aren't really ready," Argenti said.

Most children begin to read anywhere from the ages of 4 to 7. Thus, on the first day of kindergarten, some won't know their letters and sounds while a precocious few will be devouring chapter books.

In their letter to Simitian, Argenti and Bivas cite a California Performance Review study in which "teachers report 48 percent of students are not ready for the kindergarten curriculum."

"At 4, these children are not socially, emotionally and developmentally ready to handle the academic demands of our curriculum," the letter says. "Today's kindergarteners are expected to read, to do mathematics and to use paper and pencil competently. Thus, many of our especially young students are those in need of retention and/or other special services to succeed."

California is one of very few states that permit kindergarten entrance for children turning 5 as late as December.

As kindergartens across the nation have stepped up academic demands, many states have pushed their birth-date requirements to August and September, with a significant majority now in that range. A few states, including Indiana, require even earlier birthdays.

Previous legislative efforts to move the California date have failed, for reasons having more to do with finances than educational needs, Argenti and Simitian said.

"I wish I could tell you it was thoughtful educational debate driving the conversation, but it's really about the dollars," said Simitian, who served on the Palo Alto school board from 1983 to 1991.

Some school districts, including Palo Alto, offer a pre-kindergarten "Young Fives" program for children who are old enough for kindergarten but show signs of immaturity that could prevent them from succeeding. Admission to Young Fives, which requires parent participation, is done after professional assessment of a child's readiness for kindergarten.

Argenti, who has taught at Walter Hays for 16 years, began as a kindergarten teacher then moved to first-grade for 11 years. When enrollment shifted four years ago, she volunteered to return to the younger children.

"When I moved back to kindergarten, I was curious about how it had changed -- it's changed a lot," she said. Kindergarteners now must be able to count to at least 30; arrange numbers in order from 1 to 20; know shapes such as cones, spheres, cubes, trapezoids and rhombuses; and read simple books.

Meeting those benchmarks crowds out the time kindergarteners used to spend on things such as cutting, sharing, taping, singing and working with clay.

"I don't think it's bad to have assessments and do benchmarks, but there needs to be fluidity with it because there's a developmental range," Argenti said. "The way things are set up now, you feel a lot of pressure."

Bivas, who works individually with first-graders on reading, opened "Animal Homes," a book she described as the lowest-level reader for the end of first grade.

"Porcupines put grass inside logs to make homes for their babies," the book said. "Other animals make their homes in logs, too."

"These books are hard," Bivas said. "I opened up a book today and one of the words was 'disgusting.' I'm reading to a child who still has all of his or her baby teeth.

"We (teachers) all feel that pressure -- racing, racing, racing to get to that benchmark."

Comments

Parent of child with November birthday
Palo Verde
on Mar 30, 2009 at 7:14 pm
Parent of child with November birthday, Palo Verde
on Mar 30, 2009 at 7:14 pm

This may be a good idea for many children, but for some with later birthdays, waiting a whole year would be a long wait and probably a mistake. My own child with a November birthday was one of those reading chapter books on entering Kindergarten. She was one of the tallest in the class and very outgoing. The only problem she may have had was with fine motor skills, but that soon changed. Waiting until she was almost six would have been wrong for her.

I back the idea of young 5s for those who are not ready, but I think it should be the teachers who make the decision rather than protective parents. True some parents can make objective decisions, but many parents only see their children in preschool and home settings and can't see how their child is when they are not there.

I also think that the young 5s should not be a lottery but available to all children of kindergarten age who the teachers find are not fitting in after school starts.

The other solution, as other countries do, is to have two intakes during the year. A child who is not ready in late August, may be very much better in January and if these children were given the right start they could actually fit in very well with their peers by 1st grade if they get into young 5s and then transfer into a late birthday kindergarten class in January.


MidtownMom
Midtown
on Mar 30, 2009 at 8:54 pm
MidtownMom, Midtown
on Mar 30, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Some states have a pre-k in the public school district. The idea is to evaluate the children *before* they go to kindergarten. I know that proposing this idea in cash strapped California school districts is insane :)

My daughter was 4yrs old on entering kindergarten. The first few months - right upto the holidays were a challenge. Her class teacher has been working with her and something clicked after the holidays .. my daughter is showing immense interest in reading. She excells in Math .. it would have been totally wrong to hold her back !

Most kids go to some pre-K program. Teachers in pre-K often do a fine assessment of the children. There is a young 5s .. give up the idea of proposing the date change for the school admissions.


trudy
Crescent Park
on Mar 30, 2009 at 9:35 pm
trudy, Crescent Park
on Mar 30, 2009 at 9:35 pm

I think it's a mistake to hold back children who are ready for school. The parents are best able to make that decision.


anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2009 at 9:35 pm
anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2009 at 9:35 pm

My children, who are young adults, have birthdays in November and December. I think California should get with the rest of the country and make it 5 at the start of school. Around here you can't win if you have a Nov or Dec birthday.
Both my kids started at age 5 (though they soon turned 6) and they both had two years of preschool, consistent with where we lived in another CA city, from ages 3-4 and 4-5, which was customary - called the "3's" and the "4's." That was no problem.
What was a problem was other parents here who bragged of district shopping to find a district that would accept their 4 year olds (who then were typically though not universally disruptive in the classroom or needed massive extra support/tutoring/pressuring).
Also my children were actually criticized later by children who bragged of being "young" for their grade. They said my kids were "too old" and had been "held back." That part only happened here in Palo Alto. This bizarre experience was out of step with the rest of the country.
My mother learned to read at age 6 without any issues - getting all worked up about that is a modern problem; I never attended preschool and wasn't "harmed" by that. There is a race by some parents here in Palo Alto to get their kids graduating at 17 as if that is a special achievement. My father, who is deceased, entered Harvard at 16 (turned 17 soon after) and said the whole thing was a big deal about nothing. He started his career at a young age. He said he missed some developmental things.


Parent
Gunn High School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:45 am
Parent, Gunn High School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:45 am

Why can't it be a federal law that the deadline is September? We moved from another state where the deadline was Sept. and now my kids are old for their grade levels because of the December deadline.


Laura - Elementary School Teacher
another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 6:43 am
Laura - Elementary School Teacher, another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 6:43 am

I think it is a mistake to put 4 year olds into Kindergarten, especially with how academic Kindergarten has gotten. Do we really think it's OK to push 999 out of 1,000 4 year olds into school before they are ready to make sure that the one gifted child can start school early? Here are the consequences - teachers get frustrated trying to teach kids content they aren't ready for, the 4 year olds get frustrated trying to learn it and the 5 year olds get frustrated (and bored) waiting around. The only people who benefit are the parents of the 4 year olds who get to have free day care a year early and to brag about how smart their kids are.

And if you think your 4 year old is capable of reading (and understanding) a chapter book, unless that kid is to literature what Einstein was to science, you are kidding yourself and setting up your child for years of "never-good-enough-for-mom" syndrome (and probably an equal number of years of therapy).


