Friday, January 25, 2008

Kindergarten, here we come

For about the last year, we've been lamenting a change in Arkansas law pushing back the age eligibility date for kindergarten enrollment in the public schools. We first heard about it in this news story (I quote the relevant section):
The House approved SB 217 by Sen. Gene Jeffress, D-Louann, which would raise the minimum age for students enrolling in kindergarten.

"This makes the children a little bit older and we feel a little more ready for kindergarten," said Rep. David Cook, D-Williford, who presented the bill to the House.

Under the legislation, a child would need to be at least 5 years old by Sept. 1, 2008, to enroll in kindergarten in the fall of 2008.

A child would have to reach the minimum age by Aug. 15, 2009, to enroll in kindergarten that year. Beginning in 2010, a child would have to be 5 years-old by Aug. 1 to enroll in kindergarten in the same year.
Cady Gray will turn five on August 25, 2009. As reported, she would not be eligible to enroll in kindergarten because she was still four on August 15, the cut-off date.

This was depressing news for us. In mid-March of last year, when we heard about it, Cady Gray was already beginning to read, although not yet to write or understand math. As the year went on and she entered preschool, she continued to make progress. Now at age 3 and a half, she can read books at what I would estimate to be (from the level of homework Archer brings home) at least a first grade level. (She's been reading Tales of Oliver Pig and Tales of Amanda Pig to me and to herself, fluidly with expression.) In other words, literacy-wise she's even more precocious than he was -- and her comprehension is better than he's able to achieve at age 6. She's started to be interested in math, too -- her standard "math fact," 1+2=3, was joined in her recitation this morning by 2+2=4 and 2+3=5 (confirmed by Archer as correct, to her great delight). I have no doubt that by August 2009, she's going to be more than ready to enter kindergarten, if not to skip right into first grade. But the state was going to send her to preschool one more year.

This morning was the registration day for the next year of her preschool at the university's early education demonstration program. I filled out the forms last night, reluctantly checking the box for the three-days-a-week, because she would need to be in position to move up to the five-day class the following year. Then another parent who teaches at the university called me this morning.

"What class are you going to put Cady Gray in?" she asked.

"The Monday-Wednesday-Friday one," I replied. "I hate to hold her back, but she needs to stay in preschool an extra year because she won't be 5 yet on the cutoff date."

"That's what I thought, too," she said. "But when I asked my son's teacher yesterday, she went and pulled out a form that showed that September 1 is be the cutoff date for 2009."

This was strange news -- the first I'd heard of it. If it were true, then Cady Gray could enter kindergarten on the exact same schedule as Archer. "Let me call Archer's school and ask if that's right," I said.

To my surprise, the office at the elementary school confirmed it -- with the caveat "unless the state changes it." Considering that as official a statement as I was likely to get, I quickly called Noel and told him to change Cady Gray's registration to the five-day class.

Googling around for some official notice of the change, I found this page from the Cabot school district. Their list moved the cutoff dates back, but on a schedule a year later than the House bill that was passed. So for 2009, the year Cady Gray turns five on August 25, students have to be five by September 1. For 2010, the date is August 15, and for 2011, it's August 1.

It looks like the Senate may have changed the bill to take effect a year later than originally planned. In any case, unless something else changes in between now and then, it looks like Cady Gray is going to slide into kindergarten right before the drawbridge goes up.

I was having trouble imagining what Cady Gray was going to do for the third year of preschool ... much less for the first year of kindergarten thereafter. I don't want to claim that she's so incredibly special that the rules should be suspended for her. If anything, I'm a proponent of following the rules even when they put you at a disadvantage, because I get frustrated with everybody thinking they're a special case. Others told us that we ought to investigate getting her tested so that she could enter early, but that idea rubbed me the wrong way.

So I'm relieved and happy that she's going to be moving on up into formal schooling in two years. She's going to be just as ready as Archer was academically, and far more ready socially. It feels today a little bit like she got escorted to the head of the line, and I feel like keeping her motivated and engaged will be much easier.


the secret knitter said...

This would have caught me. With an early September birthday, I started kindergarten at the age of four. In the end, I imagine it depends on the child. I'm glad it's going to work out for you.

Jenn said...

Yay! That's really exciting. Cady Gray is going to be excited to start kindergarten. I remember wanting to be in school so badly--my two older brothers were going to school and learning all sorts of good stuff, so I had no problem leaving my mom to go to school :). (Looks like the love of school has stuck).

Adam Villani said...

Awesome. My birthday is September 7, and I don't think there was any problem with me starting kindergarten right around my fifth birthday. My older sister's birthday is in early January and was somehow able to start kindergarten while she was still 4 for a few months.

stevie said...

That's great! I understand wanting 5-year-olds in kindergarten, but that rule would make Cady Gray 6, and it seems to go too far the other way.

Glad to hear it won't be a problem!