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Sorry, Kid, You're Out of Kindergarten

Sarah Glover's granddaughter, Ashley, who is five, was thrilled to start kindergarten at Riverdale Elementary School in Prince George's County this fall. She was a big girl now.

So imagine her sorrow and puzzlement when she was told earlier this month that she was being removed from kindergarten.

Ashley and 217 other students in Prince George's schools were removed from their classes more than a month into the school year and shifted down a grade level when an audit revealed that they were just shy of the new minimum age for their grade. Every year for the past four years, Maryland has moved its eligibility birth date for kindergarten one month earlier as part of a plan to start formal schooling at an older age.

But many parents don't know about the shifting eligibility age, and their schools went ahead and registered those now too-young kids. "Ashley is devastated that she cannot go to school," says Glover. Ashley, like many of those who have now been pulled out of kindergarten, was placed in a pre-K class instead. Her grandmother says that's not the right solution: "She's into writing and reading and now they have her back in a classroom where they're just beginning to teach the numbers."

Ashley turned five on Sept. 29; Glover wasn't told until October that if you're not five by Sept. 1, you're no longer permitted in kindergarten.

In addition to the shame and embarrassment heaped upon kids by yanking them out of their grade level this far into the school year, this is also a logistical problem for some families: "We let go of our day care provider thinking that she would be enrolled full-time," Glover says.

Prince George's schools spokesman John White says all of the kids who were removed from their grade level will be enrolled somewhere: About 105 kindergarteners are being moved to pre-K, and some first graders are being pushed back to kindergarten, though others will be allowed to stay in first grade if their test scores show that that's the right place for them.

"We have to audit our numbers every year and the results aren't in until this time," White says.

Obviously, this isn't the right way to deal with five year olds. But more important, the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of having older kids in kindergarten. The result at the other end is 18 and 19 year old high school seniors, which is not a good idea at all.

About 9 percent of American five-year-olds are now academically redshirted, the sports term that's been repurposed to describe parents holding back their kindergarten-eligible kids so that they will be older and more mature when they start formal schooling. This short-sighted tactic means that high school senior classes will be peppered with 18- and 19-year-olds in years to come, not exactly anyone's idea of a walk in the park.

But if parents are doing this on their own, it's no wonder that state after state is pushing back entrance ages for children as well. Certainly, the practice is easier on kindergarten teachers, who are happy to have a more mature group of children in the room. But a study that looked at what happens to those older kindergarteners down the road is not encouraging: "Adolescents who were old-for-grade exhibited more behavioral problems than classmates," the 1997 study found.

In Prince George's, the more immediate problem is the timing of the enforcement of the new rules. Five-year-olds who spend the summer beaming with pride about going to kindergarten should not be yanked out and pushed back simply because of an audit.

By Marc Fisher |  October 19, 2006; 7:13 AM ET
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Comments

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OK, where were the school officials last spring when these kids registered, presumably using their birth dates? THAT is when they should have realized they weren't of age!! Not a month later! These kids shouldn't be punished for the school administrators' failures to see they were too young for the new rules!

Posted by: NOVA Mom | October 19, 2006 9:01 AM

My son's birthday is in October, so he was "red shirted" that way. He will be 18 most of his senior year. I think it did him a world of good to be a year older then most of his classmates. Until half day kindergarten is eliminated, I think you will see red shirting continue.

Posted by: Dag | October 19, 2006 9:10 AM

I was born in Oct. and was always one of the youngest kids in my class, and it never did me any harm. Although I admit it would have been a disadvantage if I was more athletic.

I'm very grateful that my oldest child, now in 2nd grade and also an Oct. kid, just made the cutoff when she started Kindergarten. Holding her back would have been a huge mistake. She would have been bored and more prone to be disruptive.

I'm sure not every date bordering kid is ready for kindergarten, but the decision to hold them back or allow them shouldn't be decided so arbitrarily. The only thing a parent can do is try to keep them engaged at home with kindergarten level work. Of course then when they do start kindergarten, they might get promoted a grade (I've seen it happen here in Howard County). It would have been better to just allow them to start when they were ready in the first place.

Forcing kids who can handle the work out of class is not only idiotic it's plain cruel.

Posted by: The Oct. Kid | October 19, 2006 9:38 AM

I read this study cited in the blog that suggests students who had delayed entry into school were more likely to have behavioral problems than students who enter school at the specified age of their school district. I noticed two problems with this study. First, they include both students who had delayed entry into school AND students who were held back at some point during their education. Well that totally skews the study. I knew kids who were held back, and they all had behavioral problems BEFORE they were held back. In fact, I think kids are often held back in part because they are having behavioral problems that lead to learning problems.

Posted by: Cliff | October 19, 2006 9:49 AM

Oh, wow, this is terrible. seriously, you'll have the unfair stigma of being slow your whole school life, because you will look like you were held back a year. Kids are already devastatingly cruel, don't give them any more ammunition! Keep reporting on this Mark.

Posted by: Will | October 19, 2006 9:50 AM

In Montgomery County, children who will be five between Sept. 2- Oct. 15 can apply for Early Entrance to Kindergarten (EEK) using this form:

http://www.mcps.k12.md.us/departments/forms/pdf/271-6.pdf

We did it and enrolled my daughter with no difficulties despite her September birthday (she was clearly more than ready). The MD state policy cited in Marc's blog expressly permits this option. Even if PG County doesn't have something similar, it is astonishing that they would summarily kick kids out six weeks after school starts without regard to how well they were performing in the program.

Posted by: EEK Mom | October 19, 2006 10:06 AM

what is wrong with being 18 or 19 as a high school senior? I think in many European countries this is the way it is and it's fine. Kids don't start kindergarten until 6 or 7. I am a November baby and was always one of the youngest and smallest in class and I think I would have been better off being held back. I am planning to hold back my son, another November baby, so that he repeats pre-k. hopefully he will be too young to be tramatized! It'll be just "This year you will be MS. X's helper with her new class. Next year you will go on to Kindergarten with everyone else in that class.