Linda
another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 7:38 am
Linda, another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 7:38 am

Having been a kindergarten teacher when little ones were allowed to be little ones it is distressing to know that my grandchildren will be required to be able to read about "porcupines" and things that are "disgusting". (see comment above) What happened to learning our colors, tying our shoes, starting the day with a song,and how to be nice to our friends? Of course times have progressed but really - What is the hurry? We should take note of European countries where students do not begin school until the age of 7 and sometimes 8 - when they are developmentally ready. I assure you it is no fun to be a 4 year old in a kindergarten class with 6 year olds. Being the first and youngest does not make a child the smartest. Children learn most successfully when they are developmentally ready - and yes some may be ready sooner than others - let's be sure that it is the child that is ready NOT the parents.


palo alto mom
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 31, 2009 at 8:05 am
palo alto mom, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 31, 2009 at 8:05 am

Even the 4 year olds who do ok in Kindergarten often struggle later - in middle school when everyone is sprouting and developing and you look years behind, in high school when everyone has their license but you, when you are always at a different developmental age than your peers both physically and mentally.

Letting your child be young while they are is a gift.


YSK
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2009 at 9:06 am
YSK, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2009 at 9:06 am

Sounds to me it's the curriculum that's the problem, not the age.

I was an end of the year baby, was in kindergarten at 4. Didn't bother me any. Of course that was over 40 something years ago and the study of nuclear proliferation was not on the curriculum. I think I remember we had fun and learned some basics. It was what, 3-4 hours a day?


JSD
Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2009 at 9:23 am
JSD, Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2009 at 9:23 am

Does anyone else think the system-wide pushing down of curriculum (into lower and lower grades) results directly or indirectly from the insane college admissions process?


Grandma
Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:02 am
Grandma, Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:02 am

What the Kindergarten teachers are asking for is probably a good idea but is politically a non starter. There are far too many working Mothers in this State who can't wait for their children to enter school. Sending your child to Kindergarten in the public schools is free; putting 5 year olds into daycare costs money.

On the other hand it would save the State Millions of Dollars. Rest assured, this issue will boil down to how much money will be saved.


musical
Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:49 am
musical, Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:49 am

"... and the study of nuclear proliferation was not on the curriculum."

Our nuclear studies were just monthly drills where we cowered under our desks, arms over the back of our heads.

OK, not a contribution to the discussion -- the nuclear reference just reminded me how much the times have changed.


J
Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 11:32 am
J, Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 11:32 am

A very wise school administrator once told me that a child that learns to read at 4 is not at an advantage in the future. Kids who learn to read at 6 ramp up much quicker than the 4 year olds so by the time they are 7 they are pretty much equal. Let the child be a child. What's the rush? He also told me that if you don't give a child their childhood now, they will take it later.


Erin
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:03 pm
Erin, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:03 pm

"Kids who learn to read at 6 ramp up much quicker than the 4 year olds so by the time they are 7 they are pretty much equal."

This is absolutely true. I was reading by the time I entered Kindergarten after just turning 5 in July and very few of my classmates knew how to read by the time we graduated from K. By 2nd grade all of my classmates had caught up to me.

My daughter has a late fall birthday. She turned 5 in October and attends the PAUSD Young 5s program. The article states that the PAUSD program is lottery based and it was until the 2009-2010 school year. It is now based on individual assesments.

Young 5s has made a world of difference for my daughter. She was not ready for Kindergarten at 4. I believe very few 4 year olds are. She could have handled Kindergarten but she would have struggled through her entire K-12 education. I want her to have confidence in her abilities, not to be the smartest in the class. She'll never be that in Palo Alto (I am a realist), but I will push her to her fullest potential. I just want her to believe she can do it.

My shy 4 year old in the Fall of 2008 has turned into a sure and trusting 5 year old who now gets up in front of her class almost weekly to share something exciting about her weekend or a poscard from a family member. You can't teach that kind of confidence. That takes age appropriate education and nurturing.

I'm all for changing the start date of Kindergarten to Septeber 1.


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:17 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Whenever a child gets pushed into a situation, school or sports, or whatever, before that child has reached a developmental level that is appropriate for that activity, that child is being abused. The intelligent(and fortunate)parent is the parent who recognizes this imbalance and only allows their child to engage activities for which the child(not the parent)is ready. Confidence, self esteem, and peace of mind are the seeds from which healthy, well-adjusted adults are grown.
Leave the gaming of the systems to the dysfunctional adults for whom it is already too late. Let your kids have the growing years they deserve. It's the least you can do.
My guess is that this is more fallout from another failed policy of the Bush administration, specifically the "No Child Left Behind" policy, which ironically has thrown as many kids overboard as the dysfunctional correctional system in this country has. The first failed policy is the feeder system for the second one....


Angela Hey
Portola Valley
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:44 pm
Angela Hey, Portola Valley
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Much depends on the lifestyle and wishes of the parent.

Look at the German system where kindergarten is available but children don't have to legally be in school until they are 6. It's tempting to think that education is about school, but playing out can also be educational and help to make a well-rounded person. Do you want a fit child, a social child or an academically brilliant child?


lottery no more
Crescent Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 1:09 pm
lottery no more, Crescent Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 1:09 pm

"I back the idea of young 5s for those who are not ready, but I think it should be the teachers who make the decision rather than protective parents."

They changed how the Young 5's were selected this year. The children that are applying for the program are evaluated and then selected based on need. Any children who don't get in are placed on a waiting list and the order, again, appeared to be based on need.


PK
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 31, 2009 at 2:25 pm
PK, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 31, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Whatever happened to the sane teachers who BUILT their curriculum on the principles of child development? Where are the advocates for the children of this community? Who are they? Why aren't parents referring to the valid information based on years of research in Child Development? My guess is that the teachers who are teaching 4 year old
children are those who have been teaching older children and now have been given the K-assignment. I also wonder about the educators who have the responsibility to advise and monitor those who teach that very special group of young learners.


Parent of child with November birthday
Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2009 at 2:44 pm
Parent of child with November birthday, Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Whereas I know that my own 4 year old was definitely ready for big school at the age of 4, reading simple chapter books and able to do simple addition and subtraction, I know that not all children with November birthdays are. Sometimes this can be a gender thing as girls often are more mature than boys, and sometimes this can be a birth order thing as those with older siblings can be ready before the eldest in a family or singletons, but still it is hard to generalise. Kindergarten should not be a one size fits all and the present approach on age rather than other factors does not take other factors into account.

I would rather see a change in kindergarten itself. I would like to see the first two months of kindergarten be the whole child system with plenty of play, music, storytelling, show and tell, etc., but this gradually toned down later in the year with more academics taking the place of some of the free play and less story telling with more emphasis on learning to read. The 9 months of the school year is a long time in any child's life whether they start the year at 4 or 5, and all of them will alter a great deal from September to June whether they are in kindergarten or not. So it makes sense that the earlier months of kindergarten are more preschool oriented and the latter months are more 1st grade readiness. From our own kindergarten experience, I found that it was the same at the end of the year as it was in the beginning and the challenge did not alter throughout the year. Gradually introduction of academics would make a lot more sense in a classroom where children are often a 15 month age spread between eldest to youngest and preschool experience (if any) is so different.


A preschool parent and teacher
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2009 at 4:20 pm
A preschool parent and teacher, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2009 at 4:20 pm

The Problems:
(1) No Child Left Behind has "raised standards in Education" by expecting developmentally inappropriate results.
(2) The rush to excel in our community begins with our children at birth. The amount of competitiveness to get into "good" local preschools starts the minute a new mom either gets pregnant or gives birth. All of my neighbors urged me to get preschool applications when I was pregnant, and turn them in as early as possible. That same mindset likes the idea of "red-shirting" their young 5 year old, waiting a year before enrolling into kindergarten.

