It is time for Alaska to consider a June 1 kindergarten birthdate rule. Most Alaskan students are not showing up for kindergarten fully ready for school. That is especially true for the very youngest members of our kindergarten cohorts. According to the Department of Education & Early Development’s Alaska Developmental Profile (ADP), only 19.11% of Alaska’s students entering kindergarten are fully kindergarten-ready in that they can consistently meet all 13 goals of the ADP assessment, and only 32.55% could consistently meet at least 11 of the 13 ADP goals.[i]
Setting the school start date to a June 1 birthdate cut-off will allow for an extra year of development to the youngest cohort of students, about one quarter of them. Those are the students who cannot now demonstrate that they are kindergarten-ready.
For students born in the summer between June 1 and the traditional September 1 birthdate cut-off, this rule would not prohibit them from starting kindergarten – as long as they can demonstrate that they are developmentally ready to start kindergarten at a younger age.
Parents have recognized this effect, and for years there has been a growing trend of “academic redshirting”: “purposefully delay[ing] a child’s entrance into kindergarten” to enable the child to mature and become more developmentally ready for school.[ii]
Additionally, a June 1 birthdate cut-off would ensure virtually all students will be 18 years old at high school graduation, since graduations are traditionally around the end of May. At the same time, it will ensure we don’t have any 20-year-olds in high school — even if they are retained one year.
Under Alaska’s current start date policy (with a September 1 birthdate cut off), about 1/4 of students are age 17 at high school graduation. This policy works fine for children who are developmentally ready. But giving those youngest 1/4 of “not ready” students the advantage of an extra year of development prior to starting first grade has clear scientifically-evidenced value.
Following are resources documenting the positive effects of changing the school starting age.
- School Starting Age and Cognitive Development: https://www.nber.org/papers/w23660
- Oldest Kids In Class Do Better, Even Through College: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/18/544483397/oldest-kids-in-class-do-better-even-through-college
- Attention Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder and Month of School Enrollment: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1806828
- When should kids start kindergarten?: https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/redshirting-kindergarten/
- Starting School At An Older Age Might Be Better For Kids, Study Suggests, But The Advantage Is Only For Some: https://www.romper.com/p/starting-school-at-older-age-might-be-better-for-kids-study-suggests-but-the-advantage-is-only-for-some-17022915
- Is your child ready for kindergarten?: https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-your-child-ready-for-kindergarten/
- The Correct Age for Starting Kindergarten, According to Research: https://www.google.com/amp/s/redtri.com/the-correct-age-for-starting-kindergarten-according-to-research/amp/
- School Readiness: What is the right age for your child?: https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/at-what-age-is-your-child-ready-to-start-school/