Kindergarten Entrance Age and Retention
It is no secret. Today’s schools are under great pressure. Under the No Child Left Behind Act all children are expected to achieve at the same rate. Regardless of legislation, school systems across the nation want all children to achieve academically. Under pressure, schools have addressed the problem of making certain all children are ready to learn when they enter school by raising the age of entrance into five-year-old kindergarten.
Entrance age into five-year-old kindergarten is established by states as well as local school districts. The trend is to require children to be five years of age on or before September or October. Thirty-five states have kindergarten entrance cut-off dates requiring children to be five years old between August 31 and October 16. Three states have cut off dates before August 15. This means that school systems are ensuring that only children five years of age or older can enter kindergarten. By doing so, states and school systems believe that, since all children will be at least five years of age when they enter kindergarten, children will be better able to succeed in increasingly academic kindergarten programs.
Today, children are older when they enter kindergarten. The NCES (2001) found that the average age of children entering kindergarten is 5.5 years. Still, the problem remains. Regardless of the age of children at entrance into kindergarten, there will still be an age span of at least one year among children. There still will be children who are considered “young fives,” whose birthdays are in July or August, who will be “red shirted,” asked to sit out another year so they’ll be older and “more ready” to attend five-year-old kindergarten.
Further, regardless of entry age, children will still enter kindergarten with individual strengths, differing learning styles, and at different maturational levels. Regardless of age of entrance, kindergarten goals, the resultant curriculum and programs, will have to be individualized if all children are to achieve.
The problem of ensuring that all children are ready to learn has also been addressed by failing children in five-year-old kindergarten. Based on the research, it is recommended that school systems do not retain children in preschool or kindergarten. Kindergarten retention does little to boost subsequent academic achievement. Then too, retention results in a social stigma for children who attend an extra year, regardless of whether the class is called a transition class, pre–first grade, or readiness group and fosters inappropriate academic demands in first grade (Shepard & Smith, 1989).
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