Logical Solution:
Everyone will likely disagree with this solution, but our government and parent community's actions speak louder than their words....
Let's raise the kindergarten age to 6 years old?! The curriculum will then be age appropriate!! Turn the young fives into "Just 5s", and you have a perfect kindergarten with happy children and families!


Helen
another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 4:23 pm
Helen, another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 4:23 pm

As a recently retired educator who taught Kindergarten for 15 years in the '80's and '90's, I've found all of the posted comments very interesting. There were a couple of comments about the curriculum and standards. Most "experts" agree that California has the highest standards in the country, and interestingly we have the San Joaquin Valley that has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the country. California has the largest percentage of students entering school with limited English skills as well.

Kindergarten teachers have no choice in "curriculum" these days. It is "standards-based."
And since Kindergarten students must now learn what used to be taught in first grade, it is imperative that we raise the entrance age for Kindergarten to age 5 by September 1, as it is in most states. It is also imperative to have QUALITY pre-Kindergarten experiences available for all 4 year olds. English language learners need to be in a social/school setting as early as possible with English speakers in order to begin learning English before they attend Kindergarten with all of its required academics. As it stands now, we are setting young children up for frustration and often failure.

I was teaching Kindergarten when my own son was old enough to start in 1985. He was a very bright boy with a late October birthday. I realized that his major interest was in running around with his buddies playing "Masters of the Universe" and he wasn't the least bit interested in writing his name, learning the letters, etc. I had him wait until the next fall and I believe it was the best parenting decision I ever made. He always excelled in school when he did start.


Lisa Halverson
Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 4:34 pm
Lisa Halverson, Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers". We rank our kids SO early on and then give them opportunities based on how well they are doing -- at times when a couple of months still make a major difference developmentally. He notes that sometimes a few months advantage in age can lead to tremendous advantages in opportunities and resources given. He suggests grouping kindergartners by small age segments -- those born Jan-April, for instance. I haven't gotten that far into the book yet, but it does make me see that starting kids too early can disadvantage rather than benefit them.


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 6:57 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I was going to suggest that everyone check out Gladwell's OUTLIERS as well. Age brackett biases are rampant in many different areas, especially sports and schools. They explain that parenting strategy of "red-shirting"(holding kids back a year for you non-sports folks)that is particularly effective if the child is a last-quarter birth date. Although I think this can backfire socially and developmentally if the child is too old for the group he/she ends up with, reading Gladwell's book will give you a clear perspective on the advantages of doing so if possible and appropriate.


Anonymous
Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 8:49 pm
Anonymous, Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 8:49 pm

I am the parent of a compliant, eager-to-please kindergartener (with a spring birthday) who cried and cried over her writing homework this afternoon. She was exhausted after six hours of kindergarten (during which she had done yet more reading and writing and math) and she said over and over (through her tears), "I hate this, I hate this, why do I have to do this?" I didn't have an answer. We are very torn -- we would love to just ignore the homework that comes home from school. But will she fall behind? Will that make her feel "different" from her classmates? Will that cause friction with her teacher? I just hate the fact that her first introduction to "real" school is causing her such stress. Something's wrong with this picture.

I guess I'm echoing others who have emphasized the degree to which standards are divorced from what is developmentally appropriate. This is the big issue -- universal preschool and changing the cutoff date, while great ideas, won't fully solve the problem.


kindergarten teacher
another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:58 pm
kindergarten teacher, another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:58 pm

As a kindergarten teacher I believe that all students should be 5 upon entering school. As others have stated we don't have a choice about what our curriculum is but we do our best to have our students meet the standards required by the state and our schools.

When we consider an appropriate start age for kindergarten we need to look into the future and ask how these young students will succeed when they reach middle school, high school, or college. It just isn't about intelligence. It is also about maturity and social skills. What is our hurry? I wish kids could just be kids when they are 4. If a child is reading, fantastic! It doesn't mean that they are ready to start school.


A parent
Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 10:01 am
A parent, Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 10:01 am

There wouldn't be a disparity in the classroom if all children attended Kindergarten when they were eligible. There may be good reason to hold a child back but not just because he or she will be the youngest. I have a fall birthday child who is more than a year younger than some of his classmates, because they had a fall birthday and were held back. Research doesn't support delaying kindergarten or grade retention.


A kinder teacher
another community
on Apr 1, 2009 at 10:59 am
A kinder teacher, another community
on Apr 1, 2009 at 10:59 am

Having taught kindergarten in this community for 10 years, the thing we see every year with the young ones is that the parents say "Well, since they are within the state deadline we will just try it and see how it goes." As a parent of a kinder myself, I can understand the sentiment, it is just hardly ever works (I can think of 1 child in 10 years of teaching kinder that was a Nov. birthday who was mostly ready for kindergarten). By and large, the wonderful preschool teachers that we have in Palo Alto have talked to the parents (of the children who went to preschool, and yes, there are children in the Palo Alto school system who had no preschool) and they are usually right, most of those children are not ready for kindergarten. We need to move the deadline--it is not fair to the children or their parents who then either have to make the decision to let them flounder or to retain. As for the "naysayers" who think that we should change the curriculum or the school day back to what it used to be, the whole world has changed since then, it is not just the curriculum that has changed, family dynamics have changed, expectations of teachers have changed, the laws about parent rights have changed, modes and speed of communication have drastically changed. Most teachers that I know in Palo Alto try to take the expectations and make them as child-friendly as possible (we make letters with playdough, we practice writing with sidewalk chalk on the yard outside) We must deal with the reality that is our current world and give our children a chance to enjoy learning from the start.


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 12:05 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Can anyone explain to me how the state arrived at Dec 2nd as the cutoff date for eligibility? Even with a Sept 1 cutoff date, there is a potential eight month spread between the ages of eligible children who have turned five between Jan 1 and Sept 1. It's still a pretty huge gap at age five.


GSB Parent
Stanford
on Apr 1, 2009 at 12:20 pm
GSB Parent, Stanford
on Apr 1, 2009 at 12:20 pm

It's interesting to read this discussion which is raising several intersecting viewpoints and surfacing competing perceived motives.

Is K entry age (Dec 1) mainly about:

-- the money? (cost to pay for a young fives program or daycare)
-- excessive pressures of the K curriculum? (No Child Left Behind)
-- parents giving their kids an unfair advantage? (red shirting so your child does better than younger peers)
-- parents protecting unprepared children? (red shirting so your child can developmentally catch up)

My analysis is that until California voters can unify around a non-competing burning platform, it's unlike that the Dec 1 date will change.

California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Vermont have the latest cut-off dates. Here's where all 50 states stand on this issue.

Web Link


Anonymous
Community Center
on Apr 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm
Anonymous, Community Center
on Apr 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I think Steve you have hit on a very good point - with any cutoff date there is going to be a disparity. We used to live in a state that had the Sept. 1 cutoff - for my May baby we found her to be on the young side. Had we been in a state with a Dec. cutoff she would have potentially been one of the older kids. Also, it was very common for children born in June, July and August to wait a year and start when they turned six.

I believe the issue to be more that we are expecting more and more from younger and younger children. The curriculum has changed for Kindergarten and in actuality so has the "required" age to be successful.


P
Los Altos
on Apr 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm
P, Los Altos
on Apr 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm

I think the problem is that some kids clearly should be held back at the recommendation of the teachers and administrators but the parents choose not to for more social reasons.they don't want people to know their child had to repeat a grade so to avoid that issue, they just keep their kid on the track with the other kids their same age. I know because this is happening at my child's school in Los Altos. But, these kids disrupt class, can't pay attention, cause havoc to the teachers and other children in the class. I think movement of the date is the only thing to keep the young 5's and 4's out of the classroom for the benefit of the overal curriculum.


