View Full Version : All SF Require kindergarteners to be 5 by Sept. 1 (SF Chronicle)

08-14-2010, 07:41 AM
An excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle story (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/12/EDED1ESG9R.DTL&type=education) by Diana Argenti and Natalie Bivas, a kindergarten teacher and English language development specialist, respectively, in the Palo Alto Unified School District:

When you think back to kindergarten, you probably remember finger painting, listening to stories, playing in the sandbox and nap time. You probably do not remember solving story problems in math and writers' workshops.

Over the past 10 years, kindergarten has become increasingly academic, though teachers still make time for art, music and play. For some children, it is too much.

They try to keep up, but fall behind right away. They keep lagging their classmates when they are 7 and 10 and 15 - or until they give up.

As teachers, it breaks our hearts, especially when their struggle has such as an obvious cause: They started kindergarten too young.
It has an obvious remedy: Require kindergarteners to be 5 by Sept. 1. We're calling on the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 1381, authored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, that will make this overdue change.

Only four states set a kindergarten entry date as late in the year as California does, where children may start if they will turn 5 by Dec. 2. As teachers of kindergarten and of reading, with decades of experience, we see it as just plain wrong to expect a 4-year-old to participate in a curriculum that used to be reserved for 6-year-olds.

To read the full story, click here (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/12/EDED1ESG9R.DTL&type=education).

08-17-2010, 09:55 AM
I think moving the requirement from Dec 2 to Sep 1 makes a lot of sense. Before we started school tours, I alawys thought that we would have our kids in school as soon as possible. Which parent doesn't want to think their kids are precocious...

When we toured West Portal, the principal said, "Kindergarten is really your child's first exposure to school. You need to make sure it's a positive one because s/he'll build on that for the rest of her school life." We realized at that moment that we need to carefully consider whether our child is ready for school rather than blindly follow the requirement. It was no longer surprising to us that private schools sometimes send out "too young" letters for children born in May/June!

I realize it's impossible for the Sep 1 requirement to take into consideration all cases - how could it. It's just trying to make sure "more" kids are ready for kindergarten than before. I'm sure there will be parents that will say "But my child is ready for school already." We were certainly in that boat. I think for each of our special cases, it's up to us as parents to find other ways to engage, educate and challenge our children until they meet the artificial requirement and are physically, mentally and socially ready for school.

08-17-2010, 08:03 PM
If California changes the cut off to 9/1 do you think privates will keep red shirting boys born in May & girls born in July? It's interesting - I wonder if that would change anything on the private front. I also heard the same Principal at West Portal and had a very similar reaction, his argument was quite impressive.

08-19-2010, 10:30 PM
The authors of the article don't cite any research on the impact of starting or holding back children. You'd be very surprised - there is no long term benefit of holding any child back and there are long term problems with having legal adults as juniors in High School. Turns out - all children benefit from being in school. And someone will always be the youngest. Turns out that by 3rd grade, the younger kids are often excelling because they've learned to apply themselves. Turning a child on to learning has to do with the teachers and the school's curriculum, not the child's age - as long as the curriculum is age appropriate.

The big issue is that we have 18 month spreads in each grade because children are not required to start by a specific age and cut-offs are enforced randomly by private schools.

For links to the published research and more thoughts on the topic - please visit my blog - Practical Parenting (http://www.practical-parent.com).

08-19-2010, 10:45 PM
Realize - it is much easier to manage a classroom with more mature children in it. And initially, older children will test better (not done in Kindergarten). But all it does is hold your child back and run the very significant risk that your child's first experience with school will be to be bored and not challenged. Until they run into 3rd grade when the work is challenging and they've been coasting for three years.

I haven't heard an educator who's looked at the long-term impacts through scientifically valid studies actually maintain the recommendation to hold children back.

08-22-2010, 09:02 PM
It would be helpful if the privates & publics all agreed to the same cut-offs in each state. At our small preschool, there have been many families that received "too young" letters at their top choice, were accepted at other privates and opted for another year of preschool in hopes the top choice would come through the following year. I feel we are stuck in an infinite loop of trying to game a system we have little control over...

08-23-2010, 07:25 AM
Citymama - I agree that consistency would be better for everyone. That said, the real question is what are parents trying to do by trying to "game the system" at all. Some children are smarter, some are more athletic, some are sensitive, some are creative. There's no finish line and there's no guarantee of lifelong success and happiness. I value education tremendously as the gateway to life's possibilities - but my experience has been that the admissions criteria of "top schools" for kindergarten are ill-informed and not supported by research. Here's an example - many top schools use aptitude testing on 4 year olds to determine academic ability and readiness. The problem - the IQ test, for example, has a 30 point average spread between ages 4 and 8. So a high scoring 4 year old has the distinct possibility of being an average 8 year old. All you are testing at age 4 is the rate of maturity - and it basically balances out (early, average and late bloomers will be what they will be) by 3rd grade. And the behavioral tests to see if the child can "endure" kindergarten have also been proven to be misguided and non-predictive of later academic success.

At the end of the day, parents need to stop worrying about getting into the "top" or most prestigious schools and look a bit longer term. Are the gradutes succeeding in middle school and high school? Are the parents committed to a well-rounded education that includes creative efforts, collaboration and critical thinking? Setting up our children on a "Race to Nowhere" (good movie - we're screening it at our school in early November) is the most likely path to burn them out.

We started our children true to grade at a progressive private school that doesn't believe in the testing I mentioned above for the reasons I mentioned above. Our graduates are independent thinkers, strong collaborators and campus leaders - and they genuinely love learning. That's about all I expect of the school - the rest of their success is up to them.

Good luck!

08-23-2010, 09:34 AM
Joellegk - thanks for being a voice of reason in an otherwise insane process here in SF. Reading what you wrote made so much sense, I immediatly felt all the worry fade away. I actually watched a trailer of "Race to Nowhere" a few weeks ago while researching school resources and am anxious to see the entire film. Thanks for sharing your experience, I am very grateful for such a thoughtful point of view and am quite sure it will help other parents along the way.

09-01-2010, 09:15 AM
The kindergarten bill (SB1381 by Sen Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto) that moves the cutoff up from Dec 1 to Sep 1 has been passed and is now up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign it into law.