We Need More 8 Year Old Kindergarten Students.

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I Didn’t Draw This.

I Didn’t Draw This.

If I was put in charge of all things related to education, I would be overwhelmed. And underpaid (I am also going to need full family health insurance, but we can talk about that later).

Also, I would be extremely happy (after all, that is a lot of power, and who among us isn’t power hungry?) I would join President Obama in making big changes (and mine wouldn’t cost 800 billion).

There are obviously a lot of issues in education that need to be addressed.

I have so many ideas regarding school improvement that I hardly know where to start.

Just to name a few:

• indoor playgrounds (which would allow kids the same general feeling of going outside for recess but are prohibited from doing so during inclement weather)

• the ability to suspend all students (and parents) who show up to school without a coat when it is cold

• naps for all employees at the same time the kindergarten class rests their eyes

• automatic jail time for kids who mess with their mechanical pencils too much

• and of course… free chocolate chip cookies for everyone at snack time.

But I don’t want to spend this blog boring you with issues that will never be addressed (trust me, all the previous situations will continue to be ignored… another case of The Man keeping us down).

I am here to talk about one change that I think we can, and should implement.

Since I have all the answers, I am going to be nice and share (save your mocking emails… because you have to give me some credit for my confidence).

In my estimation, schools have done the right thing by getting away from social promotion.

For those of you not familiar with social promotion our friends at Wikipedia define it as the practice of promoting a student (usually a general education student, rather than a special education student) to the next grade despite their low achievement in order to keep them with social peers.

I can remember a time not so long ago when students were passed on to the next grade level based solely on their size. Think about it. Big kids move on. Smaller kids get held back a year.

We have come a long way.

But I am here to propose that we must take this idea a step further.

Educators have to get past the idea that a student needs to be in a certain grade based on their biological age.

Kids age and learn at different levels. I know this because I live with a 7 year old who thinks she is 35 (and even worse, she believes she is my boss).

Why do we start 5 year olds in kindergarten when they aren’t ready? Aren’t we putting them in a situation where they are doomed to fail?

What does a child’s 7th birthday have to do with 2nd grade?

Some 7 year olds are ready for 2nd grade, but some should be in 1st grade or even 3rd.

I realize there may be limits to my theory because we don’t want to have kindergarten students who are 14 years old, but we have to give kids some leeway.

They all learn at a different rate and we need to recognize this. Maybe we need a 3 year age span for each grade level.

By the K-12 model, all freshmen in college would be 19 years old and seniors would be 22. When I went off to college, I was amazed to find out that students come in all ages (from 17 to 80).

And shockingly, the older the student, the more prepared and focused they were (I must admit that at the time I felt the older students studied way too hard and asked too many questions).

Why wouldn’t this theory work in public schools (admittedly, on a limited basis)?

Do we use the present system because it is beneficial to students, or because this is the way we have always moved kids through the 13 grade levels?

Ok, let’s cut to the chase. Do athletics play a major role in keeping the same aged children together? Or is it some other reason? I hope someone (or many someones) has a different answer for me.

After all, you can’t really expect me to run education by myself.

I am so not qualified.

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12 Responses to “We Need More 8 Year Old Kindergarten Students.”


  1. chris wherley
    on Feb 10th, 2009
    @ 8:52 pm

    As a student develops the skills necessary to move on to the next skill, they will eventually accomplish what we have set out to teach them. Instead of an A in 1st grade math for a 9 week period, they can have a check mark for each skill that the student has mastered, if it takes them 30 minutes or 4 days. We continually will assess and reinforce the skills as they continue their educational journey. When will you be starting this new school?


  2. Dan Callahan
    on Feb 10th, 2009
    @ 8:53 pm

    Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!

    If you haven’t, I strongly recommend that you check out Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which is a fascinating book One part talks about the birthday lottery, wherein being born at the right time of the year is extremely advantageous or disadvantageous in sports, academics, etc, mainly because the oldest kids are generally more mature, which means they do better to start, which means they then get more attention and training, and so on and so on.

    Every year as students enter the middle school, we see the kids with Summer birthdays generally struggle a bit more, academically and socially…they haven’t had as much time to cook.

    Hopefully with the increased focus on differentiated instruction, and the increasing availability of technology to help further individualize things, we can begin to move past a meaningless social construct like grade levels and begin to focus on the skills that each kid actually needs to learn.


