kitchen table math, the sequel: Middle School Assignments and Kindergarten Ages

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Middle School Assignments and Kindergarten Ages

Two new posts at some favorite blogs:

Grace describes a middle school assignment that would have benefited from some proof-reading and attention to detail here: How to Confuse a Middle Schooler

And Connecticut considers whether to raise the age when Students can start kindergarten here:
Kindergarten Age Change Supported by Governor Malloy


momof4 said...

At least some of the Westchester County, NY school districts have a Dec 31st cutoff date, so kids can start kindergarten at 4. All my kids started in a very high-rated suburban district with the same date and they were all at the bottom of the class, agewise - some almost 2 years. The younger kids, now in their mid-20s, had more redshirted classmates (almost all boys and many girls, even if they weren't close to the deadline)than the older kids, although it certainly wasn't uncommon when they started. None of them had any problems, either social or academic, even though two were small. The fact that they all were very well-coordinated and became serious elite athletes certainly helped. Based on that experience, I wouldn't automatically think that older is better, in the absence of specific areas of immaturity.

concernedCTparent said...

The problem is that the likelihood of doing more for advanced and gifted kids is pretty slim. Our district eliminated gifted ed long, long ago and I'm not holding my breath that it will come back anytime soon.

My oldest has a December birthday and she began kindergarten at age 4. So did I. So did my sister. So did lots of well-adjusted and successful people I know.

I don't like the proposal of moving the cut-off age to 5 at all. I don't like the idea of red-shirting either, but it's not my place to tell someone what's best for their child. If they want to hold off on sending their child to kindergarten until they're 6 years old, that should be their decision. It should also be a parent's decision to send their child to school when they're 4 if they're truly ready.

I find it odd that there are a number of 15 year-old students in my 13 year-old's 8th grade class, but maybe there's a good reason that makes perfect sense to the parents of these kids. I don't really find it odd to send a 17 year old off to college (I survived just fine), while I do find it extremely strange that some students will be 19, going on 20 when they finally leave high school. It's all relative.

Who's to say what's best for someone else's child? It definitely shouldn't be the Department of Education. They've made quite a mess of enough things already, thank you very much.

This is just one more decision that parents will lose power over when it comes to a public school education. It's just another way to tie parents hands and put far-reaching decisions at the mercy of an arbitrary and poorly though out policy.

ChemProf said...

I wonder how much of the push for this is coming from lower SES schools. My mother (who teaches Kindergarten in a low SES/low ranked school) is a big believer in pushing back that age. Her parents want to send their kid to school as soon as they qualify, to save money on day care. At the same time, the kids don't come to school reading or with any other academic skills. She feels that making that change would raise their test scores and help out the district's rankings. Not saying it is a good argument (I'd be irritated if it were my kid, and they are pushing the 5 year old line back from Dec 2 to September), but that seems to be driving the discussion in California. We also have little to no resources for gifted kids, at least in my area.

Hainish said...

the kids don't come to school reading or with any other academic skills

Well, of course not. They come to school to learn those skills. Why should they be expected to have academic skills on the first day of kindergarten?

ChemProf said...

At the elementary school near my house, the majority of the kids come to school knowing their letters, knowing how to hold a book, knowing their numbers. They learn these things in pre-school. A decent chunk know how to read, at least a little.

At my mother's school, they don't. Maybe you can figure expecting any of them to read already is too much, but these kids are starting out behind, compared to other schools in the area. So, the argument is that if they were older, they could better tolerate the increasingly academic expectations of kindergarten.

concernedCTparent said...

So, the argument is that if they were older, they could better tolerate the increasingly academic expectations of kindergarten.

The problem is that another year older doesn't always translate to another year wiser, unfortunately. If the child didn't have access to a preschool or home/daycare environment that focuses on early literacy and math skills, the child will be no better off because he or she is one year older. The argument just doesn't hold water. A four-year old that has access to such an enriched environment is going to be better equipped than a six-year-old who doesn't. Isn't it really more about what happens before the child walks into the kindergarten door and less about how old they are when they finally get there?

kcab said...

I don't like this, but it might be tenable if it came along with:

1) an upper age limit to start K too,
2) policy and guidelines for early entrance to K,
3) policy and guidelines for acceleration

I wonder if CAG is doing anything on this issue.

Allison said...

Actually, the research to date shows that red shirting produces no more success than not-red shirting does, with all academic and social gains wiped out by grade 3.

Here, the push is in the other direction: universal Pre K, paid for by the state, though I can only hope that will be on the chopping block as reality strikes state budgets. The argument is that these kids need to be brought up to speed with their peers ASAP. And in reality, that is probably true--every year that kids here aren't learning their letters, colors, numbers, etc. means several years behind in math and reading by grade 3, compared to the above average kids. But there's no evidence that what we'd do in PreK is actually fixing the problem.

