Missed the School Age Cut-off? Here is What You Can Do

by Dalia Tole

Most nursery and elementary schools use age cut-off dates to determine if a child is ready for school. If a child’s birthday falls after the cutoff date, he or she must wait until the next school year. In Hoboken, various  schools have different cut-off dates.

School Cut Off Date
Hoboken Public Preschool (PK3-PK4) September 30th
Hoboken Public School (K-12) September 30th
All Saints Episcopal Day School September 1st
Hoboken Catholic Academy November 30th
Kaplan Cooperative Preschool October 1st
The Nest Early Learning Center (Mustard Seed) September 1st
Park Prep Academy 2.5 year birthday to start
Stevens Cooperative School September 1st
Waterfront Montessori September 1st for Primary**

Why does missing the cut-off date agonize some parents? First, many parents worry that as other children head off to school, their child may feel left behind and have to make new, younger friends. Second, when they finally start school, they might not find the curriculum challenging or interesting. Third, parents may have to arrange for private childcare instead of public school for an additional year. Finally, a late start to schooling could translate to later graduation, and result in one year’s loss of earnings for their child.

If your child misses the cut-off, do not be disheartened. Studies, including those by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (U.S. Department of Education) and Institute of Fiscal Studies (U.K.), have concluded that being one of the older children in the class can actually be an advantage. Mathematically, a child who just turned three is 33% younger than a child who is a day short of her fourth birthday. That means if a child missed the cut-off and is entering pre-K3 close to his fourth birthday, he may be physically bigger and stronger. He may also be more adept at socializing, managing his emotions, and focusing than younger classmates. As a result, an older child may have more confidence and do better at school.

In fact,one in ten kindergarteners were at or near the age of six in 2000, and this proportion has been rising. Studies, including one by National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), suggest that middle to higher income parents of boys are the ones most likely to delay their children’s kindergarten entry. Does it make sense then to purposely delay entry into school even if your child does not miss the cut-off? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “academic red-shirting” is not necessarily a winning strategy. Although there is evidence that being among the youngest in a class may be an initial disadvantage, the age difference (on a percentage basis) drops to 20% for kindergarten and 10% for children entering fifth grade, and the average aptitude difference likewise reduces. On the other hand, there is evidence that children who are old for their grade are at greater risk of behavior problems when they reach adoles­cence.

When you are deciding whether your child should start school, consider your child’s physical, social and psychological aptitudes. If you believe your child is ready to go to school, there are several alternatives.

Schools with Later Deadlines: Amongst the private schools, Kaplan Cooperative School and Hoboken Catholic Academy have cutoff dates that are later than that of the public preschool. The Hoboken Public School (K-12) system also has a later cut-off (November 30th) than its Early Childhood program.

Montessori Schools: Many Montessori schools have toddler programs for children who are too young for nursery class. Since the Montessori philosophy allows for mixed age classes, children can attend the toddler program initially and then transition to the nursery level.

Daycares: Most daycares accept students on a rolling or monthly basis. As suggested by names such as Primetime Learning and Beyond Basic Learning, several local daycares incorporate a curriculum that is likely not markedly different from an accredited preschool curriculum.

Homeschooling: Homeschooling young children, especially in a small group, could bring the benefits of social interaction and structured learning in an environment that is familiar to the children. Currently, a group of Hoboken parents are putting a homeschooling group together for children aged two to three years. Two homeschooling groups also operate out of Weehawken and Jersey City.

Drop-off and Enrichment Programs: Hoboken has several drop off programs specifically designed for preschool readiness. These include Romparoo, KidvilleMIMI Kids Yoga and Hudson Dance and Movement. Most programs run 1.5-2.5 hours for 8-16 weeks, and they are available for one or more days a week. Parents can supplement drop-off programs with library story-time, sports, and art and craft classes.

In conclusion, do not agonize over your child missing the school age cut-off. Allow her to enjoy childhood and focus on programs to keep her stimulated and challenged. Finally, remind yourself that age cut-offs are likely less important in grade school. At that time, if your child demonstrates he or she is ready for the next grade, the school may be able to provide an alternative such as acceleration (skipping a grade) or placement in an advanced or gifted and talented class.

For more information on local preschools, daycares and drop-off programs, visit hobokenfamily.com.

This article was published in HFA’s September 2010 newsletter.  NOTE: The Public kindergarten cutoff was changed to September 30. Please refer to http://www.hoboken.k12.nj.us/index.php?q=node/689 for more info.