  3. Bill Birdlebough
    on Feb 10th, 2009
    @ 9:12 pm

    Being another who has all the answers related to solving all of the educational ills of the day, I can shed some light on this situation, or at least make the darkness a little less dark. The age requirement is the other end of the pendulum swing from the “Happy Days” (spend some time on the channel TV land if you don’t get the reference.)

    We went from perfecting one system that didn’t work to perfecting another that didn’t work. The first one lasted from about the turn of the century to the early 70’s and the latest one has been since then. So about 70 years for the first flop, and 35ish for the second. I am defining flop from the standpoint of NAEP that shows graduation rates haven’t significantly increased since we started really tracking it in the last 30+ years.

    The good news – I have a plan! I call it the one IEP fits all plan. This would be a modification of your idea where each student is allowed to progress at their own rate in EACH SUBJECT thereby truly serving all the needs of every child (and none of the logistical ones for the school, but who are we really here for?)

    The better news – If my plan follows the same trend as the past plans – I probably believe that I am as smart as the designers of those plans thought they were at the time – it should only be 17.5 years or so until we prove it to be a flop. At least with my plan I only have the opportunity to destroy 1 generation instead of 2-4. (BTW I don’t think Arne Duncan is worried about me ousting him!)


  4. Tim
    on Feb 10th, 2009
    @ 9:54 pm

    So, below I have pasted an abbreviated version of a philosophic statement that one district leadership team made with regard to the idea you are addressing.

    I will say, this little bit of language has caused more heartache than you could possibly believe. The system that has been developing over ten years is now falling to ruin because these ideas, lived out, aren’t terribly popular. When the citizenry mobilize and elect puppet board members to do their bidding things get ugly FAST!
    ____________________

    Student Achievement System
    The basic concept behind our Student Achievement System (SAS) is that students should make continuous progress and be placed in an appropriate level of instruction. Progress is described by achievement level benchmarks rather than traditional grade levels. There is no social promotion and no retention; assessments are used when needed, and students are moved from level to level as they demonstrate proficiency.

    Most schools use a low-, mid-, and upper-benchmark level of achievement for each of the benchmarks. SAS results in a more appropriate level of instruction for the individual student; a more uniform achievement level for teachers to target; and clear accountability for student, teacher, and parents. Students who enter high school level curriculum are ready for it, and students who receive a _____ High School diploma will have demonstrated the required proficiencies, not just their attendance and effort.

    1. We are committed to a program of appropriate instructional placement and continuous progress.

    2. Authentic achievement of the intended curriculum is necessary for student success.

    3. Student achievement based on performance standards should be the constant; instructional time should be the variable.

    4. All students, parents, and educators have a shared/collective responsibility for academic achievement.

    5. Information concerning instructional placement, authentic assessment, and instructional setting will be used to facilitate client relationships with parents and students.

    6. The Student Achievement System (SAS) rejects both concepts of social promotion and retention.

    ____________________________

    By the way… The superintendent who imagined this system and brought it to fruition was nudged out and you can no longer find any of the white papers and research to support this system on the district website. The idea has effectively been purged. Kinda scary!


  5. Carol Horner
    on Feb 11th, 2009
    @ 4:05 am

    I have one of those children who went through kindergarten and wasn’t ready. She struggled and cried. Everytime they had reading class, she had to go to the nurse. Now, I’m not Einstein, but I could have figured out she wasn’t sick at that time everyday. The teacher let her go to the nurse everyday for about 6 weeks before contacting me that there was a problem. The problem was reading didn’t make sense, she couldn’t do it, and she didn’t know how to handle it. The school she attended had a class for kids who weren’t ready for first grade – they called it Pre-first. We put her in that class and gave her another year to mature. She went on to first grade a year later and did fine. She is now one of the oldest kids in her class and a straight A high school student. I know this would not be the case had we not “held her back” that year. By the way, the school let us make the choice and I am very glad we decided to give her time to mature before pushing her on. There are lots of kids that need that extra year who don’t get it.


  6. Charlie A. Roy
    on Feb 11th, 2009
    @ 5:20 am

    Gladwell does hit on the age lottery. The age difference in readiness to learn is the most pronounced between boys and girls. We for some reason insist on the five year old kindergarten concept and then have turned kindergarten into first grade with basic literacy a goal by February. A 5 year old boy and a 5 year old girl are at very different levels in terms of intellectual development. Too many boys go through the first few years of school experiencing frustration at every turn. This doesn’t begin a great relationship with school.

