Early Entrance to Kindergarten
Updated: Jul 8
First let me say that this is my own personal position and that of many other gifted education professionals but not necessarily that of MAGE, all MAGE members, or its board members. You see, among other things, I am a gifted education professional with over 30 years of experience in the field, in 3 states, and 9 school districts. I get a lot of emails from parents about this issue. In the past few months I've had several parents contact me about early entrance to Kindergarten for their gifted children and the negativity they have encountered from their school, district, and/or school committee. I have written to these families but I thought it might be a good idea to share that information here too.
If when you first ask your school about early entrance to Kindergarten, and you get the response, that basically says, "No. We can't do that. It's not good for the children," then you may want to read on in my little epistle here.
I think it's important to know that according to over 20 years of well-grounded research, their response is not necessarily accurate. Therefore, it may be helpful to be equipped with some information for responses that push back a bit. Since according to the to the MA DESE (state ed dept.) website, different districts in MA have different birth date requirements. It may therefore be inferred that districts have some power over their Kindergarten entrance requirements. In the MA Association of School Committees states in its October 2016 file "JEB-ENTRANCE AGE-REFERENCE MANUAL," that, "The admission of children [to Kindergarten] whose birthdays fall after the first day of school will be solely at the school's discretion." Note, that says "school" not necessarily "district." So it does seem possible that districts could permit early entrance to Kindergarten.
Next, you may want to send the school people some of the research on early entrance to Kindergarten for gifted children
(see http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/kindergarten.aspx) That's not the only resource. There have been several studies done on this topic over more than 20 years with many, many children. (If you like digging around in the research, see https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C22&q=early+entrance+to+kindergarten+for+gifted&btnG= )
You might start by saying something like, "Dear ___________, I don't request this casually. I have done research and sought out expert advice from Dr. MaryGrace Stewart, a professional in the field of gifted education (me) who does advocacy for gifted children across the state of MA. She has explained to me about how early entrance to Kindergarten is well known to be an effective option for meeting the educational needs or young gifted children and is utilized as one strategy by many states. (If you've had testing done you may also want to point out what your Neuropsychologist said.). I'm sorry to hear that you do not seem be aware of the research, so I'm attaching some of it here."
You can add that there is national support for this idea. One of the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015) recommendations for gifted children is early entrance to Kindergarten and The National Association for Gifted Children also supports early entrance to Kindergarten for gifted children. (See http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/gifted-education-practices/acceleration.) At the state level there is MA General Law 603 CMR 8.02 which states that "Each school committee may establish its own minimum permissible age for school attendance, provided that such age is not older than the mandatory minimum age established by 603CMR 8.00.”
(See http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/Policy/By_State/Show_Policy.aspx?StateID=26) and it is important to note that MA law does not prohibit grade acceleration.
You might mention that you have noticed that some districts in MA have different entrance dates. For example, Brockton allows up to December, Chicopee up to October, and 13 charter schools allow Kindergarten entrance if the child is 4, yes that's a four, by the end of August or the beginning of September. Also, some districts indicate that they allow early entrance to Kindergarten on a case by case basis. http://www.doe.mass.edu/kindergarten/entry.aspx
You might then ask, "Why is it o.k. in some districts and not in ours?"
Please be clear, I am not saying that all children or even all gifted children, should attend Kindergarten early. The point is that it can and should be considered based on what the individual child is ready for and needs.
Unfortunately for gifted children in MA, it too often seems that the MA general education professionals don't know gifted education very well and what they think they know is too often inaccurate. (See the Myths about Gifted Students from the National Association for Gifted Children at http://www.nagc.org/myths-about-gifted-students.) However, you can't really blame them because gifted education is a special area and they most likely haven't been trained in it. It can be a little like asking a general practitioner to do surgery. Nevertheless, when you consider the work of Thurstone, Gagne, Guilford, Gardner and Renzulli, giftedness can occur in many different domains. Therefore, the gifted population in MA is over 150,000 children so I feel like it's time that educators should be given the opportunity to find out more about gifted children and their educational needs.
Of course how you handle this and all situations with your child is all up to you, but I thought you might want some backing so you can start letting them know that you're not a pushover and neither am I!
MaryGrace Stewart, Ed.D.