Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Legalizing the Loophole?

I read this morning on NPN's site that Mike Fortner and Mary Flowers have introduced a bill into the Illinois legislature to change the cut-off age/date for entry into first grade. This attempts to legalize the loophole that many parents now use (or try to use) to get around Illinois's kindergarten entry cut-off date. CPS does not honor the year, and will make young kids repeat the kindergarten year if they come into the system in 1st grade after attending a private school for kindergarten and they were born after the September 1st cut-off date for that academic year.

I think it's a dumb bill and I disagree with it.

When I was a kid, Illinois's cut off for kindergarten was December 1st. I know someone with that birthdate and her mother held her back so that she entered kindergarten a few months before she turned 6. They changed the law soon after that in Illinois. I don't know why the cut-off date was changed in the early 1980s, but I think it's a waste of time and resources to argue the point in the Illinois legislature. That said, given the academically rigorous program of many kindergartens in Illinois, I can see why educators want kids to be older and more mature than they were in the 1970s. That whole kids getting older, younger thing.

When I was in high school, my after-school job boss, Jean, had grown up in Chicago in the 1920s. She told me that Chicago schools used to have 2 entry dates/classes. One class started in February and another stated in September, so they started all the kids at a developmentally appropriate age. I think they evened out the academic years sometime in the upper elementary grades. I can't imagine such a thing flying now with the educational resources we have now, but it is an interesting concept.

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