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Teachers' petition may spark statewide change

Original post made on Sep 2, 2010

A petition by some Palo Alto elementary school teachers may soon spark major changes in schools throughout California. Legislation requiring that kids turn 5 by Sept. 1 of the year they start kindergarten is on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, awaiting signature.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 2, 2010, 9:52 AM

Comments (36)

Posted by Marie
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:31 am

"Had these two teachers not come in to my office with a petition signed by 289 of their peers, this is not an issue I'd likely have taken up again." comment by Joe Simitian

This is an example of pro-active teachers, expressing a need that will support developing new legislation. Impressive. Fantastic! These forward thinking teachers are using their experience to make sure students benefit. As a VTA PAUSD parent, who donates to PiE, I like it. This is the right idea.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 12:03 pm

It is amazing that this may save money and shrink enrollment. Of course it will for one year, but then it will be the same the following year. This does not mean that kids disappear, just that one group, one year will be smaller.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2010 at 12:11 pm

It's about time. The December deadline made no sense since school begins in late August. Thanks to Diana, Natali and Joe for initiating this. This won't affect my children but is fantastic for the students. We moved from the midwest, which had a deadline of September and it affected my first child, who would be a grade higher now if CA's deadline was September also. (But we'll have him for an extra year at home, which is nice!). This should be a nationwide law.

Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I am confused by the previous post. How is it that your child would have been a grade higher if CA had a Sept cutoff?

The current CA cutoff is December 2.

Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm

extreme silliness which is not to be confused with oassing a budget.

if the child is ready, have them start.
if the child is not ready, don't have them start.

no need to call Sacramento about it: act locally right down to the school and classroom level.

don't make the decision for bureacratic reasons (eg will our classes be too large)
don't make the decision for budget reason (will the classes be in this budget yeat or the next)

make the decision for the individual child education

and Resident is completely correct: this is balance sheet change, not a change to ongoing operations - one time savings. "I will gladly education you tomorrow in exchange for ..."

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:08 pm

One of the reasons that these teachers are pushing to change the date is that the majority of the students sent for help by a reading specialist have fall birthday. Waiting until a more developmentally appropriate time to start school would ensure success for a greater number of students.

There are many kids in PAUSD who participate in a "young fives" program of some sort. This means there are kinder classrooms with 4, 5 and 6 year olds - totally different levels of learning.

Observer - your comments make sense in theory, but parents are not always the best judge of whether their child is ready to be a kinder. And a public school can not refuse to take a child just because they "are not ready". There is also the financial incentive as a parent to send a child to kindergarten rather than preschool because it is free.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Please note that the enrollment decrease will be for many years. Because that smaller cohort (the three years while the date moves back) means that enrollment will be less than otherwise for eight years(k-5 for these students -- six years and two more for the phasing in). That may not be the clearest explanation, but it is more than one year's savings in enrollment.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:29 pm

PAUSD has no real program for gifted kids. If my child had to wait an extra year to start (child entered kindergarten already reading), it would have been a disaster.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Mom - it would be more valuable for you to work on the district to further challenge the gifted kids than to penalize the kids who are simply too young for school at the age of 4 (which is most of them).

Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I simply don't understand what Clarification means. The total number of kids is fixed. It doesn't matter if you phase in the change and spread the number over a couple of years, or do the whole thing in one year. The so-called "saving" is fixed.

This is a silly decision. Kids are grown much faster than before. Their brain are exposed to multitude of stimulation that were not possible ten, twenty years earlier. Ubiquitous TV (e.g. in a van), audio (e.g. mp3), computer, etc. As a result, young kids in general are much more mature than the kids of same age ten, twenty years ago.

If anything we should start kindergarten EARLIER, not later! In fact, in my view we should shrink K-12 education to K-10, and consider the kids grown-ups when they turn 16.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Teacher Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Dear Mr. Hoosac,
One cannot speed up Mother Nature. Regardless of what kids are exposed to, brain development cannot be sped up. I agree with the above post that mentioned that the kids with fall birthdays are the bulk of kids receiving intervention. I teach in another district and we see the same thing. I can tell who has a fall birthday among my second graders without looking at their birth dates. I have seen "young" kids do well, but they are so very few and far between. This bill is a smart decision for the kids. If parents feel their kids are ready and they have fall/winter birthdays, just enroll them in a private school rather than another year of pre-school. It's not a perfect solution, but it has the kids (not the parents) best interest in mind, which is what this about; what's best for the kids.

Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Dear Teacher Mom,

Mother Nature do speed up. Recently there was a news that girls now reach puberty earlier than before. We all know teens on average engage in sexual behaviors earlier than before. People live longer. And they live a more active life. A 5-year old today on average is much more mature than a 5-year old in, say, 1970's.

I've also seen plenty of parents who consciously postpone kindergarten for their kids. That is fine with me too. But it is not fair for this bill to change the cut-off for those parents who want to enroll. Parents should have the choice.

This kind of talk came up a couple of years ago in previous budget crisis. The real reason is desperate budget savings. But that is so wrong.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:27 pm


Yeah, the age of puberty in girls has dropped not because the brain's development has sped up but because their body fat ratios are higher. As a result, by the way, they're not as tall as they were. The earlier adolescence isn't a great thing.

Five-year-olds aren't more mature now than they were in the 70s, though they are heavier. No sign that they have better fine-muscle co-ordination or that the age for developing abstract reasoning has changed.

Worth noting--the highest literacy rates are in the Scandanavian countries, where reading's taught at . . . seven.

For those with gifted kids--some kids learn to read in preschool, doesn't make them automatically ready for grade school--social/emotional/physical and intellectual development don't run on identical tracks. Profoundly gifted kids will need supplementing anyway.

Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:51 pm

When I was in kindergarten (Baywood School, San Mateo, 1952) we sang

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
You are five years old today!
One, two, three, four, five.

Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm


I don't see any relation between literacy rate and the lateness when kids start to read. If that is the case maybe we should teach kids reading at 10? or 12?

Let me give you an example on piano skills. These days many young kids have amazing piano skills. Kids like that would definitely be a national or even world sensation 30, 40 years ago. Remember Kissin? But today because such kids are far from rarity they are simply considered as very good players. There is nothing too special about it.

Why? Because kids now can access massive amount of audio and video materials. Therefore many learn playing much faster than the pupils of 40 years ago.

I believe the same is true for kids learning in almost all subjects.

Posted by Samantha
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2010 at 9:49 pm

As a mom to two children, both of whom have late, late summer or fall birthdays and began kindergarten at the age of four and were completely fine (better than fine) I can't imagine not having had the choice to send them to kindergarten at that time. I have no problem with parents deciding their child is not yet developmentally/academically/socially ready to begin kindergarten until the age of 6 (or even 6 1/2 in some cases) but if a child is ready at 4 years and 9 months to begin school then he/she should have the opportunity to begin. Some kids are ready to start at age 4 + and some kids are ready at age 6+.......

Moreover, if this bill passes residents/kids in Palo Alto will the opportunity to take advantage of our plentiful, top-notch "young fives" programs....not the case in less affluent communities where many, many children will be approaching 6 before they ever have the opportunity to set foot in any school. These children will begin formal education (at least) one year behind when it would have otherwise began.

Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I'm a bit surprised by the move all the way back to 9/1, having started a kid at age 4 who turned 5 in late September; does this mean we'll now have parents angling to start their kids early instead of holding them back? (This is a competitive place; my bet is yes - wonder what the process will be like for that?!)

Regardless, I hope that this means that, no matter how awesome it is, some budget is recouped from Young 5's. No, I didn't have a kid go through it, but I don't think preschool education needs to be funded in this community (preschools have scholarship programs for those who need it) -- and in a time of budget shortfall, the money can be applied elsewhere to greater benefit, IMHO. If parents of summer kids want to hold their kids back, let them pay for it. When we're asked for a ton of money for PTAs, PiE, band, sports, etc., why is having to pay for preschool -- for a decision you make to hold your kid back -- such a big deal?