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 2:06 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Tricky business, these school cutoff dates. It's easy to get flipped around. If you think Kindergarten is fun, wait till they get into youth sports, another area Gladwell focuses on in "Outliers". These days, I'm more familiar with the sports end of things. In USA Hockey, the kids are currently grouped in two-year brackets, as in age 14&under,16&under, and 18&under. I have a Nov '93 birth month 15 year old who has to compete with players almost a full two years older than he, born Jan '92. Talk about a disparity....Some of these kids have full facial hair. In this case, holding your kid back means not playing in the USA Hockey program, just playing rec hockey in the house leagues. There is some movement to grouping players in single year brackets, but so far it's voluntary, a pretty wimpy effort by USA Hockey. I hope the schools can do a better job of placing kids at an appropriate level, but as has been pointed out previously, now we are talking about money and taxes. Not an encouraging scenario. At least the schools do a better job of bracketing sports programs, that is, if the sports programs don't fall victim to the same budget contraints.


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 7:55 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Just a response to P in Los Altos. It surprises me that parents would push their kids into starting Kindergarten against the recommendations of the teachers and administrators, because holding a child back before starting school is not the same as having to repeat a grade later on because of an inability to "pass" the grade in question. In fact, I believe the children most likely to be required to repeat a grade because of failure down the road are coming from among the children who were pushed into starting school before they were ready, especially if the children come from families without the resources to access remedial assistance and/or tutoring.
Unlike the Silicon Valley start-up mentality that failure is a necessary and acceptable component of future success, failure in school carries some nasty social and academic stigmas, burdens that those poor children will have to endure and overcome. The more one fails at academics, the more difficult it is to catch up and be successful. You can't "fake it till you make it" with academics. It just keeps getting more difficult.


anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2009 at 9:06 pm
anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Aside from sports people who may do that "red-shirting" (Completely alien to me), this idea of deliberately "red-shirting of the child so s/he can catch up academically" doesn't apply. It is more of a situational thing that you find yourself in. Those of us with November children really are in a dilemma about what to do, in some cases we aren't (-or weren't in my case-) fortunate to live in a fancy district like PAUSD where one has "young 5's" etc. and it is offensive to say you "held back" or red-shirted your child because they started K at age 5 (but soon turned 6 in November.) Not all of us had/have access to thoughtful, helpful assessments, either.
I think the cutoff date for starting K should be consistent everywhere in the U.S. and I believe it should be "as of start of the school year."


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 9:43 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Just a point of clarification for the non-sports folks. The term "red-shirting" refers to the common practice in sports, specifically at the college/university level, of not playing recruited athletes in their first year so as to not use up a year of the student-athlete's eligibility. These are usually student-athletes receiving scholarship money, and they are "red-shirted" because the team has other athletes playing the position the student was recruited for, who are capable of doing the job, and may be graduating soon, or may have been drafted by a professional team. As long as the "red-shirted" athlete does not play in a live game situation, they can be on the roster and can practice with the team, receive a scholarship, and can still have a full four years of eligibility available to them and the team for future play. There are other strategies behind "red-shirting", such as "banking" players for future use or insurance purposes, or even preventing other competing teams from acquiring the services of the players. Sometimes transfer students "red-shirt" until they are eligible to play, and may only have a couple of years of eligibility remaining. But by far the most common reason to "red shirt" is to preserve as many years of eligibility as possible for when the team needs the athlete the most.


P
Los Altos
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:42 pm
P, Los Altos
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Steve C great comments. I failed to clarify that when I said 'held back' I meant kids that entered K since they were old enough but continued to 1st grade against the recommendation of the school teacher or administrator. the school does a kindergarten assessment which looks at motor skills, competency in the letters and as long as the child passes and is old enough, they can go to kindergarten. it's the jump from K to 1st that I think is the point where parents feel pressured to 'move with the class.' But as you said, you can't fake it! so true. At some point, it will catch up to the child and it will be a detriment to the overall wellbeing of the child. if the date was moved up to be September 1, then some of these kids that may not be ready for the jump from k to 1st wouldn't have to repeat and the parents wouldn't be faced with this issue. so, i agree with the change in date but honestly, you think those people in sacramento will consider this? hope so.


Student
Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:48 pm
Student, Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:48 pm

I am a student born in October and entered Kindergarten at age 4. I was extremely successful then and even now in school and I think it should up to the individual child to determine if they should enter Kintergarten the next year. If a child is not ready then they simply should not go, however it is a bad idea to move the deadline from december to sempteber. Then students like myself who are a little young for their grade would then become old for their grade. Many of my friends are also born later in the year and their age has not prevented them in any way from academic success. If the child is not ready then they should stay back but it simply is not fair for other students born later in the year if the deadline is created eariler.


Former kinder mom
South of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2009 at 2:14 am
Former kinder mom, South of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2009 at 2:14 am

To "kinder teacher": We were one of those families with a 4-year-old with a November birthday who did exactly what you said seldom worked in your experience — "just try[ing out kindergarten] it and see[ing] how it goes". Our son had no formal assessment ahead of time, but we told the kindergarten teacher to just let us know if things weren't working out, in which case we'd pull him out and put him into Young Fives if we could. We checked with her a week or two later and she said, "No problem; he's fine." I consider our choice to have tried it out, but have been willing to withdraw our son if his teacher thought that advisable, to have been a successful one. (I will say that both our sons had an absolutely amazing kindergarten teacher; maybe some other teachers would have had less success with our "younger" son!)

No matter when the deadline is set, somebody's kid is going to be starting a little too soon developmentally, and somebody else's kid is going to be starting too late. Ideally, each child should start at the appropriate developmental age. I'd like to see kindergarten become available for even younger children (say, 4 1/2 or so,, especially for girls), with the proviso that either an assessment be done ahead of time, and/or a "trial period" be spent in kindergarten, with the teacher's word being final if they judge the child to be too immature that year. I realize this would be more expensive and would make the ultimate sizes of kindergarten classes maybe too unpredictable for those drawing up school budgets. But maybe the kids (of all ages) who are deemed too immature could then be offered other classes of a Young Fives nature in order to get an extra year (or semester) to catch up.

In my own case, I only got to go to kindergarten for a day. After that day, the teacher said, she can read and write, she knows her colors, etc., etc.; she belongs in first grade. So I missed out on the whole kindergarten experience. (I was a May child.) I kind of wonder what I missed.


kindergarten teacher
another community
on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:31 am
kindergarten teacher, another community
on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:31 am

Response to Steve C. regarding how the cut off date was determined.
The state legislature sets the date. In this case, a legislator set the date because it was her grandson's birthday. The date was not set due to educational research or what is best for children. California has one of the latest start dates but also the highest,(toughest) standards in the nation.

Someone responded that he or she started at 4 and has always done fine. I know many people including kindergarten colleagues who have done the same. Unfortunately the majority of students who start at 4 do not have the same experience. Kindergarten is not the same as it was when most of us were starting out or even the same as 10 years ago. The bigger issue is how much we expect of our students.


Almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:00 am
Almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:00 am



Student from Paly community hit the nail on the head.