With the new cut-off date for DC this should work great. Otherwise he will be mnore and more the youngest in the class (I.e. because DC is switching from dec to Sept cut-off, another kid with his same birthday would be placed a year behind him next year, so it is just keeping him with his true age cohorts to hold him back.)

Posted by: capitol hill mom | October 19, 2006 10:06 AM

This is nothing new. I was born in December 1980 and went into kindergarten at 3-4 at a private school. I was more advanced than the other children, but when I switched to a public school with an age requirement, I had to repeat kindergarten. Here I was reading books while other kids were eating paste and throwing blocks at eachother because no one had bothered to teach them to read- or they were not interested in it. You can not just arbitrarily draw a line in the sand that says a child is too young to learn. I do not know why they are making the age requirement older. Children are able to learn at a younger age than they are given credit for. I felt like I was being punished because of my age. It really is not fair to hold a child back based on their reasoning. Determine their ability to enter kindergarten based on potential and interest instead!

Posted by: Chris | October 19, 2006 10:14 AM

Wait, I was 18 when I was a senior in high school. What was wrong with that?

My older sister went to kg early, which was a devastating experience for her. So my mom kept me home an "extra" year and I think it was the best thing that happened to me.

So, Marc, where's your proof this is a bad thing?

Posted by: OD | October 19, 2006 10:19 AM

I was 18 most of my HS senior year and had never been held back. It was no big deal then. The kids are probably bored in school because of the dumbed down curriculum. I know I was.

Posted by: Stick | October 19, 2006 10:22 AM

Regardless of how appropriate or not it is to be 19 in High School or the merits of "redshirting"... I am so angry at the incompetance of the school officials who enrolled these kids. And, sorry Grandma, I'm angry at the parents/grandparents/guardians who for some reason couldn't be bothered to check the rules about entry to school. I live in Virginia and *I* know about Maryland's changing age limit. Yes, it's sad that the kids have been yanked out, and perhaps there should be some sort of test for these 217 kids to determine placement (I'm sure some of the younger ones will in fact benefit from "reassignment"). But I think the outrage towards whether redshirting is appropriate or not is missplaced. Just another example of the incompetancy plagueing the PG county schools, and another example of parents not taking the responsibility for their own kids. Sigh....

Posted by: Elizabeth | October 19, 2006 10:30 AM

My son started kindergarten this year - he's a June birthday. I know quite a few moms with July and September birthdays who chose to hold back their sons from kindergarten. Before knowing about any of the studies you cite, I myself was wondering about them being 19 in high school.

For all of you who were 18 or 19 in high school and had no problems - great. On the other hand, I can definitely see a problem with your 19 year old senior dating my 15 or 16 year old sophmore. First off, statutory rape anyone? Secondly, at 18 or 19 you are ready to be out in the world making your own decisions, not living at home with mom and dad finishing up high school. I graduated high school at 17 and turned 18 in college (September baby), I was so ready to be "out on my own", I couldn't imagine now having to have one more year to go.

Also - what of foster children, who, at 18 are kicked out of the system, but instead of being able to work they still have to finish HS? I see lots of negatives to this trend.

Also - I think we are selling our kids short when we say "they aren't ready". Lets face it, no one is ever ready for stuff, but if you get thrown into something you will figure out how to make it work.

Posted by: GS | October 19, 2006 10:43 AM

Funny this comes up now. The NYT has a story on its web site today about more kids being kept out of kindergarten until the age of 6.

Posted by: criss | October 19, 2006 10:48 AM

I only had one week of kindergarden and group naps and playtime. I passed some test and was promoted to the first grade. I became the youngest in my class forever more. I always did great in school and exhibited no problems except --- now I want to play or nap all the time. Unfortunately, work gets in the way.
All these silly rules about age,days in class, and hours of homework are getting in the way of educating our kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 19, 2006 10:58 AM

My 2 year old has older siblings she adores and copies. As we teach our 4 year old to read, the 2 year old is learning letters and sounds with her. She does not know them all, but she can spell her name [her big sister taught her], recite the alphabet [not just sing the song] at 2.5 years. She was born in January, and will be virtually six before she can attend school Kindegarten. All of our kids have read at 4. Its not about them being bright or gifted, but them being capable to learn. This 5 by Sept 1st is simply an arbitrary deadline to avoid some inherent problem in the system. In others states people send their kids to private school until first grade to avoid the public school deadline, but apparently private schools in Md or PG must adminster this policy.

Posted by: OKNow | October 19, 2006 11:08 AM

The birthdate for enrollment in Prince George's County has changed every year for the past 4 years. If I know the school system and its computers(and I Do), the problem wasn't caught because the dates had not been updated in the computer system. Yes, the parents should have known the cut off date, and yes, the school should have caught it before school started, but to pull the children out of class now, without even evaluating whether they could handle the work was just wrong. Here's another example of regulations run amuk, without regard for the people.

Posted by: Sue | October 19, 2006 11:14 AM

Another debate in education, particularly with urban school districts, is the need to get the kids sooner to enhance the learning process. Some districts are discussing 3 year old classes. I believe DCPS has actual Pre-K3 classes, and headstart has some 3 year old programs as well. I wonder if this decision is about behavioral maturity or learning maturity. This seems like another theory that has no true evidence, but its implementation will impact an entire generation of kids.

Posted by: OKNOW | October 19, 2006 11:14 AM

'The result at the other end is 18 and 19 year old high school seniors, which is not a good idea at all.'

Why do you say that?

