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California Kids Get an Extra Year of Kindergarten

12.06.2011 | Care2 | Judy Molland

Kindergarten kids are getting older in California.

Under the current law, children can begin kindergarten if they turn 5 by December 2.

But that’s changing. A new law is being phased in over three years. In the fall of 2012, children must be age 5 by November 1, and by the fall of 2013, the date moves back to October 1. In the fall of 2014, students must turn 5 by September 1.

What Happens To Kids With Later Birthdays?

The law that changed the age requirement also called for a new grade level: transitional kindergarten, or TK.

The question of starting kindergartners later has been discussed and debated at the state Capitol for 25 years, said State Senator Joe Simitian, at a transitional kindergarten summit held in Sacramento earlier this month.

Simitian, author of the legislation that created TK, called it a “game changer” that would ultimately lead to better test scores, fewer children placed inappropriately into special education classes and fewer held back in school.

Transitional Kindergarten To Prepare Kids For The Academic Rigors Of Kindergarten

TK will focus on improving motor and social skills to prepare children for the academic rigors of kindergarten.

From The Sacramento Bee:

Most parents agree there is a need. “It’s a good thing they are doing,” (Elk Grove mother) Sandhu said, adding that some children need practice before kindergarten.

“I think it can benefit the kids,” said Sherry Tam, who also was standing in line at Joseph Sims Elementary last Monday morning.

Tam said her son – whose birthday is Nov. 16 – is small and could benefit from an extra year of preparation, even though he is academically prepared for kindergarten.

Educators at the summit said parents often balk at the prospect of putting their child in transitional kindergarten because they believe their child is “really smart” and prepared for kindergarten.

However, readiness for kindergarten isn’t necessarily about being smart or about age. I’ve spoken to many kindergarten teachers whose students are “old enough” but simply aren’t ready to interact in a classroom setting. It’s not so much about academics, either; children need to be able to sit still for more than a few minutes, as well as play cooperatively with their peers, and have a sense of confidence, along with a desire to explore. If children are not socially mature enough, kindergarten can be a disaster.

Redshirting

Some parents choose to keep their child out of kindergarten for an extra year even though the child’s birthday meets the relevant cutoff date. This is known as academic redshirting, and they may do this because they believe it will give their child an academic edge – an extra year to gain knowledge, skills, and maturity.

However, when parents redshirt their kindergartners, the age gap within one class can be 18 months or more. This poses a challenge for teachers: younger children may be struggling, while older ones may get bored and act out.

It will be interesting to see how the new law plays out in California. And remember, the initial age for compulsory school attendance in the U.S. varies from 5 to 8, depending on the state, while in Finland, no one starts school until the age of seven.

What do you think is the right age to start kindergarten?

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