Kindergarten This Year, or Next?
I wonder whether you could give parents some information about how to determine whether their child is ready for kindergarten, especially those with children whose birthdays fall near the cut-off date. My daughter will turn 5 three weeks before the cutoff date, and I’ve gotten so many different opinions about sending a younger 5-year-old to kindergarten. My husband and I feel that she meets all of the criteria: She can sit still for an appropriate amount of time, follow multi-step directions, interact well with her peers and separate easily from us.
At a presentation about kindergarten readiness at her preschool, an elementary school principal and kindergarten teacher seemed to push for giving most kids “the gift of time” and keeping them out an extra year, while research that I’ve read suggests that keeping kids who are young but otherwise ready for kin- dergarten can cause self-esteem issues and might not result in any long-term gains. Add to that a growing trend of parents keeping children out until they are 6 and concerns about how being young can affect them in high school, and it’s enough to make your head spin. Do you have any advice to parents who are dealing with this question?
I am only as good as my sources, and on this issue I have one of the best in the country. Bob Pianta has recently become dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, but I know him as one of our leading researchers on education for this age group. Here is his response:
“Ms. Heiman’s question is a common one and a source of a lot of unnecessary worries for parents. She is right that the research shows that any possible benefit of an extra year wears off soon, and her description of her daughter’s behavior tells me that she is looking at just the right behaviors and that her child is doing well on the kind of things needed to be successful in kindergarten, an impression that I suspect would be confirmed by her daughter’s preschool teacher (if she goes to preschool). Seems to me she should do just fine in kindergarten as a younger 5-year-old.”
My family is facing a decision about my fourth-grade son. He is in a Gifted and Talented class in our neighborhood elementary school, and he’s been offered admission at a relatively local private school for next year. Although we realize that there are many factors that can go into the plus-minus columns of both choices, we were wondering how to evaluate the two based strictly on academic rigor. Many people we know have used “educational consultants,” to the tune of thousands of dollars, but it seems to me that these people are biased toward private schools and thus of little use to us. How can we form an opinion of which option is “better” academically?
Many parents face this issue every year, and I regret to inform you there are no useful data that would allow you to compare Flint Hill to a GT program in a Fairfax County public school. If Flint Hill were willing to release its test scores, which many private schools are not, they would simply confirm the affluence and education of the students’ parents, the most important factor in the achievement level of children this age, and not the rigor of the classes. I suspect your GT program’s test scores would also be impressive, but also reflect the families, not the teaching.
But I have a very strong view on your choice, having looked at many public and private schools in this area over the years. I think a family would have to have strong personal reasons, such as a child with an unusual disability, or a strong connection and confidence in the private school, to have a good reason for choosing a private school over a Fairfax public school, particularly one with a GT program. You are in one of the best public school systems in the country, and your child is in a class where the standard is even higher. I don’t think any private school can compete, but I welcome letters from readers who disagree with me and have good reasons.
Thank you for stating the misconception that once you get into Thomas Jefferson, you have it made [“Thomas Jefferson Falls Short on Scholarships,” Extras, Jan. 17].
As many TJ parents know, students not only go through a more rigorous academic schedule and have more graduation requirements but are also expected, as are any other high school students, to participate in a number of extracurricular activities. Colleges nowadays are expecting well-rounded individuals, and the mere fact that they come from TJ doesn’t grant them priority acceptance.
The truth is that attending Thomas Jefferson is a family decision. There is no doubt that the addition of the Academy of Science to Loudoun County is a giant leap to providing this county with a specialized high school. Obviously all of us would rather not have the long commute, but once the decision of attending is made, and families find that this is the right school for them, the commute is not an issue.
Loudoun has done a great job providing transportation for TJ students. The buses are on time and get our children to and from TJ safely. Time spent on the bus is used to either sleep and relax or to network and do homework. This year, upon parent request, the Loudoun transportation department has added an activity bus. We are so grateful for this.
Thanks very much for this. I welcome other perspectives on Jefferson.