K9Sasha said...

Chemprof said: Maybe you can figure expecting any of them to read already is too much, but these kids are starting out behind, compared to other schools in the area.

Except that the other kids will also be a year older. All it does is push the issue back a year without doing anything to change it.

LynnG said...

Ideally, the expectations for each grade level should rise with the age. Teachers facing older, more capable students, should theoretically be able to cover more material faster.

The reality will be that the pace and expectations won't change, but perhaps, the pass rate on the CMT will improve.

I've already given up the idea that the schools will teach gifted children, they don't now, and there is no reason to think they'll start after this law is passed. CAG has been silent. I've been disappointed in them -- other than running a few seminars, they haven't been much of an advocate.

Gifted kids will continue to be poorly served by the public schools no matter what they do with the kindergarten age change.

Genevieve said...

My state has also embrace universal pre-k, though they may be ending that this legislative session. I had the opportunity to sub as an assistant in several of the classrooms (also Head Start and self-contained special ed preschool).

Some of the classrooms taught what students need to learn to be ready for Kindergarten (ABCs, shapes, colors, counting to 10).

Some of the classrooms even went beyond ABC's, numbers, shapes and worked on improving the children's vocabulary by interacting with the children, scaffolding, etc. If anything, I think these are the classrooms that help students in a way that should last beyond 3rd grade. However, this was a small percentage of the classrooms.

Other classrooms were lead by inexperienced teachers that struggled to keep order, or teach a lesson. Once, both teachers(special ed and regular ed), became distracted and I (a sub assistant they had never met) ended up running a large group. Another classroom was filled with high school drama and the teachers talking about each other and other staff behind their back. These teachers spent much of the class time gossiping. I also spent time in a subsidized daycare for children at risk and the staff spent most of the time gossiping and talking on the phone.

Really I shouldn't be surprised. We know that K-12 doesn't work very well. Why would we think that pre-k would?

Genevieve said...

In some of the school districts in our area, there is optional or developmental kindergarten. This is offered to students that have late birthdays or aren't considered ready for kindergarten (usually behavior and maturity). Then these students go to kindergarten the next year.
This works for some families. However, usually these programs are only 2-3 days a week. This means that some families do not take advantage because of child care costs.

momof4 said...

I think that it was someone on this website that reported that a private preschool in their area taught all their kids to read so they entered kindergarten as fluent readers. The local public school was so upset about this that they successfully pressured the school to stop teaching reading. Talk about appalling!!! I hope the parents in that preschool either forced it to continue reading instruction or shut it down. My impression was that it was an affluent area with advantaged kids that were easily capable of far more than the public school would provide. It's just another example of the ed establishment's total disinterest in challenging kids. It's really, "no child gets ahead" and "race to the bottom:...

Anonymous said...

Just because kids are older doesn't mean that they will be more mature and easier to teach. Kids need to be explicitly taught how to behave properly and that instruction will also be deferred.


Crimson Wife said...

What I really think they should have is a December 31st cutoff. All children with birthdays January-June grouped in one class that starts in the fall semester. July-December birthday kids are grouped in another class that starts in the spring semester. Children who are ready to move onto 1st grade the following year do so (whether they have completed 1 or 2 semesters of K), and those who are not ready do a "transition" year (again whether they have completed 1 or 2 semesters). No "redshirting" would be allowed unless there is a documented developmental delay.

ChemProf said...

Should have been clearer, but probably didn't want to insult my mom. I find her opinions useful in understanding what the conventional wisdom is among elementary school teachers and administrators. She has taught in her district for nearly 40 years and is active in the union, so if that's what she thinks, she isn't alone. You can be pretty sure that these same thoughts are running through CTA and NEA literature.

She is also completely immune to recognizing contradictions in her opinions, so supports both later start dates AND universal pre-K. She also doesn't see that what all of her arguments add up to is "we don't know how to teach when none of the kids in the class are middle class" and that the obvious rejoinder is "if you don't know how to teach them, why are we spending so much to warehouse these kids?"

momof4 said...

As I recall, both Project Follow Through and several years of ES results in a group of Baltimore schools, suggest that we actually do know something about teaching lower SES kids (and others); Direct Instruction (see Siegfried Englemann). The problem is that this method violates all the most cherished ed school beliefs (guide on the side, student-centered, discovery, groupwork, "creativity" etc). I think there is also data supporting a strong, sequential, content-heavy curriculum, like Core Knowledge and the classical one( Bauer and Wise), but that violates the cherished assumption that skills (21st century!critical thinking!) are unrelated to content knowledge and are transferrable across all fields and the really utopian idea that "authentic" learning should be effortless and entertaining. Add to the above, the general reluctance to demand appropriate student behavior and effort and an even greater reluctance to tolerate any results that vary by racial/ethnic group and we have the current situation. Sigh...