When to go to kindergarten: who are the slower ones?

A kindergarten class in 1955

Did you want a head-start or a chance to regroup before heading off to kindergarten? That topic is an interesting one that is getting even more complicated with our country’s continued dependence on standardized testing – initially the older the better the scores, so states live it. But there are much larger ramifications, unsurprisingly.

On Friday, Slate writer Emily Blazelon posted a story on the issue:

The calculus goes like this: You look at your 4-year-old, especially if he’s a boy, and consider that his summer or fall birthday (depending on the state and its birthday cutoff) means that he’ll be younger than most of the other kids in his kindergarten class. So you decide to send him a year later. Now he’s at the older end of his class. And you presume that the added maturity will give him an edge from grade to grade. The school may well support your decision. If it’s a private school, they probably have a later birthday cutoff anyway. And if it’s a public school, a principal or kindergarten teacher may suggest that waiting another year before kindergarten is in your kid’s interest despite the official policy. [Source]

Last June, New York Times Magazine had a story on the parental quandary of when to start one’s student in kindergarten.

It included this interesting mention:

A few labor economists do concur with the education scholarship, but most have found that while absolute age (how many days a child has been alive) is not so important, relative age (how old that child is in comparison to his classmates) shapes performance long after those few months of maturity should have ceased to matter. The relative-age effect has been found in schools around the world and also in sports. In one study published in the June 2005 Journal of Sport Sciences, researchers from Leuven, Belgium, and Liverpool, England, found that a disproportionate number of World Cup soccer players are born in January, February and March, meaning they were old relative to peers on youth soccer teams. [Source]

[A teacher] used to encourage parents to send their children to kindergarten as soon as they were eligible, but she is now a strong proponent of older kindergartners, after teaching one child with a birthday just a few days before the cutoff. ”She was always a step behind. It wasn’t effort and it wasn’t ability. She worked hard, her mom worked with her and she still was behind.” Andersen followed the girl’s progress through second grade (after that, she moved to a different school) and noticed that she didn’t catch up. Other teachers at Glen Arden Elementary and elsewhere have noticed a similar phenomenon: not always, but too often, the little ones stay behind. [Source]

Makes you think of those poor fools you know who were younger – they were a little slower, weren’t they?

Photo courtesy.