In New York City, where I used to live, the cut-off to start kindergarten is to turn 5 in late December. I find it interesting to ponder whether my life would have been different if I grew up there; my birthday is December 5, and so I could have been a grade ahead of where I actually was in school. Here in Lower Merion, PA, where we recently moved, the cut-off is September 1. Thus my son, Sam (9/24) and soon-to-be-born baby daughter (around 10/5 or so) will always be among the oldest in their classes.
I really wish they'd be the youngest instead. It's become common for parents to "redshirt" their 5-year-olds, delaying kindergarten for another year, particularly for boys. Schools let parents get away with this, but for some reason, going the other direction (starting kindergarten early) is fraught with the same angst that grade-skipping in general evokes in some people. Sure, some kids aren't ready. But others are. If a kid can read and write, which many gifted 4-year-olds can, what purpose is served by keeping them in preschool another year?
So I was fascinated to see an op-ed in the New York Times this past week from Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt called "Delay Kindergarten At Your Child's Peril." The gist of the piece is that any advantage that children get by being delayed a year disappears rapidly, and that school, in general, is good for children. It helps their brains grow and develop. Some data has found that disadvantaged and advantaged children make similar gains during the school year, but disadvantaged children slide during the summer break, when they're not exposed to lessons. Enough summers can make a pretty big gap. It's not a huge stretch to believe the same would be true for starting kindergarten. The earlier disadvantaged children can get into full-time school, the better.
Gifted children likewise would benefit from more flexibility in when kids start kindergarten. While, again, I think the angst about grade-skipping is overblown, it can be harder to pull off to go from, say, 1st to 3rd grade in the same school. But when you start kindergarten early, it doesn't have to be a big deal.
I'm curious if anyone has successfully challenged a school district's cut-off date and been able to enroll a child in kindergarten early.