Last February, the Connecticut Education Committee (CEC) proposed changing the cutoff date from January 1 to October 1. There was another failed attempt in 2011.
Currently, only Connecticut and Vermont have an unusual state cutoff date of on or before January 1 for when children entering Kindergarten need to be 5 years old. The majority of other states already have Kindergarten cutoff dates in August or September.
What this lingering hot education topic means: In the State of Connecticut, 4- and 6-year-olds can be in Kindergarten together with 5-year-olds when the new school year begins.
To illustrate: My son just turned 5 years old in early February. When he enters Kindergarten, he will be 5 years and 7 months old. He may have Kindergarten classmates who can be 11 months younger. He can also have classmates who are already 6 years of age due to the practice of “red shirting” by some parents.
Why 5-year-olds should start-out Kindergarten with only 5-year-olds
1. A Matter of Months Makes a Difference
There are always exceptions; however, just a matter of 3 to 6 months can mean a significant difference developmentally for these children.
My son participates in a part-time, public preschool program for 4-year-olds. The requirement: These children needed to already by 4 in September 2013. Even with this group being closer in age, there are sometimes obvious developmental differences between the youngest and oldest.
2. “Too Young for Kindergarten” Disadvantages
Many 4-year-old Kindergarteners are simply too young and often struggle to “catch up” with their 5- and 6-year-old peers. The feeling of “lagging behind” isn’t good for self-esteem.
Sometimes Connecticut children with November and December birthdays begin Kindergarten early. At times, these smart but “too young for Kindergarten” students need extra help after school or special education services simply because they are not at the same level as the older Kindergarteners. They also sometimes slow-down the overall classroom learning pace and take away from the teacher’s daily curriculum.
What Needs to Happen to Close the Wide Age Gap:
1. Change the Cutoff Date to September 1
There should be a maximum of a 12 month age range difference for the majority of Kindergarteners. Why stop one-month short with the proposed October 1 cutoff date? September 1 ensures Kindergarteners start out being Age 5 together in Connecticut.
2. Stop “Red Shirting” Practices with Legislation
Is it fair to a non-special needs child to hold her back in order to have a competitive advantage over peers on sports teams or to be academically ahead, which may improve the odds for getting into a better college? Red shirting practices need to stop.
The reality: 4-, 5- AND 6-year-olds can be in my son’s Kindergarten class this fall. This is unfair to him, and this is unfair to the 4 and 6-year-olds who can feel overwhelmed or under-challenged in a Kindergarten classroom really meant for 5-year-olds.