Kindergarten and the Summer Birthday
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
For children with fall, winter, and spring birthdays, the starting timeline for kindergarten is clear; they will begin kindergarten the fall that they are five years old. For children with summer birthdays, the decision is more complicated.
Public School Eligibility
SFUSD has a September 1st cutoff date, meaning the child must turn five on or before September 1st the year they start kindergarten. This cutoff date flows through to first grade but not upper grades. SFUFD offers transitional kindergarten to children who turn five between September 2nd and December 2nd of the year they start TK. Like kindergarten, public TK is free for six hours a day, with a fee for aftercare where it’s available.
Children who turn five after September 1st are not eligible for kindergarten in California; while the state gives districts the option to accelerate TK children, SFUSD will not grade skip kids in TK. Just as parents wanting early-start kindergarten do not find SFUSD receptive, nor is the district open to placing kindergarten-eligble kids in TK, nor kids too young to attend TK in the program. However, the district currently allows six-year olds who have not attended kindergarten before to register for their kindergarten.
If eligible, a parent might wonder whether their child should start at barely five or wait until six. The biggest factor should be the child’s maturity. In general, a child will need to sit still longer in kindergarten than most preschool programs, so children who need to move frequently may be happier waiting. Many educators describe public school kindergarten under the Common Core standards as similar to first grade many years ago. Expectations focus on reading by the end of kindergarten, but beyond the reading, parents are wise to think of the future, come middle and high school, which have higher social and executive function expectations.
Private School Eligibility
Independent schools (private schools with their own board of directors, generally nonprofits) set their own cutoff dates, which vary from July 31 to December 31, except for Waldorf programs, which have earlier cutoffs because kindergarten is a two-year program. Similarly, private TK can set their own dates, and most offer a much broader range of birthdays than public schools. Most Catholic schools run by the diocese expect a child to turn five by September 1st.
Even if your child meets eligibility dates set by the independent school, many schools send “too young” letters to children within a month or more of the cutoff date. Parents seeking kindergarten for summer birthdays will often improve their admissions success by waiting a year, or by looking at schools that have a reputation for accepting younger kids.
Why is the cutoff so young?
When a private school fills its class, admissions looks for balance so that the kindergarten class works in harmony. Just as they look for an even number of children by gender and a spread of extroverts and introverts, they look at birthdays when they create a class. If most children are much older than yours, they worry about emotional maturity. This maturity can show up with a shorter attention span in kindergarten, or it can arise later on with deficits in middle school executive function, or in socializing once kids start to reach puberty. Because it is hard to predict the future, many schools will suggest that kids with birthdays close to the cutoff wait a year to start kindergarten.
Will my child be bored if they wait a year for kindergarten
Parents often ask, my child is bright, already reading or doing simple math, and wonder whether schools can meet their academic needs if they wait a year. My answer, typically it depends. Public schools have more flexibility to differentiate literacy than math, but there are limits on both. If you are confident that your child is ready, and you prefer public school, one might argue that these limitations encourage you to register your child at five. If you worry about your child’s maturity, and prefer to wait, seeking out a private school that offers single subject acceleration could allow your child time to age into more serious pursuits without limiting academic progress. Most preschool directors can assess your child or kindergarten readiness. If you believe your child is gifted, additional considerations are discussed in this article. I counsel my clients with summer birthday kids based on the preschool’s input, parental preference, and our further discussions.
What about transfer students for grades 1 to 12?
Private schools will vary on how long they maintain a precise cutoff. In general, schools with the earliest cutoffs are most concerned with placing middle school kids in a grade where they are much younger than their peers. Clients looking to transfer to a school with a cutoff for kindergarten that is much younger than their child was, have two options: discuss the situation with the school, or apply to repeat a grade. In general, schools appreciate deference to their understanding of the class makeup at their program, and will appreciate your working with them to find the ideal placement.
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Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco in an environment of non-judgment. Her own children have attended both public and private schools, and she believes that each has unique benefits. Email to learn more about her services, or see her website to learn about her season packages.