Topic:
KINDERGARTEN; EDUCATION (GENERAL);
Location:
EDUCATION - (GENERAL);

OLR Research Report


January 9, 2002

 

2002-R-0042

CHANGING KINDERGARTEN ENTRANCE AGE

 

By: Jennifer Gelb, Research Attorney

You asked for the issues surrounding changing the minimum age for starting kindergarten from five to six. You also wanted to know what other states have for a minimum entrance age.

SUMMARY

Kindergarten entrance age is the subject of much debate in the education community. Some experts recommend that children with autumn birthdays wait a year before starting kindergarten. Others suggest keeping certain students out of kindergarten until they turn six. Still others advocate screening four-year-olds who may be ready for school for early entry, despite a fifth birthday after the statutory deadline. All states require children to turn five in the year they enter kindergarten, however, and no state has a minimum entrance age of six. The states differ only on when during the school year a child must have had his fifth birthday, from July 1 in Indiana to January 1 in Connecticut and Vermont.

ISSUES RAISED BY CHANGING KINDERGARTEN MINIMUM AGE

We did not find any information regarding raising the minimum age for kindergarten from five to six. Most discussion of kindergarten entrance age revolves around when to set the birthday cutoff date determining student eligibility. Changing the minimum age in Connecticut to six would require reconsideration of school readiness programs, which currently serve three- and four-year-olds. Raising the kindergarten age could mean adding a third year of school readiness programs, raising the minimum age for participation in these programs from three to four, or allowing five-year-olds to take a year off from education between school readiness and kindergarten. It would also require parents to find day care for their children for an additional year.

Connecticut children who started kindergarten at age six would graduate from high school at 19 and college at 23, making them a full year older than their peers in other states. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, keeping children out of kindergarten until age six has not resulted in improvement in their reading, writing, or math skills by third grade. Education analysts find that kindergarten has recently taken on an increased academic emphasis, almost making it into a modified first grade. Some experts express concern that this trend will eliminate the positive social and experiential lessons typically associated with the kindergarten classroom. Raising the minimum school age could effectively get rid of kindergarten entirely, resulting in six-year-olds entering directly into a first grade program.

KINDERGARTEN ENTRANCE AGE IN OTHER STATES

All states require children to turn five either before or during their kindergarten year, although some states allow local education agencies (LEA) to admit select younger children who have not met that deadline. Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington let LEAs determine the cutoff dates for their districts. Connecticut and Vermont have the latest deadlines, requiring children to turn five on or before January 1 of the kindergarten academic year.

TABLE 1: STATE KINDERGARTEN ENTRANCE AGES (AS OF 11/01)

State

Age 5 by

Alabama

September 1

Alaska

August 15

Arizona

September 1

Arkansas

September 15

California

December 2

Connecticut

January 1

Delaware

August 31

District of Columbia

December 31

Florida

September 1

Georgia

September 1

Hawaii

December 31

Idaho

September 1

Illinois

September 1

Indiana

July 1

Iowa

September 15

Kansas

August 31

Kentucky

October 1

Louisiana

September 30

Maine

October 15

Maryland

December 31

Michigan

December 1

Minnesota

September 1

Mississippi

September 1

Missouri

August 1

Montana

September 10

Nebraska

October 15

Nevada

September 30

New Mexico

September 1

North Carolina

October 16

North Dakota

September 1

Ohio

September 30

Oklahoma

September 1

Oregon

September 1

Rhode Island

December 31

South Carolina

September 1

South Dakota

September 1

Tennessee

September 30

Texas

September 1

Utah

September 2

Vermont

January 1

Virginia

September 30

West Virginia

September 1

Wisconsin

September 1

Wyoming

September 15

JG:eh