    What would it look like if we understood this? Try Finland. School doesn’t begin until children are 7. What are the results? The top ranked nation for education.

    Getting the age deal right from the beginning may eliminate the need to look at social promotion later on.

    Check out Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax and the Boys and Girls Learn Differently by MIchael Guiran


  7. Brendan
    on Feb 19th, 2009
    @ 8:42 am

    First I have a 3 year old who wasn’t allowed to go to pre-K because he was too advanced. HUH?

    I like the idea of moving when kids are ready, but reading some of these comments the question then becomes what is the time frame.

    If children get a check mark as they master each skill are they each on an independent learning plan? This has it’s pros and cons, but personally I prefer the classroom model, else I would simply homeschool.

    Also if students are at different grade levels in different subjects then it makes it difficult for teachers to integrate across subjects.

    I would prefer a range of ages in a grade, all year schools, and movement either at quarters or semesters.

    Nothing is perfect however so there should also be some latitude for each individual school.


  8. Ann Oro
    on Feb 19th, 2009
    @ 8:50 am

    The best advice I ever received was from the principal at our school. He suggested that if we could afford it (I was at home then) to wait a year for our Sept. 11th son. He was always taller than his brother who is two years older, and as a result is still one of the tallest in class. His grades are great and he fits in very well. I’m not sure what would have happened if we didn’t wait the year, but I agree with the theory of not grouping based only on birth date.

    As I go out to recess duty, I’m smiling at the suspension for those lacking coats. At least is 50 degrees F today, but I don’t understanding coming to school without a jacket. They all own them, they just prefer to come without it.


  9. That Kid. | PrincipalsPage The Blog
    on Apr 25th, 2010
    @ 8:19 am

    [...] meeting him, the secretaries immediately called the kindergarten teacher and said… “Retire.  Retire now.  Before it’s too [...]


  10. Tamara C
    on Jan 21st, 2011
    @ 6:00 pm

    I really appreciate this post. I am torn as to whether to send my daughter (5 on Feb 9th) in the fall to kindergarten. She is very bright! Most people think I am crazy, but educators seem to support it!!


  11. sarah
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 10:32 pm

    I was staying with my boyfriend and his two girls for a while and this is what I was able to observe just by being with the girls for the four months I was there. The seven year old was not very bright. She couldn’t read, needed help with spelling, and didn’t even have common sense. All she had was a bad mouth and never ever wanted to get better at learning. The two year old was getting better with talking before I left but she is severly behind as well. I don’t normally blame the parent since I had a shitty mom growing up and taught myself everything from reading and writing to math equations. But that man is dumber than a brick wall. Everything the 7 year old failed at he blamed on her mother and the fact that her mom smoked whilst pregnant with them. He supported her getting c’s and d’s and never once thought of helping the little girl to read. He gave in to her almost always and in short she was a very spoilt brat. Her two year sister was better behaved but isn’t even potty trained yet and she is going to be three in April!!! The only thing I can say is yes kids learn differently and each kid is different but there should never be excuses for a child to do poorly in school when the parent doesn’t even try to help. I’m not saying that they are at fault but a dedicated parent who may work too much to even help their kid should talk to the teacher and find a program that could help them. They should have a type of communication and watch the progress. They shouldn’t find excuses to keep their child at that poor reading level that the 7 year old was at. And if getting better means not playing with friends all the time then that is what should happen. I agree with the article only because this seven year old couldn’t do a project on her own!!! It was way too simple too!


  12. Johann
    on May 12th, 2013
    @ 1:25 am

    Some interesting viewpoints but I have to say I have also liked the traditional approach and have struggled with the continued push back in the start date for Kindergarten. I graduated at 17 and felt I was far better off in having the jump ahead. I wanted the same experience for my children who unfortunately are all born in December and so will not be able to do that. I don’t get a choice about having them have the same experience as me due to their birthdays and truly feel that it would be a better rode for them to take. In this last year I pushed and pushed for my daughter to be assessed so the school would consider taking her in early. With much discussion and advice from other educators we opted to wait to have her start. We decided this whole year would be really spent on mastering the foundational skills necessary and giving her the opportunity to be top of her class with the new coming year. I am now glad we waited.
    It would be difficult to group children and grade promote or place do to ability although it makes sense it could cause as you said some children not starting school to a very late age or remaining in the lower grades for quite some time. I would like to see a plan for assessment of all 5 year olds even pass the cut off date so as to have the option of starting early based on ability not birth date. As mentioned, children learn differently and at different rates.

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