Friday, April 14, 2006


Open Call

A reader asked a question about which I know exactly nothing, but I’m hoping some generous and knowledgeable readers have something productive to share:

My husband and I are looking for thoughts from academic professionals on
the general repercussions and/or benefits of delayed entrance into
kindergarten. Is research available? Is there a general consensus from
the academic and research communities regarding this issue? How will the
delay affect his high school and further educational experiences? Is the
age difference with peers long term less important than the short term
"success" of another year in preschool and an older kindergarten start?
His birthday is in January, which would have him turing 7 in the middle
of the school year. How would this 18-24 month age gap affect his
interactions with peers? He is not testing at 18-24 months below his age
level. 9-12 months on average, less in some areas. Above grade level in
academic areas. (letter recognition, pre-math, pre-science) There are
other issues to consider as well; The possible prevalence of a PDD
spectrum disorder (Asperger's)- we are in the process of having this
assessment completed. Diagnosed expressive speech issues particularly in
pragmatics, diagnosed sensory processing delays, very mild attention
issues as stemming from the difficulty in integrating sensory input. I
would appreciate any information you or your readers may have.

I've posted our dilemma here:

Any thoughts?

Here are a couple of arguments in favor of *not* waiting.

1. Research suggests, contrary to folklore, that waiting a year doesn't really help, and can hurt, particularly for bright kids. Fred Morrison has been doing research looking at children born near the school cutoff dates, so comparing the children who differ by a month or so in age but by a year of schooling. Nothing that this group finds suggests that waiting is a good idea. More radically, the late Julian Stanley at Johns Hopkins had a project where he took 9th graders who did well on the SATs and admitted them directly to Hopkins. Interestingly, many of them clearly did much better in college than they were doing in high school.

2. It may be that your son may want to take a year off the academic track at some point, but there may well be better times for that (such as between high school and college, or at some point during college). If he feels that he's already "old," he may be less willing to do this.

3. Having been in this situation myself, he will feel smarter as a younger person in the class rather than as the oldest person, and that can make a difference.

4. On the other hand, because sports are typically organized by grades, it will hinder any potential athletic career. When I lived in Texas, it was very common for parents to "redshirt" their boys for this reason. I don't know how big a role you expect athletics to play in his life, but it's a consideration.

Finally, I'd second the argument about making a decision and not looking back. You don't have enough information to really decide, but you have to make a decision, and it's probably not going to really be a big factor in the overall scheme of your son's life.
We have 2 boys, older was born in Dec, younger in June. so they are 18 mo apart, but one is now 9yo, 3rd grade - and one of the older kids in his class, one 7yo, 2nd - and one of the younger. The 3rd grader is far more self-confident, smooth, has a wider circle of friends.
Interestingly, one of the better friends of my 7yo is a 9yo boy in his class, kid with a few issues and asthma, small for his age. Parents kept him an extra year before kindergarten. I think the 9yo is doing far better than he would be if he were in 3rd grade now, he'd really be lost. So, looks like a good decision on his parents' part.
If doing it again, would I have held my 7yo back a year before starting? No, he was getting really bored in day care, he knew his numbers and his name. He wanted to get on the bus.
When I was a kid I was in the Berkeley CA schools, and you could start your kid in Sept or Jan. And half the kids were in 'high-2' and half in 'low-2' from Sept to Jan - to deal with just this kind of issue. Then after xmas vacation, the 'high-2' kids went to 'low-3'. Berkeley gave it up, too disruptive when kids moved in and out to other school districts (I guess this must have been 1958 or so). Now as a parent this seems like a good system, but probably not good to implement except on a state wide basis.
Don't wait.

I was in an odd situation like that as a child - birthday in December, started school with age cutoff of December 31, then moved to a school with age cutoff of August 31. It made me younger than my peers by that 3-12 months. Then we moved to a lousy school system and I skipped 2nd grade - so then I was 15-24 months younger.

Calculating my age from year of college graduation on my resume makes me seem older, but there were absolutely no negative repercussions going through school.
My dad, who taught elementary school, used to get this question a lot. He found that his female students usually did ok no matter which way they went, but the male students were often much better off if they waited a year. He found that boys who were older had a better chance of grasping concepts, excelling in sports, and they had stronger verbal skills. They also had better behavior/social skills from being one of the older kids, not one of the younger ones.
My experience -- I was on the borderline for entry into kindergarten. My folks waited, but then I ended up skipping 2nd grade when I entered the gifted ed program.

I was an odd kid who bloomed late socially. That didn't have much to do with my grade hopping, though.
Hi, with respect to the possible PDD/Asperger's issues I strongly recommend 1) getting a diagnosis as soon as possibble then 2) getting involved with the school system sooner rather than later.

I am the father of an Aspie who was diagnosed at age 3 by a doc who I am sure was an aspie also. She sent us to the school district who did not have any programs for 3 year olds, so they outsourced him. Long story short, with PDD issues the earlier the intervention the better.

It is important to find out what the school district has to offer. They generally vary from as little as possible (sue us if you think you want more, to doing as little as possible to avoid being sued, to will do what you ask for in writing to avoid being sued, to doing what is right for the kid.

You need to find out what type of district that you are dealing with.

In your specific case there are many options. Perhaps starting in Kindergarden early with the expectation of being there two years is the the right answer (the first year being more a get to know the routine and having special services and the second year being more part of the class on a full time basis. Perhaps the school district knows that the 2nd grade is the roughest year for PDD kids so they generally need to repeat that year.

