Kinder­garten This Year, or Next?

The Washington Post - - District -

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.


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