It is a case by case basis. Please remember we are talking about kids who are within a few months of turning 5; technically 4, but many are ready, just like there are technically 6 year olds that may not be ready.

For parents, the risk of keeping a motivated ALMOST 5 YEAR OLD is probably just as high as pushing a kid that is not ready when they had wiggle room to start later.

For the state and teachers, it's cheaper and less of a hassle to deal with what the proponents of a change call "pushed kids" - but for every pushed kid there will be a bored almost 5 year old that missed the cut off by a day.

Also, a reality that is not being mentioned is that younger kids are the most motivated, and do very well academically in PAUSD. In kindergarten they may not be shining, but later on they are among the best students compared to some bored older kids. I would bet that among the most accomplished graduating students form High School, many were on the younger side when they started K.

What a disservice to students to change the cut off, just to save money.




Parent of child with November birthday
Palo Verde
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:09 am
Parent of child with November birthday, Palo Verde
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:09 am

One of the other factors not discussed is how birth order makes a difference in readiness for kindergarten. It is true that the first child starting kindergarten is a big step for the whole family not just the child involved, regardless of age. It is the first time that there is a school bell start and finish with families having no say in the schedule and possibly have to make before and/or after school childcare arrangements as well as other lifestyle changes, such as homework and vacation (or other days off from school) plans.

For a family who already has a child in elementary school, even a child with a late birthday, is probably better adjusted for the start of kindergarten. The family is adjusted and also the child is better adjusted. That child has probably become very familiar with the school itself from going to drop off, pick up, and other school events, and has heard so much from their older siblings, that when they start they have an added advantage over a peer who is the eldest or singleton.

Kindergarten is very different from preschool in many ways and likewise, readiness is not a calendar issue but takes many factors into account.


Anonymous
Community Center
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:38 am
Anonymous, Community Center
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:38 am

I don't understand the rush to push kids into school. While these "younger" students may be emotionally, physically and academically "ready" - what happens as they get older? especially in middle school when entering the "teen" years. I think there is much more benefit to being on the older side when entering these years given everything that is going on.

Also, someone here suggested that they would like to see kindergarten opened up to even younger children (girls) - would you really want your daughter going to high school with boys that are two+ years older?


anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:46 am
anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:46 am

Many of the youngest who go on to be "among the best in high school" here, as the previous poster just claimed, are in fact tutored year-round, including in high school.
I think California ought to be consistent with the rest of the country and we need a standard school start date.


almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:27 am
almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:27 am


anonymous,

tutoring is not just for younger students.

your concern for girls going to school with boys that are two years older? as opposed to having boy classmates that are two years younger?

either way we are talking about outliers, and it is a case by case, involving many factors as parent of child with Nov mentions.

why is one outlier going to be favored at the expense of another? Private schools usually take almost six year olds, very strict cut offs. Public school has been the last place left to have an eager ready almost fiver year old start K.

this is yet one more way to say parents don't know best. If the claim is that curriculums are advancing, then in a few years we should have almost 7 year olds starting kindergarten.

That contradicts that the brain gets better with challenge not lack of it.


Erin
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:44 am
Erin, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:44 am

I am going to disagree with "Almost 5 year olds" that the younger kids will excel while the older kids will get bored. I find it very hard to believe that a district like Palo Alto can't keep all of it's students motivated.

I attended PA schools. I had a July birthday and knew how to read going into Kindergarten. I was pulled out for enrichment math, was in the higher laning reading groups. This was in the early 80s when state standards were not so high and there were 30 kids in a class. I pushed myself hard and took honors and AP classes in middle and high school. Still, I was competing with kids who scored a perfect score on their SATs. I never had a chance to be bored. I don't think many do.

This is not your normal school district and to say that you should just throw these 4 year olds into Kindergarten and "see if they can make it" is really doing them a disservice. Let them have one more year to practice holding a crayon and cutting with scissors before they have to start writing full sentences!


Anonymous
Community Center
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:58 am
Anonymous, Community Center
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:58 am

Almost 5 years olds,

Why do you think it is that the private schools have such strict cutoffs? To be mean? Because they don't want the money? Or could it be that a "must be 5" at the start of kindergarten allows the private school to more successfully implement their curriculum? Many of the private schools in addition to a required age, also test to make sure the child is ready.

No one here is suggesting that children should not be challenged. Should public schools be testing kids to make sure they are ready for Kindergarten? There has to be some sort of a cut off date and what the teachers seem to be saying is that the older children are on average more successful.





almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 12:08 pm
almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 12:08 pm



Erin,

I think you said that with an older start you weren't bored because you were "pulled out for enrichment math, was in the higher laning reading groups." Today, the overwhelming amount of star students is influencing the Math textbook decision so that every level is served, "a la carte." To me, if the program needs pull outs for every category, it's a mess - in the history of the world there have always been different levels of aptitude, but never so hyper controled as now. Anyway the pull out will be either at the top or bottom, and that will not change with the cut off change, it's not like they will eliminate a lane.

Anonymous,

On the private school thing, I'm not so sure the cut off is only because they are thinking of the child, since there are millions of kids proving them wrong as to readiness.

As I said, with a change in cut off date there will be no place left for the ready almost 5 year olds, unless they are lucky to win the lottery for a Young Fives program.

By the way, most parents don't take this decision lightly, they DO pay attention to their childs needs, and want them to succeed. It sounds like there are parents however may do this to get free child care, and that's a different matter.

Academically, socially and otherwise, there are ready almost fives that are a contribution to a classroom. I am simply saying that it is too bad that these kids will get the short end, for what is mostly a money saving issue for either side.




Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm

To "P" from Los Altos: Thanks for the clarification. That makes more sense, and I can understand why parents would feel pressured to move with the group against the recommendations of the teachers. It certainly isn't easy being a parent and having to choose from among such difficult choices. Thank God we have the ability to have these dialogues to air out these issues and consider alternatives. It's hard to believe that it wasn't so long ago we didn't have these capabilities, and we all would have been having to sit through endless hours of school-board meetings to even hear some of these comments and viewpoints.
To "Kindergarten Teacher" from another community: Thanks also for the enlightenment on the Dec 1 cutoff date formulation. I would have bet money that the date was chosen on some arbitrary and perhaps irrational basis, but even a hard-core cynic like me wouldn't have guessed that the cutoff date was selected on such a selfish and petty motivation. Makes you wonder how many other decisions that have such a lasting and powerful impact on so many of us have been based on such vacuous deliberation, doesn't it?
No matter what side of the fence the respondents stand on this issue, it's clear to me that no matter where the cutoff dates fall, there will be children whose experience is not being optimized by a one-size-fits-all system. The entry criteria need to be flexible enough to accommodate a wider range of children. It's not rocket science, as they say, and we're not even talking about the disparities in environmental experience these kids bring with them as they move into Kindergarten and formal schooling years.
One thing is certain, I think: Cost should not be the driving factor here. As with many other problems we face in society, it's "pay me now, or pay me later", with the later price tags carrying much larger numbers than the earlier ones.


palo alto mom
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 2, 2009 at 1:05 pm
palo alto mom, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 2, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I have 2 kids in HS, both with summer birthdays, started kindergarten at 5. The majority of their friends are almost a year older, some more then a year. Their friends who are younger, with fall birthdays, are almost all struggling either academically or socially. Your 4 year old may be ready to be a kinder, but your 13 year old may not be ready to be a freshman. And many of his peers may be 15 when they are starting high school.


almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 1:37 pm
almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 1:37 pm



pa mom,

your experience is anecdotal, different from paly student above who is doing fine. Unless there is data to prove that near 5 year olds always struggle, it's not going to help parents justify holding back a ready almost five.

what will happen with a change in cut off is that older and older kids will enter the system, probably after Young Fives programs, even "readier" than the rest, a kindergarten class average will definitely age. And then, there is a very good case to hold back.

with more "seasoned"kindergartners, Fall kids will at least have an excuse to be the older ones.



