Monday, May 3, 2010

Kindergarten entrance age

I've talked about this before. SB 1381 is the latest attempt to raise the entrance age cut-off date for kindergarten from December 2 to September 1. The reasoning is that some kids are not ready for kindergarten curriculum at 4 years 9 months, so no kids should be allowed to enter at that age. I'm agin it* for two reasons:

1) Kids vary. In particular, they develop at different rates. Some are ready for kindergarten at 4 years 9 months and some are not. Our system should allow the ones who are ready to begin kindergarten to do so and not force those who are not ready.

There are two obvious ways to decide who can and cannot enter at 4.75 years. We can give everyone the DRDP or some other developmental evaluation. Or we can let the parents decide. I choose letting the parents decide. In fact, I'd allow a much wider window (maybe 4 years to 5.75 years) and let the parents decide. They already decide whether a kid enters public schools in kindergarten or first grade.

2) The trend in elementary school has been to push curriculum down. The current kindergarten curriculum is what used to be taught in first grade. So we make kindergarten harder, and then we say it's too hard for kids that age, so we have to make kindergarteners older. We push the 6-year-old curriculum down to 5-year-olds and then won't let them take it because they're too young. This is crazy.

The answer is to push first grade curriculum back up to first grade, and let kindergarten be kindergarten. Otherwise we are just keeping the same system but renaming the parts. We rename first grade kindergarten, and we rename kindergarten preschool.

*Should I disclose that I entered kindergarten at 4 years 6 months and two weeks, when the cut-off was March 1, and have been glad all my life I did so? My mom is not. She thinks I was too young, but she had to go to work, and kindergarten was free child care.

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