Posted by: bob | October 19, 2006 11:24 AM

I, 45 years old now, grew up in the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system, and with a birthday in early Nov., I started Kindergarten when I was 4 (almost 5). I firmly believed my parents made the right choice for me.

I have a son, currently a 6th grader in the MCPS system who has a birthday in late Oct. When he was entering Kindergarten, Dec. 31 was still the cut-off date. My wife and I agonized over what to do, and largely on the recommendation of his pre-school teachers, we decided to send him to Kindergarten when he was only 4 (almost 5). My wife and I both now see that as the right choice for him.

The point is, that we had a choice. What might be right for one person, might be horrible for another child. By moving up the date, Maryland is taking choice out of the equation for many families. People will write in comments about how their experience was good or bad, but can we all agree that blanket rules are not necessarily the best? My son is just about the only boy in his grade with a Fall birthday who is turning 11, not 12, in 6th grade, so obviously, we went against what most other families with boys his age did. But I'm happy we had that choice!

Posted by: dsmac | October 19, 2006 11:26 AM

to me this is just another symptom of what is the core problem with schools today: strict enforcement of arbitrary rules in lieu of judgment. Kids are expelled for nail clippers and aspirin and held back for a year for missing a birthdate by a couple of weeks regardless of development, playing tag is banned, etc. We wonder why kids today don't have judgment? Apparently they've never been exposed to any adults with it!

Posted by: preKmom | October 19, 2006 11:37 AM

There are some studies that show that 1) by the time kids are in 3rd grade, any disparities in academic achievement dissolves between the "older" 3rd graders and the younger ones and 2) that a significant number of the "older" kids, the ones held back, become behavior problems, use more drugs, initiate sex earlier including more pregnancies, etc. The evidence shows that holding kids back is not a good policy. And just because it was "good" for a few kids (anecdotes) doesn't make it a good policy. We need to stop with the strict birthday cut offs.

So who benefits? The early elementary school teachers. How about we go back to developmentally appropriate kindergarten work? Why are kids at desks in kindergarten anyway? Why are we not working with the kids at their developmental level as opposed to doing what is best for the teachers? And, it "helps" the parents. Of course an older kid in k and 1st grade is going to do better than his or her peers in general. So no hassles for the parents and they then get bragging rights that their kid is reading as a kindergardener.

I resented the older kids in my children's classes. I have 2 gifted kids who may not have been reading tolstoy in kindergarten, but I was hassled by the teachers because my son wasn't writing in kindergarten! I'm a pediatrician so understand that a 5 year old doesn't have to read or write at that age, but my children were compared to the kids who were a year older. My daughter would come home in 1st grade talking about how smart a classmate was (he could read and write) and I found out the kid was 8! I don't want my kids comparing themselves to kids who should be in a grade or two higher.

And since this putting kids back a year had been around for a while, is there any evidence that we are doing better as a nation educating our kids? I think not. We need to be a more child focused education system and do what is right developmentally.

Posted by: parent and pediatrician | October 19, 2006 11:44 AM

I graudated HS at 17 and 2 months. My brother graduated at 16 and 7 months. We were still bored and taking advanced coursework.
I don't think it is appropriate to foist age requirements for learning certain subject matters. That basically limits academic expectations. We did suffer from being the youngest in my class for a while, but we simply befriended kids our age or younger outside the classes and that worked well for us.

I say, sort homerooms by age and then have the rest of the classes by ability.

How are the kids headed to medical school at age 16 ever going to get there if they have to wait until they're a full 6 for kindergarten? ;P.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 19, 2006 11:49 AM

Bob wrote:
'The result at the other end is 18 and 19 year old high school seniors, which is not a good idea at all.'

Why do you say that?

Um let's see, for starters, how about 19 year old men, I mean, boys, and 15 year old girls in close proximity?

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | October 19, 2006 11:50 AM

The school system screwed up-they should have caught it at registration. Starting K before age 5 is too soon. My first 3 kids were December babies and the cut-off was 12/31 and we decided to get the exception and hold them out. It was the right decision. My oldest is now a senior and will be 18 this year. I think sending kids off to college before 18 is too young!Unfortunately many parents send kids early because of the economic advantage-saving money on daycare/preschool. If the kid is a genius the parents can supplement the education at home or have them skip a grade later. Kids grow up too fast already what is the hurry in getting them thru school?

Posted by: mom of 5 | October 19, 2006 11:54 AM

And I do agree, motor skills rarely mature as fast as the child's ability to learn and understand. In 2nd grade, I was so young for my class (6) and had transferred in. I kept having to explain that I didn't skip first grade, I skipped kindergarten.

I missed recess for a week or two because I was catching up with long addition and subtraction. I just simply was slow at writing the numbers. The teacher finally wound up telling me I didn't have to do ALL of the work and go play. I still can add and subtract just fine for missing a few work problems.


Posted by: Wilbrod | October 19, 2006 11:54 AM

Mom of 5, it depends on the child's age and how far the college is.

My brother got into a lot of partying when he was in college and joined a frat. He flunked out of college, my dad made him work one year in fastfood before he went back to college. He did so much more seriously and found the major he truly wanted.

I myself steered clear of that and did much better than most of the other freshmen. I saw kids age 18-20 drunk, partying, out of control, lacking the academic discipline to study without rules or excess class time. I had already earned money for college and I took that seriously and also tutored my first semester as a freshman for money.

Which is why helicopter parents don't do their kids any favors by "managing" their academic lives and not asking them to learn about responsbility and earning money long before they become 16 and can take a full-time summer job.

I went from a bored B student in HS to an cum laude scholar and knew I could have done even better. I was not perfectly prepared but I really needed the opportunity college gave me to mature which I wouldn't have gotten under the mickey-mouse regimentation and limited socialization of HS.
I am also one of 5 kids, so my advice applies ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 19, 2006 12:04 PM

Another sibling who hated high school and wasn't very motivated, took one year off to work in the real world and then went into college with a LOT of motivation. He graduated with something like 3.9 GPA and he completed a masters' as well.

