Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is There an Ideal Age for Incoming Kindergarteners?

Conversations among my colleagues and I the past two days have been surrounding some recent legislation.
There are a lot of things I don't understand about politics, I'll just say that upfront. And...this is not necessarily a political post, nor do I want to elicit a heavy political response.
That said...
Michigan's Senate Bill 315 (here is a short summary), which I have not read completely but plan to, is a bill that would change the current kindergarten enrollment age. It has passed the committee and is going to hit the floor as I understand it.
In Michigan students can enroll in kindergarten if their fifth birthday falls on or before December 1st of that school year. That is quite different from a majority of the states in the US, many require students to be five by September 1st for enrollment. (Something that is more shocking, kindergarten is not required in most states for students. Fourty three states are required to offer a kindergarten program, Michigan is not one of them).

Now, some might say, "that's only three months difference!"

Three months isn't a big deal when you are an adult, however, a five year old has only been on the planet for around sixty months, so less than that can be a difference for some.
When I first learned of this possibility I was very excited. The prospect of not having any four year olds at the beginning of the year appealed to me. I love four-year olds, I just really dislike making them do things they are really not ready to do. There is so much assessment at the beginning of the year and all the routines are difficult, they just want to to play (as they should)! Then I began thinking about the flip side, what happens to the four year olds that are ready? We don't offer a preschool or early fives program in our building unless you qualify under the state guidelines of "at risk." What happens to them?
I recently was collecting data, mostly letter sounds, blending and simple "phonics like" reading. It is from an intervention program called Teacher Directed Pals. As I took in the information, I started to think, "probably all those young kids are pulling the scores down and have more needs." I couldn't have been more wrong. Sure, a couple were the young ones, however, some of the young ones are thriving, and some who are six are a little behind. Hmmm, no simple answers here, just more to think about.
I wish I had more data, more research and more guidance on this issue. We shall see how things turn out, if the bill passes, and if there is a large or insignificant impact. Time will tell.

1 comment:

Robin said...

I've given this idea a lot of thought myself. I am still on the fence about it. As a teacher, it is exciting to think that I might not start the school year out with 8 four-year-olds, as I have the past couple of years. While I agree that they might not be the low students, they are often immature in some regard where school is concerned, as they should be at four. However, as a mom of a daughter who started school at four and was very ready, I feel a bit sad about it. My daughter's birthday is November 1 and if she had been required to wait another year before starting school she may have been bored (and then again, maybe not?). As a first grader this year, she is reading at a guided reading level K/L. Would an earlier cut off age have been helpful or hurtful to her? I don't feel like there is an easy answer where this age requirement is concerned. Just as flowers bloom when they are darn good and ready, so do children. Should politicians make this decision for us? I think not.