There's good news for parents who don't want to send their kids to kindergarten before their 5th birthday. The Department of Education is proposing a change in enrollment allowing for more flexibility in the placement of five and six year-olds. In the past, the DOE has been rigid in its rule that a child's birth year determine his grade placement.
The change to the city's enrollment regulation gives district superintendents the final say in deciding whether a child who turns six during the calendar year must enter 1st grade or whether kindergarten - or a different grade - is more appropriate. Parents will have to provide medical, or other documentation, making the case for placement in a different grade.
"Parents and nursery schools will be relieved to see in writing that, on a child by child basis, parents will be able to petition the principal, who in consultation with the district superintendent, may determine that a child can attend kindergarten instead of first grade," said Robin Aronow, a Manhattan schools consultant of SchoolSearchNYC. "I'm working with a family whose son was born on Dec. 31 and they really don't want to send him to kindergarten," she said.
The proposed change, which will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy in October, reads:
"In cases where a student is required to attend 1st grade based upon his or her age,
but the principal deems that another grade placement would be more instructionally
appropriate, the principal will consult with the Superintendent concerning placement
and will provide medical or other evaluative documentation, which has been submitted
by the parent or guardian, justifying a different placement. The Superintendent will
make the final decision concerning the appropriate grade level for the student."
The change in policy is a "step in the right direction," said Robert Mikos, assistant principal at PS 8, a popular school in Brooklyn Heights. Last year, he said, 12-15 incoming PS 8 families requested that their children be placed in kindergarten, when age wise they were supposed to be in 1st grade. But the DOE enforced the age requirements, making schools abide by the regulation.
"I've always thought that the DOE's Dec. 31 cutoff was arcane," said Mikos. "In most states it's Sept. 1. The age when a child is developmentally ready is not according to the birthdate. It [placement] should be up to the principal's discretion, in conversation with the parent and the child's former teacher."
There are still questions, Aronow said. For example, what kind of documentation will parents need to provide? How will this work with the new online kindergarten application? And will a child with a later birthday be able to "bump" one with one who was born in the "right" year?