Every kid has their path as I am sure you know all too well, having 5 kids. For your oldest, going to college before 18 might be too early. For your next kids, maybe not.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 19, 2006 12:07 PM

I have a son in Pre-K, who has classmates that are up to 18 months older. He is tall for his age, and is very bright, but I still fear for the older years, expecially athletically 9if he is so inclined).

On the other hand, the sentiment that you have 18/19 year old males co-mingling with 14/15 year old females in high-school is troubling on several levels.

The schools need to decide if education is going to be age-appropriate or grade-appropriate, but mixing the two, over the long run, is probably a recipie for disaster.

Posted by: dadof2 | October 19, 2006 12:26 PM

Dadof2, The worst sexual harrassment I saw was in junior high, actually. Puberty. I'd favor sex-segregated class between age 12-14 myself.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 19, 2006 12:33 PM

Thank you GS -- you hit the nail on the head -- I truly believe that a 18-19 yr old has no business hanging out in HS around younger girls and being "tempted". This is not to say that it will happen but it does and there's no denying it. We may not hear about it often, but its there. These girls are then smitten by the "older" senior and being peer pressured into doing things they aren't ready for. Unfortunately the Parent who should be taking a more pro-active role in the upbringing of these kids are not doing their job. It's obvious on the news EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! But one thing always leads to another. The older they are, the more they have to get into, the more vulnerable the younger people that are exposed to them. Let these kids go to school when they're ready early or whatever. If they don't seem ready -- HELP THEM BE ready. It starts at home people!! And not only will it start at my home, but by the time my child is ready for school, it isn't going to be public school ANYWHERE in Prince George's County.

Posted by: CJ | October 19, 2006 12:38 PM

I agree that the schools should not be setting these arbitrary deadlines. Let the parents decide if they want the child tested for readiness for kindergarten (if younger than five) and test as many as want it.
My daughter started K at age 4 with a November birthday. The cut-off then was Nov. 30th so she did not have to test. Today she is in third grade magnet class for academically advanced students, so she has had no problem keeping up and was one of the best readers even in Kindergarten.
Personally, I felt, at least for girls, it would be better to be among the youngest than the oldest. Being the first to go through puberty is not something I really wished upon her.

Posted by: WashingtonCounty | October 19, 2006 12:40 PM

Wilbrod-- I went to a private school for grades 1-12. The 5th & 6th grades were sex-segregated and looking back I do think that it was a really good idea. That time is hard. In 7 and 8 it was classes changing rooms just as you would in high school. The unfortunate part in all this is that public or private, the same problems exist everywhere and I think that some parents are really afraid to alienate their children, their teachers, their school leaders, etc. by voicing their concerns OFTEN & LOUDLY.

Posted by: CJ | October 19, 2006 12:51 PM

I can't see how anyone who lives in Prince George's County can be surprised by this development. The was this was handled is about par for our exceptionally bad public school system.

Posted by: Rufus | October 19, 2006 12:57 PM

I don't have any hard and fast statistics, but I know most jurisdictions have a "5 by Sept.1" rule for entering Kindergarten. The old December 31 rule in this area was the minority, not the majority rule. Maryland is just catching up with the majority of jursdictions. The specious agrument that 19 year olds don't belong in high school is a bunch of junk. Do the other jurisdictions that have been following the Sept. 1 rule for generations have a history of sexual molestations? I think not, because it balances out, i.e. the girls are older too.
The simple truth is that parents can't get their kids into school fast enough, so they can save money on daycare, so both parents can work to pay for their overpriced, oversized, McMansions. That is the reason for the proliferation of all day Kindergarten. They should not have had children if that is where their priorities lie.

Posted by: Multi-state parent | October 19, 2006 1:15 PM

My wife and I new this was coming the last year ago.

The parents and the school have the issue. The parents should have known. But the school system "approved" of the child going to Kindergarten when they let the parent sign the child up. So they should be allowed to stay because it is the schools mistake now.

Posted by: Calvet, | October 19, 2006 1:24 PM

A couple of things. I agree that this pulling of children out of a grade they have already started is a rotten thing to do to them. However, as to all the other misguided assertions being made here, I just want to say that our oldest child, who is now 10, repeated kindergarten (he had an early August birthday, so he made the cut-off to start kindergarten when he had just turned 5) and, contrary to all the assertions on this thread, none of his friends, peers, or any other child has EVER made fun of him or been cruel to him about it. It was the best thing we ever did for him, and I only wish we had realized he wasn't kindergarten ready when we started him. (I was a 4-year-old when I started kindergarten, and believe me, it was no advantage!)

Second, what on earth is Fisher getting at when he asserts without any support from even a single expert source, that having seniors who are 18-year-olds is a terrible idea and "no one's idea of a walk in the park" (whatever that means). Why on earth is it a terrible idea for kids to be a little more mature when they are seniors (and a little more mature, actually, when they go off to college)? When I was in high school 25 years ago, there were plenty of 18-year-olds there, and I don't know that their "advanced" age had the slightest thing to do with whether they were successful socially and academically in high school or not -- it strikes me as an extremely ignorant (and hurtful) thing to assert.

Posted by: NH | October 19, 2006 1:25 PM

Incoming! The discussion today has been pleasant so far. Please--no one take the bait from MSL about the McMansions!!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 19, 2006 1:26 PM

I think what is very important here is that the school system continues to dictate how our schools are run and parents have little or no say in the matter. PTAs, while hard-working, are so busy doing fundraisers and they are afraid to "ruffle feathers" with administrators. Parents need to be organize and be more vocal in matters about their kids and stop letting the school system run roughshot over us.

