Is Four-Years Old Too Young for Kindergarten?
Erin Ferrantino is a kindergarten teacher at an elementary school in Hartford, Connecticut. Ferrantino faces the normal challenges of teaching kindergarteners: coloring outside of the lines, getting everyone to take a nap at the same time, and teaching students about sharing – especially when the students do not want to do so.
However, she usually faces the largest challenge with one particular group of students. These students all have one demographic characteristic in common. It’s not race or gender or even economic background: it’s age. These children are all only four-years old when they start kindergarten. Most children start kindergarten at age five.
“They struggled because they’re not developmentally ready,” said Ferrantino. “It is such a long day and so draining, they have a hard time holding it together.”
Want an example or two? One of Ferrantino’s students broke down crying after only one hour of class, while another four-year old was unable to hold his pencil with his fingers, instead using his fists. This is typical behavior of younger children and is nothing to be alarmed by, but it is a sign that maybe these kids are not ready to be in kindergarten.
Children who are only four-years old have not always been allowed to attend kindergarten. In fact, Connecticut was one of the last states to allow these younger children to enroll in school. Now, the state is reconsidering this decision.
Those in favor of delaying children’s enrollment in kindergarten until they are five-years old claim that it will give the children an extra year to grow and develop, emotionally, mentally, and physically. This practice is often called “redshirting.”
Those opposed to postponing the enrollment age claim that by doing so, children will be stuck in a holding pattern by making them remain in preschool when they are ready to advance. Another point that this side makes is that children from lower economic classes are not as likely to be able to afford preschool, so by delaying their entrance into education, we are putting them even farther behind their peers who did receive a preschool education. This point seems to have the most relevance in Connecticut.
In poorer districts in Connecticut, around 29 percent of children start kindergarten at age four. This is five percent higher than the state’s average and almost 10 percent higher than the average percent of students who start kindergarten at age four in wealthy districts.
“It’s a glaring weakness that we should have fixed long ago,” said Mark McQuillan, Connecticut’s former education commissioner. “Many of the wealthy parents enrolled their children at 6 or 6 ½, and other families – particularly poor families – enroll their children as early as 4 ½ because ether need the school support. It’s a huge developmental span.”
Personally, I am not sure that instituting a state-wide rule that students must be five-years old to start kindergarten is a good idea. I agree with Mily Arciniegas, the president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council, who said “kids will have to wait around another year to get into school [only because of their age]; that’s time wasted.”
Perhaps all students who are going to enter kindergarten should have to take some sort of standardized test to determine if they are ready or not. The way I see it, we have to take standardized tests for every other major milestone in our lives – drivers tests, college admissions tests, advanced placement exams – so why not start using this form of testing earlier?
But hey, that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Should there be a concrete rule concerning when children can start kindergarten? Or should it be on a case-by-case basis? Share your opinions about this topic in the comment section below.
Via The NY Times
Students Who Start Kindergarten Sooner Are Less Likely to Fail a Grade
Preschoolers Take Entrance Exam for Kindergarten