Why did we set the cutoff date to July 1?

by Whitney Tjerandsen

After much consideration, many discussions with staff and parents, and examination of our previous student data, we made our Kindergarten entry cutoff date July 1. Children must be age five by July 1 to apply for the Kindergarten in the fall. Students entering in later grades must meet a corresponding cutoff date.

We have had the privilege of teaching children at Tilden for 30 years, and have noticed that a very high percentage of students with late summer birthdays struggle with school readiness—socially, emotionally, and/or academically. Even academically gifted students who are young pay a stiff penalty in other areas as their school years progress. (We recently verified our concerns by analyzing data we’ve collected over the last ten years.)

As you know, we are a small, independent school with very carefully dedicated resources and a great heart. We do our very best to provide a high level of support and personal attention at a moderate fee. Our goal is to help all students develop into independent learners. Even with the support we give, we found that the younger students in the class were often not able to join in the educational journey to access their capabilities. They often struggled with social skills, and were unable to confidently manage their in-school academic work and homework, found long-term or extended projects unnecessarily daunting, had difficulty managing their time at a grade-appropriate level, or felt emotionally overwhelmed. The discomfort and stress (and tears) these students experienced was unnecessary, and affected them, their classmates, and the learning environment as a whole. The same students flourished when they were given the extra months to mature.

We decided it was important to establish a cutoff date that would help us best fulfill our mission of providing a high-quality learning environment for all students, and to build an educational foundation for children that sets each child up for long-term success.

To honor the integrity of this age-at-entrance policy, and the goals of our school and programs, we will not be able to make exceptions for children with birthdates just shy of the cutoff. In fact, we hope that you will consider those children with June birthdays as possibly better off after another year before starting Kindergarten. Being very capable does not provide the confidence and maturity of children who are a year older.

When parents have a capable child, they are often eager to get that child on the academic path. Unfortunately for the younger kids, no matter how capable they are, being young just makes them feel like they aren’t as smart as the others, when their classmates are ready for the concentration, follow through, and love of work that they exhibit because they are older.

The reason many parents give for having them start early is that they worry their kids would be bored if they didn’t start Kindergarten. On the other contrary, a year to gain maturity, run to your heart’s content, get to be the older one in class of a good pre-school is not boring … it is age-appropriate, and these children come in ready for Kindergarten the following fall, can separate from their parents with eagerness for the academic day, are ready to do things that are new, and can learn about science, Spanish, art, reading, and math, with the attention that comes with maturity.

From a parent’s perspective, I know that there is life beyond Kindergarten. I know that going to junior high as one of the youngest kids in the class does not work as well as being one of the older kids does. Going into high school when you are one of the youngest and smallest work doesn’t work very well, either. Kids begin driving at 16; younger children can’t drive until the summer after their peers begin. (I trusted my own kids’ driving, but the idea of my kids driving with other 16 year olds was truly frightening.) And then there is going to college as one of the youngest…the major changes that your child will face are all made from a more confident perch if they are a bit older.