Posted by: mom of 5 | October 19, 2006 1:30 PM

When I was in kindergarten, the biggest kid in the class was a girl born Dec. 29. She was the tallest kid in class up through 4th grade, when I left public school. She seemed to fit in OK socially too--but if she'd had to wait until she was 5 3/4 to start school, she'd have been garantuan in a class of younger kids.

Kindegarten was terribly disappointing for me. I was more than ready to read, and had been promised that I would learn when I got to school. (Back in the '60s, parents were told not to teach their children to read themselves.) I was sooo frustrated with playing and reviewing the alphabet and numbers, and nap time? come on! I'd given up naps ages ago! I would have LOVED today's more academic kindegarten classes--that's what I, and my parents, were expecting.

Posted by: GJ | October 19, 2006 1:30 PM

My experience - November birthday in Montgomery County. Started at 4. Had no problems and even took 2nd grade math and English when I was in the 1st grade (what would have happened if I was "held back"?)

My daughter turns 4 this December. I'm "fighting" with my wife over next year. She wants to follow the rules. I want to see where she is. Daughter is not yet 4 and can count to 100 in English and 20 in Spanish. She can add and do simple subtraction. She knows her alphabet and can read a few words.

I guess it all depends on the kids. Age/birth dates should be a guideline. Decisions should be made by parents.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 19, 2006 1:37 PM

well certainly the risk to teen girls is there whenever they're with teen boys, no matter the age. but let's at least acknowledge that the 'adult' status we confer on 18-year-old boys is one of our choosing.
So the risk of 19-year-olds is a straw man, or a straw boy in this case. Let me suggest this - sure, we ought to keep the mid-teen girls away from these older teens when we can, but the way to do that is not to push the older teens out into the workforce. After all, these people have 85-year life expectancies, and there's no rush. In fact, shifting our attitudes toward the appropriate age for finishing secondary school could fit nicely with our aspirations for creating a better-prepared work force.

Posted by: bob | October 19, 2006 2:14 PM

So if we push back the age limit to Sept 1, aren't those kids now 1 full year younger then the kids from the missed the previous years cut-off date?

BTW I'm a late Dec. baby who graduated hs at 17 and college at 21. When I was in school we really did make fun of the kids who got held back because of age in kindergarten and they always had the stigma of being "developmentally delayed".

Posted by: Alison | October 19, 2006 2:19 PM

That's one of my wife's concerns. If our daughter (born December 2002) goes starts kindergarten at 4 3/4 in Fall of 2007, it is possible the oldest child in the class was born early September 2001 (about to turn 6). Assuming everybody else followed the "rules", the youngest child (other than her) would be born late August 2002 (3 months older).

I read the 1997 study. Children "old for grade" who weren't "held back" (i.e. problem kids) had a 12% chance of having behavioral problems. Children not "old for grade" who weren't "held back" only had a 7% chance of having behavioral problems. Pretty big difference.

Posted by: To Alison | October 19, 2006 2:32 PM

I'm pretty sure that PG County DOES have early entry to K for qualified kids, as does Montgomery Co. The parents in question should call County Council Chair Tom Dernoga's office if they are unsatisfied w/ their treatment. His education liaison knows her stuff.

Posted by: PG resident | October 19, 2006 2:36 PM

In retrospect, my son (November b-day) should NOT have been enrolled in K before his 5th birthday. It resulted in his being left back -- if you think moving a bunch of kids in October is bad, you should have seen him sobbing and begging to be allowed to move up with his friends in June. Educationally, however, it was the right thing to do -- he went from being unable to read at the end of K the first time to being the best reader in his class by mid-year.

As for the upper grades -- NYC schools used to have special programs whereby middle school/junior high was condensed into 2 grades from 3. THAT would be a good option for these older kindergarteners if they can handle the academic load later.

And anyway -- what's wrong with having 18-year-olds in HS? I certainly hope that my son will use his final year of HS (still several years off) to take AP classes, etc. A little more maturity before they move on to college isn't necessarily a bad thing, either.

Posted by: LawyerMom | October 19, 2006 2:51 PM

I was an early kindergarten student (November bday) and it was the right choice. I could already read by the time I went and being held back would have been really hard. I graduated HS at 17 (and took AP classes at 16) and college at 21, and turned out fine.

What the comments really have shown is that for every kid like me, there's one who should have waited. More proof that a one size fits all policy isn't the best answer.

Posted by: Maryland | October 19, 2006 3:13 PM

Don't most kids turn 18 sometime during Senior year? (or the summer after graduation). Of all my friends in high school and college only 2 did not....so "new" this rules seems to go along with the norm.

Posted by: Jenn | October 19, 2006 3:26 PM

I'm surprised that I haven't seen any mention of one of the biggest factors behind the change in elementary school starting dates: that is, the change over time in the expectations that the school system has for kindergarteners. When I was a kid, kindergarten was mostly about socializing kids for school, and most kids who were 4 3/4 at the beginning of the year could handle that. Now the schools are pressing literacy and other academic skills on kindergarteners, and I suspect that a lot of the younger kids aren't ready for that. (It is ironic that one result of trying to push everyone to master academic skills earlier in primary school is that we now wind up keeping some kids OUT of primary school for an extra year.)

It's also worth remembering that since these standards are being applied to ALL kids, kids who turn 6 just as they start kindergarten are no longer going to be "old for grade" students who stand out as unusual -- they will just be the older kids in a classroom where the kids' ages will range over a year as they always have.

It's true that kids who are quick learners may be frustrated by a delay in getting started in primary school. But the problem of providing enough challenge for quick learners in a school system designed mostly for average learners is always going to be there, whether the entrance cut-off date is in September or December.

All that said, I agree that it's outrageous to kick kids out of classes when they've been in them a month or more. Someone should have screened the registrations sooner, or they should have found a way to "grandfather in" the kids who were already in classes.