Erin
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 3:07 pm
Erin, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 3:07 pm

To "Almost 5 year-olds": regarding your comment about the math textbook example, that's an excellent example of why we should NOT put 4 year-olds into Kindergarten and just "see how they do." If the textbooks are starting to be catered to the many star students think of all the young ones who really aren't ready who will just get farther behind and more down on themselves. If the textbooks were dumbed-down then your argument is more valid that the 4s should start K early.

I would like to know the numbers of PA kids with fall birthdays who actually enter Kindergarten at 4 instead of waiting a year. I have a hard time thinking that "many are ready" as you claim. They may be almost 5 but they're joining classes with kids who are turning 6 in December. A 4 year old is VERY different from a 6 year old. Even 6 months can make an amazing difference.

The Young 5s experience is an interesting one. I entered the lottery knowing that my daughter needed an extra year. By the fall I thought she probably could have gone to Kindergarten if she'd had to. But, I had to stop and remember that the kids who were entering Kindergarten were ready to enter Kindergarten when I was so sure my daughter needed Young 5s. That's the difference. These kids were ready 9 months to a year before mine. They had almost an entire year of extra confidence in their abilities. Something she didn't get and something that would cause her to struggle not just in Kindergarten but like PA mom said, in middle school and high school as well.

I think most kids can "just get by" in elementary school and probably most can get through the academics with tutoring or extra help. It's the social aspects that come into play in middle and high school that can really have an effect on a child. Being the last one to drive and bum rides off of your friends, being less confident in yourself and therefore sometimes a social outcast, etc. These are the kinds of struggles I wanted to help my daughter avoid if I could by giving her the extra year that I knew she needed because she just wasn't emotionally/socially ready.


Wish I had waited
another community
on Apr 2, 2009 at 3:21 pm
Wish I had waited, another community
on Apr 2, 2009 at 3:21 pm

My daughter has an October birthday and started Kinder when she was still 4. She was and still is extremely successful academically. She has outperformed her classmates since the day she started school. She is now a junior in high school and if I were to do it again, I would have her wait. Although she is mature to the average observer, I know that she lacks the confidence socially that her classmates have. She is a follower who will go along with the crowd and allows people around her to make decisions for her. Thankfully she has chosen to be around good people who are on the right track, but I fear that if she becoame involved with the "wrong crowd" she would be easily swayed.

Regardless of what the cutoff dates are, I would urge people to think beyond elementary school in making the choice to start their children in school. While it is tempting to think that they are ready for school because they are ahead academically, it can be a huge disadvantage for a child to be in middle school or high school when they lack the social confidence to make good decisions.

The academic gap becomes smaller and smaller as they grow up, but the social gap gets bigger.


almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:37 pm
almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:37 pm



so far, the choice to start young is there, and whatever the decision the family makes is theirs. If the cutoff is changed, end of discussion.

Until then, I can't knock the younger students that are doing well, and make them feel bad that they are socially behind, even though they are mature (does that make any sense?). Especially since there are plenty of old kids that are socially messed up too, bullies are usually from the savvy older kids group. How far up does this go? well, at 40 they are ok, but not ok, if they had only started school one year later?











Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:39 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:39 pm

In an Earlier comment I was talking about financial costs when I suggested that it's always "pay me now or pay me later". Given the current comment string, it should be clear to all that the concept can manifest itself in many more ways than just financial ones. I feel badly, especially for the working parents and single parents who are forced to place their children in school as soon as possible, in order to be able to be in the workforce, and to avoid the high cost of childcare. It's really unfair to them and their children. It brings to mind the other old Saw, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer". We can put a man on the moon, do all these amazing technical things, we ought to be able to do a better job of teaching and growing our children. We need to be thinking long term, not budget to budget.


Parent of child with November birthday
Palo Verde
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:46 pm
Parent of child with November birthday, Palo Verde
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:46 pm

As for being the last one to drive, that is no longer as important as it used to be. Driving, at least in Palo Alto, is not very important for many teens and it is taking them longer to get their licenses. Very few get them on their 16 birthdays and many do not get them on their first attempt, either the permits or their licenses. My November child imagined she was one of the last, but was surprised just how many of her friends did get them after her.

With the more strict driving laws about driving other teens around, the 11.00 pm curfew, and the cost of parking permits at the high schools, even those who get their licenses are not driving cars to school as much as we imagine.


almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 5:05 pm
almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 5:05 pm



all this sympathy for "poor" Fall birthday kids and their parents. Proponents for changing the cut off are not even these families, it's everybody else wanting the best for "them",

from these posts alone it's all about, "they" are not ready, "they" will suffer, "they" deserve better, it's months people, not even a year.


Erin
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 6:15 pm
Erin, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 6:15 pm

It is a year when you think that my 4 year old (turning 5 in October) would have started Kindergarten with a child who would turn 6 in December. That's not months in developmental difference in the same class, that's a year!

This is not just "people" saying they think it's best to change the cutoff date, it's the kindergarten teachers in OUR school district who have seen children struggle time and time again. We should give them a little more clout than just your average observer.


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm

To "almost five year olds" from Old Palo Alto. I think you are missing something here. Most everyone in favor of changing start dates are also advocating for an option for older children and one for younger ones, to try to optimize the benefits, minimize the negatives. As for months vs years, for a five year old, 6 months is one tenth of their lives. I can still remember how long a 3 month vacation seemed, even when I was ten years old. It seemed like an eternity. Three to six months is a long time at age five, just as a year is when they reach High School. It takes a really special kid to be able to handle that type of spread, and pretty special parents to be able to help the kids handle being different from their peers. I don't think playing to the averages works here.


almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 8:31 pm
almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Erin,

it's a few months younger from the youngest, if you make the current cut off, but yes a full year to wait if you miss the cut off, and more if it changes.

Basically, as it is now - you go in as an almost five and turn five within a few months, but with the proposed cut off you go from being among the youngest (almost five) to among the oldest (almost six), and some. That spread is indeed an eternity depending on your child.

I'm sure teachers prefer six year olds instead of nearly five year olds.

The cost of providing options for young fives will probably be the same as keeping the system the way it is. There will indeed be a demand for pubic options if the date is changed. A new industry of private young fives programs will also probably flourish if there is a change.






THe decision for parents with ready kids will be either a private challenging pre-K or a public one if it exists. If there are no public options, and no money for private pre-K the six year olds will



almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 8:35 pm
almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 8:35 pm



meant to say, if there are no public options, and no money forprivate pre-K, the nearly six year olds will hopefully have a parent at home that can challenge them and then tell them to be patient when they start as the "senior" of the class the following year.


Erin
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 8:52 pm
Erin, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I really think you're overestimating the number of kids with late fall birthdays who are in fact ready for Kindergarten at age 4. There were a handful in my daughter's preschool class and not a single one went into K in the fall. If they didn't get into the PAUSD Young 5s program they paid for a private Young 5s.

