YES, PLEASE DO CHANGE THE CUTOFF DATE FOR KINDERGARTEN; IT SAVES MONEY, HELPS YOUNGSTERS GAIN A BETTER FOUNDATION FOR THEIR FUTURE , IMPROVES TEST SCORES AND TAKES THE ONUS OFF THE PARENTS; WHAT BETTER EDUCATED DECISION COULD BE MADE IN CALIFORNIA?
By Diana L. Chapman
The first graders chatted in huddles at school when one of them asked outright: “Did you know (Joey) flunked kindergarten?”
Like a gossiping bunch of adult hens, the kids excitedly went at it with cruel words such as:
“Joey flunked? Woo!”
“ Joey flunked!....giggles….“Figures Joey would flunk.”
Happening to walk by this bunch of first-grade gossip mongers (I hate to see them turn out like us adults in this fashion), I tried – in vain – to correct them. “Joey did not flunk,” I explained carefully. “He was held back because he was an early baby.”
Try explaining that one to a clutch of wide-eyed, first graders who eagerly went off to play still firmly convinced Joey was already a ‘flunkee’ at age 5. They spread the rumor far and wide. It’s not a pleasant way for a kid to kick off his school career.
This – and for many other reasons -- is exactly why I back State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto’s, bill to change California’s cutoff date for kindergarten.
Our state is only one of four left in the country that uses a late cutoff date. Instead of Sept 1, California uses Dec. 2. What that means is many children born between September and December are stuck with kids already turned 5, and often nearly months older, making those students better equipped to socialize and learn.
Those few months in a young child can make a giant difference.
The best way to understand this perhaps is using my son as an example. His 5th birthday fell on January 24. Because of that, he didn’t begin school for another eight months – making him more mature, able to handle the classroom academic experience and ready to move to first grade.
Or look at it like this: a six-month-old pup and a newborn are not going to learn at the same pace. And it’s not fair to expect them too.
In California, hundreds of kids like Joey are currently forced to keep up with their classmates – and having volunteered in the classroom for years – I can tell you how troubling this is.
Parents, asked by kindergarten teachers to hold their child back another year, see this as failure – when it’s not. Other students see it too as failure. While Joey’s name is changed, I did witness this incident.
So how are kids like Joey supposed to feel?
Even more troubling: Many parents who are asked refuse recommendations to keep their children behind, shuffling them up and onward without the proper preparations for the remainder of their school career.
Of course, some children will make it. But many lag way behind their counterparts and will never catch up. We might as well stamp a brand on these kids saying: “FAILURE!” OR “POOR STUDENT!” OR “LAZY KID!”
Using the current system means that kids as young as four years and nine months begin school, according to Simitian’s fact sheet.
Under Simitian’s bill, no child will start kindergarten unless they are five by Sept. 1, a plan – if passed -- will be phased in over three years beginning 2012.
Just these extra few months can help a kindergartner – and their parents. SB 1381, not only spares children humiliation, it saves $700 million a year for more than a decade while offering students more stability and parent’s peace of mind. That alone, will give the state money to help more students attend preschool and help to offset the state’s budget crunch.
It’s unusual that a decision like this can be such winner for everyone! The state gains money. The children learn at a better pace. And test scores are expected to improve.
According to a 2005 Rand study, such action move boosts test scores significantly, especially for low-income families, the fact sheet stated.
I know from watching first hand that forcing children into kindergarten too soon – unless they are exceptionally advanced both socially and academically – spells harder times for many of those youngsters who often spend their school careers trying to catch up to their older peers.
Thank you, Senator, for introducing this bill. As to the rest of you I ask: Pleeeassssse pass this so kids like Joey don’t have to spend the time believing they are inferior to their peers or – worse -- believing they’re failures at age 5.