The big thing is to find out what issues your child has to deal with, find out what is best for the child, and then figure out what it takes to get the district to do what is right.

I will check out your blog. Good luck
I don't know of studies except what was mentioned in "Miseducation" by David Elkind about more harm being done by the child who is bored in the class and should not have been held back.

This delayed entrance to Kindergarten is all the rage in my area right now.

(I homeschool my kids.)

My friends whose kids go to public school are having some issues with their decisions now that they are in it 2-4 years. Most all are boys. The parents feared their 'typical boys' would not fare well up against 'good little girls who like to sit still and do worksheets' in Kindergarten.

One of the issues that came into play during Kindergarten or in First Grade, is that most of these boys are huge compared to their peers, especially by the end of first grade and going through fourth grade. I am talking about a foot taller than some of the other children, and more broad and large/husky overall shape. There is the issue of the bigger kids being expected to be socially more mature, an assumption made by adults which can have negative ramifications for the child (so the parents tell me).

A friend did this with her daughter who was turning 5 in first week of October. She thought she was 'socially immature' but another issue was she wanted to spend the year helping her DD lose weight to avoid teasing in Kindergarten. That never happened--they did nothing to change her diet to have less junk foods, processed foods, fats, etc. or to add any more exercise to their lives. Anyway the girl is now bored to tears in 2nd grade. She was IMO socially ready to go in on time but was held back anyway. She is one of those girls who loves school and loves worksheets, learns easily, etc. She also is tall and is also a foot taller than some of her shorter and thin and petite schoolmates. I cringe to think that this may lead to teasing for her.

The reason my friends are delaying the admission year is usually as they say they'd rather have the brightest child in the class rather than the one who struggles due to developmental/age related normal issues (i.e. more immature fine motor skills for penmanship, fear that they are not ready to learn to read in Kindergarten, etc.). These parents admit they want their child to be 'the smart one in the class' or the 'early learner'.

I have heard bad stories of bullying going on in the class, at recess, in the cafeteria and on the bus from the older ones in the same grade as the smaller/younger children. Two children I know actually moved to private schools to get away from the bullying and because they feel the public school was not doing anything to stop it.

This is compounded as in my state the cut-off for admission is December 31 normally plus then some delay a year. This means some children are entering Kindergarten at 6.5 and turning 7 in the late winter (Feb, March) or spring of their Kindergarten year! Compare this with the kids who enter Kindergarten at 4.5 and turn 5 before December 31, a big difference! My son's friend has 10 year old's in his 3rd grade class as I write this.

I swear I don't know how the teachers do it. I am a Cub Scout Leader and that is challenging enough, to deal with a group, keep order, try to teach stuff to kids with different abilities, learning styles, etc. Participating in that makes homeschooling a couple of my own kids seem simple!
With regards to sending your child to school early or late, I want to take some of the pressure off of one decision by saying this: there is no one decision akin to school age entry that will determine your child's outcome, because there are multiple factors at play. Don't torture yourself about kindergarten placement with regards to college entrance; there is simply too much in between to make a rational decision and determine that was the entire factor in whether or not the child entered college. You have tons of educational decisons to work with for the next 13 years, so I wouldn't place your child's entire educational prognosis on this one.

I recommend getting the PDD checked out by a reputable source. If you need help, send me an e-mail at my website. The PDD is the most important factor to determine right now, because it influences all of the school and social decisions. If your child tested at a normal or gifted level, you would have no anxiety at this point. Since that is not the case, get the PDD looked into. Most parents I speak with like this have a very good understanding of where their children's skills are, especially if their children have been tested.

Once you get the PDD issue investigated, keep in mind that kindergartens vary by school. Curriculums vary by teacher, and you may want to look into the types of curriculums or programs available before making a wholesale decision on just generalized kindergarten placement. I like to visit the classrooms for a day or two and watch the teachers and children in action; most schools have some times set up for parents to observe or bring their children in to interact in a simulated kindergarten setting.

If you are trying to place your child into an ivy-league school by determining kindergarten placement, my suggestions might not be of help. Since I am an ivy-league grad, and I have experience dealing with all types of students in many educational levels, I would like to iterate that it's the process that makes the difference.

For all children to succeed in education, their programs have to be somewhat specialized. Some parents realize this sooner than others. You have realized it just now. Please take it as an opportunity to think about how your child may grow up with his or her own expectations and life ambitions, because he may have an idea of where he wants to go(preschool or kindergarten). I wouldn't make it a deciding factor, but if your child visits a few kindergarten classrooms and hates them, that should give you some immediate feedback. If he can't perform and will instantly be assigned a label of "delayed," perhaps it's better to wait.

All in all, I would advise dealing with the PDD and visiting kindergartens (at least 3-4) and then working toward a decision. It's all in how you help your child deal with challenges that occur rather than trying to envision every challenge before it happens. Coping skills are what make good students, not necessarily excellent academic performance. Good luck, and I am sure that you will get it worked out.
My website listing on the previous comment regarding kindergarten placement is wrong. Here is my correct website:

I must not have gotten the "s" in at the end of the address. I was typing quickly-so sorry...
I was an odd kid who bloomed late socially. That didn't have much to do with my grade hopping, though.

Wide Circles
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