We're not even touching on the thousands of kids who have no preschool before entering Kindergarten in our discussion. Throw them in when they're still 4 and they don't stand a chance.


almost 5 year olds
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:12 pm
almost 5 year olds, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:12 pm


Erin,

is it just me or did you first say there are not that many almost 5 year olds, and then you said there are thousands that did not have pre-school that are 4 (almost 5)?

nobody gets in because they are 4 right now, they get in because they are almost 5. That they had preschool or not is a different issue.

is that what this is about? preschool?

so you are ok to hold back almost five year olds that had preschool for three years and are ready for kindergarten, a full year, in order to ban almost 5s that did not have preschool?

I see, if you can afford preschool, then it's ok, you're bound to afford one more year of an alternate program. Just keep the non-preschool kids out of the classroom for a full year so they can start with no preschool at age 6, that year watching tv and playing video games should get them "ready." what happened to the "it's bad for their social life" line?







Erin
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 11:17 pm
Erin, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 2, 2009 at 11:17 pm

What? You're really confusing me.

I said that I think you're overestimating the number that are READY for kindergarten at age 4 not the number of kids who actually make the cutoff at age 4.

4 and almost 5 is the same thing. My "almost 5 year old" would have been in Kindergarten with "almost 6 year olds". Not a good situation in my eyes. I'm really tired of debating the age difference issue.

I'm okay to hold back kids who are almost 5 whether they had preschool or not. There's no reason all of them can't use an extra year and hopefully we can get quality preschool programs accessible for all kids, not just those who can afford it.


OhlonePar
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 12:34 am
OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 12:34 am

Almost 5,

It's not that hard to keep a bright five-year-old interested. They do it in Europe and still manage the highest literacy scores around in Scandanavia.

I spend a fair amount of time in the classrooms--and invariably the youngest kids in a class have a more challenging time in class than the oldest ones. Not necessarily academically, but socially. I'll notice a kid's immaturity--and, by golly, it will turn out that the child is, indeed, younger than everyone else.

I think if kindergarten was what it used to be--learning school rules and the alphabet, getting out at noon every day--being four wouldn't be an issue. But these kids are really going into what used to be first grade. And the older kids have real physical and emotional advamtages that have nothing to do with inate intellectual ability and everything to do with development. Thus it's true that whether you learn to read at four or seven doesn't really matter--the late starters simply catch up.

I do like differentiated instruction, though, just because you can have very bright and very immature kids who shouldn't be skipping grades, but do need a good challenge.


Parent of child with Nov. birthday
Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:17 am
Parent of child with Nov. birthday, Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:17 am

You have to be careful here. Whatever the cut off date, there will always be at least 12 months between the oldest and youngest in the classroom, and probably more. The differences will vary between height, motor skills (large and small), losing teeth (my own child didn't lose her first tooth until 2nd grade and was very upset because there was no longer a chart on the wall for lost teeth) and outside activities. Many of the kids will be signed up for soccer, t ball, ballet or music classes, and be quite good at these, while others will just go home or go to the park after school. Many of these things are nothing to do with development, but just the variations always found in a classroom and in kindergarten these variations stick out more.

Wait until the first few days after winter break and you will find that many families have been all over the world while others have stayed in Palo Alto. This is often just as much of a difference in regards to maturity levels - particularly if the world travelers take an extra few days off school as a result and bring back pictures or souvenirs to share with the class. They become the class celebrities for a few days and the others definitely feel left out.

When the sports uniforms get worn to school, or the musical instrument is brought in for show and tell, the others feel there is something wrong with them since they can't or don't do these things.
Even the contents of the bagged lunch or what they do for their birthday parties cause differentiations which has nothing to do with age, but at the same time can cause great problems in a kindergarten classroom. However, these things are normal and the kids do learn in kindergarten that life is not a level playing field and there will always be some who seem to be better, older, have more than others, and whether they are nearly 5 or nearly 6 isn't really a problem for them but more for their parents.

Even when you get into middle school, many of the girls will be developing physically and looking at the boys differently whereas the boys will still be immature in this regard. My daughter complained about changing for PE in middle school as the girls with bras showed off against those who didn't need them. This development had nothing to do with age, just physical maturity. By high school the boys quickly catch up, but many are shaving as freshmen and my own junior who is blond still only has a little peach fluff on his face even though his voice has gone very deep. This is genetic and not age related.

Some kids do grow up faster and mature quicker and it is not going to be anything about age. There is no advantage on being the oldest in the class and no disadvantage about being the youngest. There will always be a pecking order amongst the peers and we as adults cannot prevent this. It is much better to teach the kids how to deal with this than to try and give them some type of advantage.


parent
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm
parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Our child's birthday was just before the cutoff, and we held him back. When he was a toddler I had been sure I wouldn't 'red-shirt' him, but we changed our minds after talking to his preschool teachers, and other parents who had dealt with the same situation.

Some preschool classmates who were not held back had to repeat kindergarten. Can you imagine being made to feel like you have failed at a major challenge when you are only 5 years old? That's another thing that never used to happen - forcing children to repeat kindergarten because they hadn't met the academic standards.


JSD
Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm
JSD, Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm

One comment, from my (current) experiences at my kids' elementary school: I don't think repeating a grade, especially as early as K or 1st grade, holds quite the stigma it did when we were growing up. I know several kids who've repeated, my kids know several, and it just doesn't seem to be that big a deal, socially, from what I've seen. I'm sure it's a hard decision and tenuous at the beginning, but contemporary (young) kids are pretty accepting, for the most part.


OhlonePar
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:23 pm
OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Child with nov. birthday,

And none of what you mention is going to have a major affect on a child's maturity level in terms of being able to focus for a given period of time and--here's a classic developmental issue--hold a pencil comfortably.

It's nice that you're certain that there's no advantage to being the oldest and no disadvantage in being the youngest. Nothing in my experience, however, gives me a reason to agree with you. Socially, I see kids migrate to the children who match their maturity level--they end up playing with kids the year below.

There are benchmarks that correlate fairly closely with age. I've seen some very early readers, but I've yet to see an early reader who also wrote well and was able to physically perform like an average five-year-old. Development isn't even across the board--being advanced in one doesn't mean being advanced in everything else.

JSD,

A lot of kids seem to be held back in kindergarten. My understanding is that the schools like to do it then and then avoid doing it later. One case surprised me as the kid was clearly on track academically. The child was immature--or, rather, the youngest--and I understand that had something to do with the decision.


not a big deal.
Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm
not a big deal., Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

"Can you imagine being made to feel like you have failed at a major challenge when you are only 5 years old?"

Since when was repeating Kindergarten failure of a major challenge? You're projecting your feelings onto the child.


parent
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm
parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Since when was repeating Kindergarten failure of a major challenge?

I'm not saying it IS failure, just that it might feel like one. And yes, I am projecting - that is how I would have felt about it back in the day.

I'm glad to hear there is no stigma attached to it, that's great.

I decided I would rather our son have a happy, creative year in his great preschool, than a stressful, difficult one struggling in kindergarten.


OhlonePar
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 3:31 pm
OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 3:31 pm

parent,

Back in my day, being held back definitely had a stigma attached, but I haven't seen that at Ohlone. Sounds like that may be the case at the other schools as well.

A good thing as a pretty high number of kinders seem to be held back in this district.