Just my 2 cents,

Father of a 6 year-old and a 4-year old

Posted by: Dad of 2 | October 19, 2006 3:28 PM

I'm 29 now. I have a college degree and a job I enjoy. Why does it matter how old I was when I started/finished school?

Do kids get picked on? You bet! They are too tall, too short, too thin, too fat, too smart, too slow or too young or old.

Calm down people!

Posted by: 29 | October 19, 2006 3:45 PM

I think this whole development is just bizarre. When I was a child, the cut-off was 1 September and given my birthday of late August, my parents could easily have held me back a year. But their attitude was 'the more education, the better'. I can't recall any attention being paid to who was 'older' or 'younger' in the younger grades; we were all just first-graders. Kids don't really care that much.

This is a highly technical society, folks, and the sooner the kids get into an organized educational setting, the better. Kindergarten is supposed to more directed toward social development, anyway, rather than 'hard' educational skills; I say put the kids in as soon as possible so they can socialize properly, and then when they start first grade they will be able to start the basics of education. Holding the children out a year simply delays the educational and maturational process; why should a five year old be lollygagging around the house watching Barney when s/he could be in kindergarten?

Posted by: PB | October 19, 2006 3:47 PM

Does anyone know why these cut-off dates are implemented in the first place? Is it related to learning or is it a state budgetary decision to control the number of kids entering school each year? If it is the latter, wouldn't it make more sense to allow parents the option to pay a sort of kindergarten "tuition" if they wanted their child to start before the cut-off date, assuming their child was otherwise qualified?

Posted by: puzzled | October 19, 2006 4:00 PM

Why are "some first graders . . . being pushed back to kindergarten"? A child born September 29 last year would have been old enough to go to kindergarten then, because last year the cut-off was October 1.

My son turned 5 a year ago on September 27, so he qualified to start kindergarten in Montgomery County either last year or this year without red shirting. We started him last year, when he made the cut-off by four days.

Are they saying over in PG county kids like my son are being sent down under the new rules, even though they entered under the old rules? Or -- perhaps even worse -- are they saying that kids born in October last year went to kindergarten for a year and first grade for six weeks before anyone noticed they missed the 2005-06 cutoff?

Posted by: AG | October 19, 2006 4:05 PM

It used to be the case that 18 was the cutoff for HS sports too. I remember a Room 222 episode about a guy who dropped out of HS to serve in the military and then came back, wanted to play on the baseball team, but after the coaches watched him blow fastballs by a few of the guys he was told it would be unfair to the other kids because he was physically too mature.

Is this still the case? If so, another reason to really try to minimize the number of 19 year olds in HS.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | October 19, 2006 4:14 PM

Having watched more than a few football games between an older team (Varsity 18-20, depending on who was held back) and a younger one (Varsity 15-17, depending on who skipped a grade), it is painful to see a child get tackled by a man. And a 19-20 y.o. is no child at that point.

Sports aside, if the kid isn't ready, age has no bearing on the situation. They can be a rising 5 or a rising 7, and still not ready to sit still for 6 hours a day, follow directions, share etc. Age should be a guideline, not a restriction.

Posted by: Sports angle | October 19, 2006 4:27 PM

//Starting K before age 5 is too soon. . . sending kids off to college before 18 is too young!//
Well, maybe for you or your kids, but I did both of those things and didn't have any problems at all.
I was an October baby, and I could already read, and was beginning to write, at age 4, so my parents couldn't see any good reason to keep me home. I was usually the smallest kid in the class, but as a youngest I was used to it. I was too shy to ever be a behavior problem, but I was bored by school most of the time, and that's often a cause of misbehavior.
If you're ready, you're ready . . . I went 2,000 miles away to college at 17 and never felt homesick or overwhelmed.

Posted by: E in DC | October 19, 2006 5:18 PM

Some have commented on ages of children in elementary school and as high school seniors, but what happens to these children in middle school? Children go through profound physical, emotional, and psychological changes in middle school. At that time, a 2-year age difference is a big deal. Particularly in early adolescence, younger kids imitate older kids.

If you have 14-year olds entering seventh grade along with 12 year olds, what impact do the older children have on the younger ones? Older adolescents have more opportunities to get into trouble, and the younger children in the class may be negatively influenced by that peer pressure.

Posted by: beth nc | October 19, 2006 5:20 PM

I was always the youngest in my class, but I don't see it as anything but an advantage. School was easy enough as it was; I couldn't imagine having to wait another year to begin.

However, I do agree with the argument that each child is different, and only acheivement tests can accurately place a child. I was reading "chapter books" before I began kindergarten at four, but my brother struggled with the simplest reading assignments for years even though he was 5 1/2 when he began.

From a safety standpoint, my parents had an extra year before they had to worry about me driving, etc. And I couldn't legally buy booze until well into my senior year of college.

On the other hand, I agree that the older guys are a threat...especially when I think about my first real boyfriend, who was 19 to my 14 and only one year ahead of me in school(he started late and was held back one year). Talk about pressure to "act older."

Posted by: Oct Baby | October 19, 2006 5:36 PM

It's simple: age shouldn't be the only factor in deciding when to start school.
This all reminds me of the terrific system they had in the school system my husband grew up in: at the end of the school year, the Kindergarten teachers would leave their classrooms set up; the kids who were expected to start school in the fall would come in for 2 days of "practice" kindergarten. Some wouldn't last the first day and some sailed right through. There were no other kids in the school, so it was less stressful, but it gave the teachers a chance to evaluate the kids in a real classroom setting and decide who would come back in the fall and who should wait. The teachers, the real pros, decided who was ready.

