Lebanon City Schools is the fourth Warren County school district to move up the birth date requirement for students starting their educational careers.
Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, Lebanon kindergartners must be 5 by Aug. 1 instead of Sept. 30. District officials said this move will allow for additional maturation and preschool learning.
“There have been changes in the academic expectations for our youngest learners. These increased expectations have translated into changes in the kindergarten classroom — more time is devoted to academic pursuit,” said Mark Graler, director of Curriculum and Instruction for Lebanon City Schools. “We know many of the students who struggle the most in school are also the youngest in their grade levels, not just during the kindergarten year.”
Little Miami, Franklin and Carlisle were the first districts to make the birth date change — effective this fall. Kindergartners in these three districts for the first time must be 5 by Aug. 1, 2014, to enroll.
Ohio Revised Code establishes the later date for entrance into the state’s schools but also allows districts to choose the earlier August date as the cutoff instead.
Graler examined each kindergarten class since the 2009-10 school year to determine how many students would have been impacted by the earlier birth date requirement. The percentage of students who would have waited an additional year to start school varied from 8.1 percent this school year to 12.4 percent two years ago. The average number of students with birth dates between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30 was 39.
“As academic expectations have changed over the years, beginning with Ohio’s Academic Content Standards and the most recent updating using the Common Core State Standards and Revised State Standards, we’ve seen more and more asked of our kindergarten students. That’s not to say that kindergarten students can’t meet the expectations — it’s just really difficult when you’re a 4-year-old starting kindergarten,” he said.
Carlisle Local School District Superintendent Larry Hook said the high-stakes nature of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires students who cannot read to be held back, is one driving force behind the earlier birth date.
“With the implementation of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a lot of school districts are moving to the earlier date of Aug. 1 in order to better prepare our young students,” he said. “We find that the struggling readers typically tend to be our younger students.”
Little Miami Local Schools was the first county district to change their board policy. Elementary administrators recommended the adjustment, saying under the previous policy, students who were 4, 5 and even 6 years old could be in a classroom together.
“This policy will give students a more level playing field. Some of those students who were born in late September and who would enroll were, at times, almost a full year younger than some of their classmates,” said Debbi Contner, principal at Hamilton-Maineville Primary School, which serves students in grades K-2.”When I started teaching, kindergarten was much more about coming to school, sharing, just learning to be able to leave home. Now, with the number of concepts a student is expected to learn and master, it really does set the tone for the rest of a student’s school career.”
According to the most recent data from the Ohio Department of Education from the 2010-11 school year, about half of the state’s public schools have adopted the earlier birth date. Waynesville, Springboro, Kings and Mason schools all require students to be 5 by Sept. 30.
Mason City Schools Public Information Officer Tracey Carson said the district has no plans to bump up the entrance date.
“Our kindergarten students are very successful and ready for school,” she said. “Families make the decisions to send their children to kindergarten when they feel they are ready, and we believe this collaboration with our families is one of the primary reasons students come to school ready to learn.”