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Regardless of whether there is a "Stigma" attached to being held-back, or whether there are or aren't carry-over effects that manifest later in the child's life, why would anyone put a child through tasks that the child is not ready for, not wired up for yet? Who cares if it "only lasts a couple of months", then goes away? It's still insensitive and abusive for that period of time. And even if no one knows for sure what the child might be feeling, or what kind of effect it has on the child, who would take a chance on something like that, if they don't have to?
The older more developed kids are not the problem here. Finding more advanced or engaging activities for those children is a surmountable problem. Pushing children into activities for which they are not ready is another story, ultimately impossible.
I was watching Michelle Obama meeting with the Queen of England last night, and it made me think of Prince Charles, heir to the throne. In England, the aristocracy often send their children to Nursery schools as young as age 3, then boarding schools as early as 8 or 9, as did Prince Charles. I think he was at boarding school by age 9. Here's a guy who dumped Lady Diana for that old dry-bag Camilla Parker-Bowles. I always felt he was the poster-boy for carry-over effects and arrested-development.


wish I had waited
another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 7:47 pm
wish I had waited, another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Steve C. you are so right! (I don't know about Prince Charles though). It isn't going to negatively affect the older kids to wait, but it can be harmful to those who aren't ready to be pushed on. I think it's about time the cutoff date is changed!


jb
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:25 pm
jb, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:25 pm

I agree that older kids are not hurt by being older at school. They have to get used to it because it will be that way all their lives. My daughter had a September birthday, but was very young-behaving, didn't do well with pencils and scissors, and faced the arrival of a baby sibling shortly after she started school. She was unable to stay on the carpet to listen to the teacher, whined and wanted to be held instead. We went to Young 5's when it was just one more choice in the adult ed catalogue. The first night of parent meetings Eleanora Jadwin announced to us: "I have good news. Not one of you has made a mistake."

I still stand by that decision, even though in her teens I heard, "Mom, I don't know why you kept me back. Now it is so hard to be with my peers." Not that hard. She still snagged the student body president for a date to Sadie Hawkins dance, AND persuaded him to wear look-alike dresses with her.

The good thing about her being a year ahead of her classmates
in later years was that when she went through a stage, most of her playmates hadn't reached that developmental plateau. She did not have the resonance of a cohort suffering and amplifying the difficulty with her. When they went through that stage, she thought they were insufferably young. She could always see through it.


almost 5, no money no luck
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm
almost 5, no money no luck, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm




If the proposal to narrow the window to start school passes, it's still a very convenient decision most probably not to be accompanied by corresponding public options for ready kids, or kids that would have otherwise been able to enter the public school system.

It's nice that it sounds like it's for their own good, but it also borders on discriminatory, and will be wide open for challenges on that basis, ie. the ones most hurt by this will be those that cannot afford preschool or other options, ie, achievement gap kids.






almost 5, no money no luck
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2009 at 2:51 pm
almost 5, no money no luck, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2009 at 2:51 pm



in which case it's save now, pay later


Steve C.
Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 10:45 pm
Steve C., Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 10:45 pm


That's why one cutoff date probably isn't going to do the trick. The solution requires more than just changing the date. But if you have to err on one side or the other, you have to go with the cutoff date that puts more "ready" children in the system than "not-ready", in this case it means moving the date back so less "not-ready" children are eligible to start before they are really ready.
There is no one-size that fits all, and there are stakeholders at both ends of the spectrum. So it becomes a question of who loses the most, the children who are older and need a program that is challenging enough for them, or the younger children who are not ready for the challenges of a Kindergarten but are eligible, and get pushed into it anyway, to save on pre-school costs or the opportunity costs of having to provide childcare in the home, by a parent? Then it becomes a numbers game, and from a public policy perspective, the rule should be to go with the greater good, meaning the greatest number of children/families get the "good", and the least number of children/families get the "bad". In this case, if it means moving the eligibility date so as to not start the younger kids until they are ready, there is no "discriminatory" action because EVERYONE is held to the same standard. It will just piss off the parents who would rather have more income or disposable income or get the kids out of their hair part of every day so they can do whatever, regardless of what the kid is actually going through, or how it affects the child in the long run.
As far as the older kids are concerned, again, it is much easier to provide a more challenging environment for them than to have to manage a lot of not-ready kids who basically just need to be babysat and nurtured, AND have to provide for the older children as well.
The more children in Kindergarten who are ready for Kindergarten, the better for all. The older kids don't have to get the short end of the stick, because there is no short end that way.

"Saving now and paying later" is really no different than "Pay me now or pay me later". Either way, you end up paying later. Only in this case, we're talking about more than just monetary or fiscal costs.


Simon
College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2009 at 10:52 am
Simon, College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2009 at 10:52 am

Steve -- I think you've nailed it. So long as the selection is made in years (as opposed to having classes enter every six months, say), some kids at one end of the admission age will loose out. And I agree that the greater good is served by risking the boredom of some children who are a little older as they enter kindergarten than the failure of the youngest to thrive because they enter before they are ready. The more kids who are ready, the more time their teachers will be able to devote to really engaging them with the material -- I think one reason the more mature kids are bored is that their teachers have to focus on the kids who are there too early.

I think it's fairly well agreed that we are expecting more of kinders than we used to, but CA hasn't changed the cut off to match those expectations with what is developmentally appropriate. Now it should.


teacher/mom
Downtown North
on Apr 8, 2009 at 8:28 pm
teacher/mom, Downtown North
on Apr 8, 2009 at 8:28 pm

What I am reading here is a lot of people who really want to do the best thing for kids. Chapter books aside, teachers can always pick out the "young ones" in the classroom. They usually act young, or age appropriate and when did that become a problem. Only when the standards for each grade level keep going up.
If you have a fall birthday child, perhaps consider the long view. Do you want to send a 16/17 year old away to college to play with the 18/19 year olds? Also the SAT's. A child who has had an extra year to acquire vocabulary will have a better score.
Having said all this, I sent my October birthday to kindergarten at 4 years old. Reader, she was taller than everyone but the boy from Sweden who was 7. She has done very well, currently at Georgetown, (OK that's bragging) but it would have been easier if someone had said "Kindergarten at 5".
Parents, continue to trust the people that are trained to teach your children. We are not trying to exclude anyone, just make it the best learning experience for all kids.


Nancy M
another community
on Aug 13, 2009 at 9:35 am
Nancy M, another community
on Aug 13, 2009 at 9:35 am

Academic Redshirting has become a big topic of conversation in California due to the Dec cut off date for entering Kindergarten and competition among students. I have always given a lot of attention to my daughter's schoolwork because of her age and I think that helps a lot. She is a great well-rounded student, not at the top of her class, but that's okay with me, it would have been a mistake to hold her back. As a classroom volunteer and a mom of a Oct 22 girl, and from my reasearch on the topic, holding a kid back does not give them any more of an edge than letting them start early, and if a child is showing signs of having problems, a lot of times those problems are due to something else and the parents are just hoping that the problems will go away instead of tackling the problem early. The kids seem to catch up quickly, even if they have not had any type of pre-school beforehand, even zoom ahead in reading! Also, some of the redshirt kids, in my research, end up showing behavioral problems in later years, maybe because they are older than their classmates. Just in my personal experience, if my child's birthday was in late November/Dec, I would seriously consider holding them back, the October children seem to do well in my classes, but the late nov/dec children (there are 2) seem on the shy side and I would worry about their self-esteem. Again, I think it should be a judgment call for all parents.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.