June 4, 2007

Kindergarten ages

Quick response to the New York Times piece on when children start kindergarten:  There's a big difference between the policy issues here and the family decisions involved, and as in many cases, they don't always have that much to do with research on learning.

Policy decisions for states: if you try to push the deadline back to increase the minimum age for kindergarten by a few months, you have a significant one-time savings. But as California's experience in trying to do that showed, you also anger parents who will be upset by changes in their expectations on when their children will start kindergarten.  And as states begin to operate a sizable pre-K program, the calculation of financial effects will change as it's a matter of tradeoffs between pre-K programs and kindergarten. Note that this discussion doesn't (necessarily) revolve around learning.

Family decisions often revolve around myths about maturity or assumptions about what the "right" age for various activities is. The Times article is certainly not new: The age for entering kindergarten crept up in the last generation by a few months, probably because of the red-shirting phenomenon, though I don't know if anyone has looked at it that closely. For any parents wondering about personal decisions: someone in a class is going to be the oldest and someone is going to be the youngest, and at some point your child is going to be one of those someones. You figure out how to avoid that reality, and I'd like you to get me 2-3 more hours in a day, okay?

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Posted in Education policy on June 4, 2007 8:20 AM |