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Let me make this simple, the teachers who are behind changing the kinder age have no interest in the state ed budget (this is Palo Alto, we are lucky and our budget is ok for CA)

They are really just interested in having the majority of the students being ready for kindergarten. There will always be the exceptions, but if you ask a middle school teacher who their "too young" kids are, it is still painfully obvious even (especially) in middle school.

As an example, Natalie Bivas is a PAUSD reading specialist. Every day, she works with kids who are BEHIND in their skills. The majority of theses kids, no matter what their current grade, were very young kinders. If they started school a year later they would not need additional help.

Choice A - start kindergarten at 4 and need extra support for years (and probably feel like an academic failure for 13 years because you are ALWAYS just a bit behind your older peers.)

Choice B - an extra year of preschool and you are academically ready and EAGER to learn to read, etc, join your peers and not be a disruptive influence for 13 years...

As a benefit, if a child starts school at an academically appropriate age, the other 19-22 kids in his/her class will have a better experience also since the teacher can spend time teaching, not dealing with way too young students.

Young kinders need MUCH more resource help and are MUCH more disruptive in the classroom because they are simply too young for a formal classroom.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:17 pm

@Another Parent: I misspoke. I meant he would be a grade higher now if we started in CA with the December deadline. His birthday is in November and he would have gone to school a year earlier but had to wait a year because the deadline is Sept. in the midwest.

Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:34 pm

To palo alto mom,

The solution should be to let those kids who cannot catch up, regardless of birthdays, to stay in the same grade for one or even two more years. This is the what happens in many countries, for all K-12 grades. This is fair. It is based on each student's ability, not age discrimination.

The solution is not to be politically correct. The solution is not to penalize other kids. The solution is not to hold other kids as collateral damage.

Posted by Palo Alto mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 6:55 am

Agreed. If a child is ready for kindergarten he/she should go. If not, he/she should wait a year REGARDLESS OF AGE. Not all young kinders "need much more resource help" or "are disruptive in the classroom." Likewise, if a child is ready to be promoted at the end of kindergarten then onward to first grade and if not then maybe another year of kindergarten is the best solution for THAT PARTICULAR CHILD.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 7:26 am

A year is a very long time in the life of a child. Many kids are ready for kindergarten at 4, particularly if they have had a couple of years of good preschool. A child who turns 5 at the beginning of September could be bored for another year in preschool.

I think it would make a lot more sense to have a readiness test for every child with a summer/fall birthday. Girls in particular tend to be more ready for the structure of kindergarten and should be given the chance to start when they are ready rather than their birth age. Let's face it, some of the babies are born at 36 weeks and others are born at 42 weeks gestation and the starting gate may not be the same either.

Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:19 am

The fact is, nine out of ten parents that I've known over the years told me kindergarten is boring to their kids. If we increase the enrollment age, more kids will be bored. It would be a waste of their life.

Let's not get bogged down with this "No Child Left Behind" PC stuff. We should instead think of "Racing To The Top".

Besides, a year late entering kindergarten means a year late entering the workforce. It means the child is a year short in making his or her contribution to the society in his/her life time. It means a year's loss of economical activities to the state and the country. Adding up this is a huge economical loss to our state and to the country.

So anyone who has the faintest thought that this is an economical saving is putting his/her head in the sand.

Posted by mom of 4yo kinder
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2010 at 11:10 am

One of my daughters went to kindergarten at 4 and was one of the youngest; the other went to kindergarten at 5 and was one of the oldest. The 5 year old was ready sooner and the last year of pre-school was a problem -- who cares about academic waste at that age, but it's a poor time to develop social adjustment issues because you are older and more ready for an academic environment than the other kids.

However, I do worry about the academic and social environment when there seem to be disparate ideas about what kindergarten is for -- it seems like you end up with a bunch of older, bigger boys and smaller, younger girls. Better to have a more consistent rule: if kindergarten is more like 1st grade was in my day, change the deadline.

Or better yet, use the new zealand model: you go to "kindy" when you are age-ready, and then move up to 1st grade with the other kids.

Posted by Erin Mershon
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm

You should all read the text of this bill before assuming what it does and does not do for children.