Posted by: E in DC | October 19, 2006 5:52 PM

My youngest daughter was victimized by this new 'age' rule. I contested it by going before the school board. I wrote to the Governor-who passed it along to Nancy Grasmick. I received letters of explanation from both entities, 5 weeks into the school year!! The problem, here in Howard County, is plain and simple DISCRIMINATION. The county is very forward with the steps necessary to have a child assessed for early entry into kindergarten. The problem lies in the actual assessment and the level at which a student must perform. Howard Co. schools uses the CIBS-r exam. This is a nationally standardized test which is based upon what an average 5yr6month old is able to do. Further, only those kids that score SUPERIOR on the test are allowed entry into kindergarten. Therefore, by the state's ruling, Howard County gets to play BOTH sides-age and ability. In my daughter's case, she scored solidly average, equivalent to a 5 year old. Her birthday is 9/19. She is clearly able to handle the curriculum. She is obviously more ready than some children who got to start this year, because their birthday is before 9/1. Yet, I am now paying college-type tuition at a private Kindergarten, and hoping that she will be allowed to go to 1st grade next year.
The state needs to decide, as I had suggested to the Howard Co. Board, whether they want to determine readiness by age or ability. To do both, as I have endured, is simply unfair, and discriminatory.
As a side note, I would never have considered having her older brother start early. He simply would not have been ready. I know my children, what they are/are not capable of, better than anyone else. I believe that to be true of most parents. The state of Maryland doesn't see it that way. Yet the only way to change their rules is to vote them out. I, for one, will be voting on Nov. 7. I pray all those with children in Maryland do the same.

Posted by: mom of 4 | October 19, 2006 5:57 PM

Re: how middle schoolers do:

I have a 14 year old daughter who was a December baby (now in 10th grade), a 12 year old daughter who was a December baby (now in 8th grade), and the 6 year old September baby mentioned several posts ago now in first grade. They will all finish high school at 17. Here's my experience:

Our 14 year old was fascinated by letters at the age of 15 months, and read fluently by the age of 4. At the time we had to decide, the conventional wisdom was that you were a child abuser if you did not redshirt. To us, though, she seemed ready and it seemed absurd not to send her, so we did. Most of the girls with fall birthdays were her age, most of the boys got redshirted. (I continue to think that is unfortunate -- the boys then all have their driver's license a grade before the girls do).

Middle school was fine for the first 2 years. Eighth grade was tough, and we wondered if it was b/c she was young. Ninth grade was much better and so far so good in 10th. She told us in 9th grade that she was grateful we had not red shirted her, that 8th grade would have been worse, not better if she'd been older. She now has a lovely circle of friends (yes, the boys are older and have driver's licenses, but they are perfectly nice young men and not the pressuring-villains implied by several posts).

My second daughter did not know how to read before kindergarten, but seemed ready. Since she was born the same time of year as her sister we assumed (correctly) that other things being equal, she would prefer to be only two years behind. Grade school was fine; middle school has been great.

In the 9 years between our first daughter's start and our son's, the conventional wisdom has changed. Then, you were supposed to redshirt. Today, you hear about all the behavioral problems that result if you do.

I don't think the stakes are that high, one way or the other -- the amount of energy that goes into the decision seems way out of proportion to any conceivable difference. Is this an early form of all the fretting over getting your kid into college? My experience is everyone is happier if you just try to make the best decision for your kid and not second guess or worry about it.

Posted by: AG | October 19, 2006 6:02 PM

I love how people use anecdotes to back up their assertions when research studies show something different. And research studies are more valid than someone saying " the boys are older and have driver's licenses, but they are perfectly nice young men and not the pressuring-villains implied by several posts"

The fact is, there has to be a cut off somewhere. There should be some flexibility for those few kids who may be ready and for those few kids who may not be. I just can't believe that so many are not ready.

And it's not necessarily the parents who know best. Many parents all think their kids are so smart and wonderful or there are those who want to give their kids an advantage. I think it should be based on pediatrician input, the preschool teacher AND the parent.

I had to laugh a few years ago when a neighbor bragged to me that her daughter could read at age 3. Yes, you can teach a kid to read at 3, but the risk is this kid hating school and it doesn't make the kid more intelligent. Intelligence is mostly genetic. And by the way, the kid is in regular classes now in 4th grade and is no genius. It might have been better to allow the kid to play and use her imagination and learn to read when she was ready.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 19, 2006 7:02 PM

Schools keep moving up the birthday cutoff so that no children are the youngest in their grade. I mean, who wants to be the littlest kid in class? But for some mysterious reason the solution never works. It also puts a lot more kids in daycare. With full day kindergarten taking over, let's just rename KG 1st grade and rename all the other grades too.

Posted by: J from Bethesda | October 20, 2006 10:48 AM

Two comments. As far as age goes....it is not that unusual to graduate at 17 even for children that did not start school at 4. Don't forget all the summer babies...we started at 5 and graduated at 17. I'm from VA and when i started school some 23 years ago, the cutoff date was December 31 and I personally never saw an issue with the younger kids. In our senior year, kids started to turn 18 after january of the new year...if a kid came into the senior year at 18 it was obvious to us that they had failed (although it is likely that some of their parents may have held them back a year).

Also, for people getting angry that 3 and 4 year olds know how to read, maybe they wanted to learn. My parents never intended for me to read early. My older sister was 5 or 6 and was getting tutored and learning to read. I was so nosy that whenever my parents would tell me to go play, I insisted on sitting there and watching my sister learn to read. I learned to read at 3 and have loved to read ever since.

Posted by: TH28754 | October 20, 2006 11:03 AM

Two comments. As far as age goes....it is not that unusual to graduate at 17 even for children that did not start school at 4. Don't forget all the summer babies...we started at 5 and graduated at 17. I'm from VA and when i started school some 23 years ago, the cutoff date was December 31 and I personally never saw an issue with the younger kids. In our senior year, kids started to turn 18 after january of the new year...if a kid came into the senior year at 18 it was obvious to us that they had failed (although it is likely that some of their parents may have held them back a year).

