News

Should district have say when kids start school?

Parent objects to district's interpretation of new kindergarten rules

The father of a young girl is taking issue with the Mountain View Whisman School District over whether he can delay his daughter's entry into kindergarten for a year.

Previously under California law, parents were allowed to unilaterally hold their children back one full year before starting school, according to Craig Goldman, MVWSD superintendent. In practice, parents who chose to do so usually started their children in kindergarten at or shortly before the age of 6. Such a child would theoretically remain one year older than his or her classmates all the way through high school.

Now, Goldman said, the district is entitled to weigh in on whether it is appropriate for parents to hold a student back -- and that is exactly what the district plans to do.

The parent, who asked to remain anonymous because he doesn't want his other child (currently enrolled in the district) to be treated any differently, said he would have liked to see the district take a hands-off approach. Just because MVWSD officials are allowed to enter into the decision making process, doesn't mean they should, he said.

Goldman said that the district is going to take each request to hold a child back on a case-by-case basis.

Even after hearing Goldman's assurance that children who are not ready to start school will be permitted to stay back an extra year, the father was still not satisfied.

Parents know their children better than any school official could ever know them, he said. So why should the school be able to override a parent's decision?

One reason, for the district to have a say, according to Goldman, is that it would be unfair for parents to start holding their children back simply so that they had a competitive advantage -- in other words "parents making a strategic choice to give their children an advantage over other children." And a representative with the California Department of Education wondered whether children who were held back might feel out of place, especially if their physical developments are out of step with those of their peers.

Comments

Posted by Croc Dundee, a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I do not trust the schools to make this decision. My son was the youngest in first grade, and in October the teacher expressed concern that he could not keep up. Upon meeting with the teacher and the principal, the principal stated that he should stay in first grade for the rest of the year and then repeat first grade the next year. My perception was that the administration wanted the revenue tied to his attendance. We pulled him out of that school and had him spend the rest of the year in a private school that had a blended kindergarten/first grade class room. We were lucky enough to have that option.


Posted by BS, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm

The district shouldn't make this decision. They are worried about some students having cognitive advantages? Is the purpose of the schools to teach the kids or to make everyone equal in a competition against each other? Next will they not allow smart kids to enroll?


Posted by Mark, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 29, 2013 at 7:42 pm

As it states in the article, "parents know their children best". I held my October born son back one year and it was the best thing I could have done for him. The following comment is also stupid, "And a representative with the California Department of Education wondered whether children who were held back might feel out of place, especially if their physical developments are out of step with those of their peers." Even if all the kids are the same age, they all develope at different times. My daughter started to develope 2 yrs ago, others last year and some this year, and they are all basically about the same age and no one cares (there are only 5 girls in her class, small private school).


Posted by GR, a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 29, 2013 at 8:23 pm

"it would be unfair for parents to start holding their children back simply so that they had a cognitive advantage"

Huh? Is school supposed to be a competition? That would be just horrible if a kid were held back and actually got more out of school than otherwise!


Posted by Anna S., a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:02 am

State law says that all children 6 and up must attend school. If we did not have compulsory attendance laws, many children could end up without an education. We have made a decision as a country that the right of children to education trumps the right of parents to do whatever the heck they want.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:30 am

The reason the issue was put into the hands of the district is because of parental abuse; far too many holding their kids back. It became a national story and the action began hurting districts.
Blame the abusers if you do not like the rules. This was never an issue when I was a kid. I think there simply are far too many parents willing to do whatever to try and eek out any advantage they can dream of.
Well, it was messing things up so it had to stop. Good.
I do think there should be a review process for special needs kids.


Posted by Jill, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Our district no longer gets paid by attendance or per child. In fact, the less children in the district, the better, as the pot from property taxes is finite and not related to enrollment numbers.

Thus, very little of the decisions are made "for revenue". Shockingly, they are for the good of the student.

I am sure you made the best decision for your family in choosing to move to a private school, but that does not mean that the school erred in recommending your child repeat a grade.

All Goldman is saying is the district retains its power "to weigh in on whether it is appropriate". Why the fuss? They are the trained educators; you are the parents. Make the decision together.


Posted by Joan G Whiz, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Gee, I'm surpised Joan J Strong hasn't weighed in on this one. Joan claims that only charter schools engage in "creaming". Regardless of whether the father wants to put his daughter in kindergarten this year or delay a year, the district's influence on this smacks of public school creaming to me. Happens all over this area.


Posted by Psychologist, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Joan G Whiz, you are having an argument with someone who isn't here. Just sayin'


Posted by wendy, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Students begin academic learning in Finland at the age of 7. Finland has the best education system in the world and their students regularly score at the top of international tests. Finland is not the only western country which begins academics at 7.

Why are we pushing 4 and 5 year olds into academics? Most children are not ready to begin an academic program until they are 6 or 7 years old. They do not have the ability to sit still through an academic program. Add in that less recess is provided during the day and that day is longer. I suppose the kids who can't hack it sitting still can just go on SSRI or some other medication so they can have a laser focus and get through the day.

Kids learn vital critical thinking and problem solving skills when they are playing or engaged in a creative project.

I don't think 10 year olds belong on a campus with 13 and 14 year olds, which is how old they will be when they begin middle school.

Studies show that children perform better when they start school later. I don't understand why schools who are in the business of educating students would choose to put any students at unfair disadvantage and have these kids start school early.


Posted by Jenny, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm

It is utterly and completely ridiculous that people cannot hold their children back a year if they feel that's what's best for the child. Notably, other districts in the area are NOT doing this. Moreover, other school districts in other parts of the country have different rules. In the unified (county-wide) school district my sister lives in, near Washington DC, the cut-off date for entering kindergarten is in August. A family moving from her district to Mountain View could conceivably end up with a child who was ineligible to attend kindergarten the previous year, but forced to go to first grade (without attending kindergarten) by these rules.

One poster states that this was never an issue years ago. That's true, but there's a reason for it. People have started holding their children en masse back because today's kindergarten is closer to what first grade was a generation ago. I have a cousin who used to teach first grade; a number of years ago she started teaching kindergarten because it was, in effect, the same curriculum that she had been teaching in first grade. Similarly (and as Wendy suggests, above), many European schools also start their academic programs *after* kindergarten.

Many children are simply not ready to sit still, listen, speak up for themselves or tackle a full day of worksheets. Some kids are still napping.

This should be the parents' decision. Boo to the Mountain View School district.


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