Fact 1: if parents wish their child with a birthday between September-December to start school as a 4 year old they may petition their school district to have them start early.

Fact 2: money saved by this bill will go towards preschool and transitional kindergarten programs in the entire state. Districts that do not have transitional kinder programs will have to implement them. This is huge for those kids who have not had the opportunity like kids in Palo Alto's Young Fives program.

Please read about Palo Alto's Young Fives program in today's Weekly before you judge it so harsly. It is such a great program.

To EcoMama - we all pay for things we don't necessarily use. My daughters will never see the inside of the new classrooms at Fairmeadow or Ohlone but that's not a reason for me to not support their development.

On another non-related issue but brought up above: Race to the Top is just NCLB under a fancy new name.

Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Erin, I don't object to paying for things I/my kids don't use, like new classrooms at other schools. I object to limited education funding being used for preschool at all, even young 5's. I used preschools (five years in total between my two kids) -- and I paid for them, finding ones within my budget. I don't understand the rationale behind preschool funding in this wealthy area. This isn't Head Start in a depressed, urban area we're talking about -- it's Palo Alto. If people want to hold their kids back, they can pay for them to attend another year of preschool or young 5's. I haven't seen a compelling argument against that. It's not like there are a host of kids who couldn't attend without it being paid for -- and at area preschools, there are scholarships. There could be for young 5's (like Periwinkle, which is private) for those who couldn't afford it. Why use precious little education funding on something for which most parents could and would pay?

Posted by laurie
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 4, 2010 at 12:48 am

I say implement the change! Having kids turning five with kids turning six is rediculous. You need to look at what types of pre-school our kids are coming from. Play based pre-schools do not teach reading, so do not expect these 4/5 year old to come into kinder reading. It seems that Montessori schools teach reading as part of their curriculum, I have two friends with daughters that attended Montessori schools and entered kinder already reading. Then you have parents that do not send their kids to pre-school at all, those kids do not know how to read or write. ESL students will not be reading when they enter kinder. That is why we have kids in the classroom with different abilities. It is not up to the district to accommodate a child just because they know how to read upon entering kinder. All kids need to be 5 by Sept 1st period! If they are very smart kids then have them promoted up and good luck! (Sooner or later that child will close the gap, trust me)

Posted by Laurie
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 4, 2010 at 1:04 am


How can you not understand the rationale behind preschool funding in this wealthy area. Not everyone in Palo Alto is rich and can afford to send their kids to an extra year of pre-school or to a young fives private school. Besides when I called Periwinkle she said it would cost $2000. She tried to sell me the school by saying they use organic paints and paper. Give me a break! A child's academic success before kinder should not matter.

Posted by Bill Kelly
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2010 at 7:45 am

Kind of funny when you read two articles on PA online: one by a teacher pleading with the community in high school to reduce the stress on kids, the other about cutting off children who are probably too young to enter.

Who hoo! lets get our kids in earlier so we can increase their stress and have them extra challenged because they are inappropriately young! Yah!

Here in Palo Alto we want it all ways!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2010 at 8:51 am

I have actually been thinking along the lines of the last poster.

Whether a child is ready for kindergarten is only one aspect of looking at this. Another aspect is how they will deal with graduating and going off to college before they are 18. A child starting college at 17 means they will possibly graduate as early as 21 1/2. There could be good and bad in this. It can mean that they can take a gap year and still be the same age as the following year's students.

But it is also a matter of maturity for high school. Some kids are much better at being able to handle the complex emotional issues that high school brings, boy/girl issues, time management, organization, adaptability, hormonal urges in themselves and their peers, apart from the stresses. A young kindergartener will also be a young middle schooler and a young high schooler as well as a young college student. How is a 13 year old (particularly a boy) going to handle high school - often being in class with students who may be a year or two older and maturer.

Some are arguing that kids are maturing earlier, but I am not so sure. Certainly there are physical changes which are happening earlier, puberty may be hitting earlier, but the emotional maturity of our kids in my opinion is taking a lot longer.