Also, for people getting angry that 3 and 4 year olds know how to read, maybe they wanted to learn. My parents never intended for me to read early. My older sister was 5 or 6 and was getting tutored and learning to read. I was so nosy that whenever my parents would tell me to go play, I insisted on sitting there and watching my sister learn to read. I learned to read at 3 and have loved to read ever since. However, I will say it presented a BIG problem when I got to school because I didn't want to work on letters and sound and blend like everyone else....lot of behavior problems in those early years.

Posted by: TH28754 | October 20, 2006 11:04 AM

First of all, I would like to acknowledge my ignorance of the birthdate rule change. After all, the last child I registered for kindergarten is now 16 years old. I fully relied on the school system to be apprised of their rules. I called to find out what the registration requirements were and was never informed that the birthday cut off was September 1st. Nor was I informed of the existence of a test for kindergarten. I was told what date registration opened and I registered my granddaughter with the supporting documents (birth certificate with her birthdate, immunization records, social security card and proof of residency). Apparently, the school personnel were just as much in the dark as I was. But aside from this fact that the schools made a mistake in registering over 200 students, why compound that mistake by throwing the child out of school. They were clearly performing up to the requirements of the class because no one mentioned that the kids were slow or not comprehending the work (at least not in my case). Also, has everyone forgotten that most kids of today are in a structured learning environment from the age of 2 (daycare, learning centers, etc). If that is the case, the pendulum should be swinging the other way towards younger admittance as opposed to holding the children out of school for another year. What happened to NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND in this decision. I thought the key was educating at all cost to meet the federal guidelines of No Child Left Behind not tossing children out of school because of technicalities.

Posted by: Grandma | October 20, 2006 12:47 PM

This is a certified red-hot-button topic for me!

I have a 1st grader in a PG County public school. A November baby. He is currently learning at a second-grade curriculum. He is also in special ed because of a disability (ADHD, social/emotional delays, now some sensory issues). He tested into early kindergarten admission. So, given his academic progress, he was more than ready, and he had the required score on the admission test. But they still denied him, and I appealed it and won.

Here's the fun part. Because of his disability (leading to impulsiveness and behavioral issues), the school he attended kept saying his issues were immaturity only. I knew he had some isssues, and I knew they went beyond immaturity, and I wanted to encourage his talents. I also wanted him to get special services as soon as possible, rather than struggle in a daycare another year.

My son does now receive special services, but it's been a struggle. The school system seems to think that because he has "issues," he didn't deserve early kindergarten admission. To me, that smacks of discrimination based on disability. I cannot imagine the problems both he and I would have had if he started kindergarten this year instead, with his tendency to bore quickly, his tendency to learn quickly, and his tall height and his behavioral/disability issues. He has a better chance at getting his issues taken care of sooner, and of being a success in school. And he has made some really good improvement.

I couldn't really consider a private school, because there are no special services (or enough patience) there. And here in PG, the private schools are quick to tell you what they don't have and are not required to do. And some of them have classes bigger than the public school classes! Moreover, many of them (like the archdiocese of Washington), blindly follow the County's age requirements, even if they are church-exempt from the age rule.

My daughter is a late September baby, but no indication of disabilities. She's bright also. I will have her take the early admission test also. If she does not test in, I'll send her to a private kindergarten.

My view -- if you must test, do it by ability and not an arbitrary age indicator.
My two brothers (a November baby w/ADHD and a March baby) in kindergarten performed differently. The November boy did fine (although he had some behavioral issues). The March boy was considered for retention in kindergarten and was actually retained in 1st grade.

And one last thing, school systems and parents need to stop dumbing down the boys and holding them back a year from kindergarten. Institute a curriculum and environment that meets the needs of boys instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 20, 2006 12:55 PM

this makes me sad. i thought the whole point of education was academic instruction, not the triumph of social desires over intellect. i went to kindergarten at four, graduated from high school at sixteen, and finished college at 20. pretty much the only thing that suffered was my penmanship, as it took me a little longer to learn to print neatly than the five-year-olds. my folks did have to fight to get me into second grade at six when i left private school, but i had the psychometric testing to back my position up.

with all the hype about testing these days, why don't we just test all prospective kindergarteners? that way, kids who are ready go in, those who aren't stay in pre-K another year, no harm, no foul. people "redshirt" their smart sons because they're not a certain height (it happened to my husband). what is that? don't stunt your kid's enjoyment of learning and intellectual development because of arbitrary socialization concerns.

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | October 23, 2006 4:51 PM

Someone needs to give those idiot school administrators in P.G. a good shake. What kind of moron pulls children out and demotes them without ever looking at whether they are ready to be in their grade? I pity that little girl who was so excited to be going to kindergarten, only to be yanked out and put back in preschool. The adults responsible for that travesty should be ashamed of themselves.

In Virginia, the age cutoff used to be September 30, but children born between October 1 and November 30 could be tested to see if they could start kindergarten just before turning 5. The year my daughter turned 5 was the year that Virginia stopped testing, because it was "too difficult." Excuse me? Isn't that what we're paying taxes for?

The teachers at my daughter's preschool told us it would be a crime to keep her in preschool another year, so we enrolled her in private school kindergarten (full-day), where she did just fine. The following year I asked whether she could go to public school, and the answer was yes, but in kindergarten! They would put her back in kindergarten for evaluation, then after "a few weeks" (when all the other kids had already formed all their cliques and alliances), if she was doing well enough, they might move her to first grade. I said no thanks, and she continued through 8th grade in a private school. The idiocy is just staggering.

Posted by: singflysmith | October 26, 2006 11:46 AM

wat do you mean by,sorry kid.

Posted by: Renee Reiley | November 10, 2006 3:46 PM

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