Kids nowadays appear to be less able to make up their own minds, get themselves from A to B without being driven by parents, know how to deal with peer pressures in regards to sex, alcohol or drugs, use bikes or buses or even walk a mile, or even to know what to major in at college. Giving them a little longer before introducing them to these types of things may actually help those kids with late birthdays.

The flip side of course is that there will always be a group who are the younger ones in a grade. These younger ones will always have those in the class who are a year older. No matter when the cut off age is, there will always be young ones. Just young ones with birthdays at different times than at present.

Posted by peninsula mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Isn't a big part of the problem the fact that in one classroom you may find kids who are two years apart in age...should a 4 year old girl really be in the same class as an almost 7 year old boy? Of course this age-span problem continues to be an issue in high school when a 19 year old is on campus with a 13 year old. I don't know if the actual "kinder start" cut-off matters (within the 3 month gap we are talking about---Sept 1-Dec. 2nd) as much as the fact that kids should be in a class with other kids who ages are within 12 months of one another....... Just an idea.

Posted by Local mom & Teacher
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 5, 2010 at 8:50 am

Pretty much EVERYWHERE else in the US the cut-off date for Kinder is between late July to sometime in September/October. The rest of the country says that kids should be 5 by the time they start Kinder, why should CA be different? Here is a link to a list of cut-off dates.

Web Link

I teach middle school in a neighboring district and believe me, the kids who have fall birthdays and are "younger" than their peerss really stand out! Both academically and socially. Why rush kids? Let them have that extra year before school.

AND, this is NOT a PALO ALTO issue, but a statewide issue. The legislation calls for preschool/young fives programs to be provided by school districts so that those underserved children will have an opportunity for free or affordable Kindergarten. And for those of us who can afford it, why not wait to start preschool until the kids are 3 or 4 instead of starting them at 2 or 3. In the end they have the same amount of experience.

Posted by Mary H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I'm sorry James, but you need to do some reading about Child Development and spend some time in a kindergarten classroom; your comments here are, well....your opinion. Children with late fall birthdays often "stick out" in a kindergarten classroom; they simply are just not ready for the transitions, the sitting still, the following directions, and the focus time that we currently are requiring of our kinders. The sad part, is that the "youngness" issue doesn't resolve just because they go to first grade. It continues to affect that child for the rest of his schooling; because of being not developmentally ready for the tasks of today's kinder classroom, they are frustrated, they tend to feel less capable, and that certainly then affects their feelings about learning ALL THROUGH SCHOOL. I've spoken with many mom's through the years (my kids are now 18 and 21), and I've never run into a parent who regretted doing a Young 5's program (Palo Alto's is fabulous), but I've run into many who regretted NOT doing it.

Here's a thought to ponder: We all know what it's like to be an adult. What would you prefer...hurrying your child and having him/her be an adult when they're 17, or allowing those who need it an additional year of being a kid?

Posted by Progress?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 8:24 am

Was this approved?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I don't have much time to spend online these days, so I just came back to this thread.


What piano whizzes are you talking about? Developing piano skills has little to do with hearing music on the radio or television. To learn music you need to make it. Very different process.

And, of course, if you actually knew about teaching piano, you'd know that really early piano instruction is discouraged (before the age of 5) because of--ta-da--physical development. Kids have small hands and ,unlike violins, there aren't scaled-down keyboards. Basically, you're risking tendon damage.

Also, of course, the greatest musical prodigy we know of was born a few centuries ago. That would be Mozart.

I understand you don't get the correlation between literacy and age, but all that says is that you haven't bothered to read much about the subject.

It comes down to this--not every kid is developmentally ready to read at four or five--for physiological reasons. The vast majority of kids are by seven and can learn to read with relatively little frustration.
Not surprisingly, fewer kids are discouraged in school.

It's worth noting that while some kids do learn to read at a very young age, their peers who learned later catch up with them. By second grade, you'll have a hard time telling which kid learned to read at four v. which kid learned to read at six.

Posted by Erin Mershon
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 15, 2010 at 7:21 pm

The bill is on the Governor's desk and he currently has 30 days to sign it. Should be soon! There was another article in the SJ Merc today.

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