Make December 31st birthday cutoff for school
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In the United States, nearly 70% of children are academically “redshirted” because of the month they were born; These are typically the children whose birthday falls after September 1st however some states the birthday cutoff is as early as July 31st. Redshirted children have been deemed, by the school system, to be less mature than their peers who were born just a few months sooner. A study conducted in an article on Verywellfamily.com says, “often what is perceived as immaturity is actually an undiagnosed learning disability” and the Learning Disabilities Association of America agreed and added “the sooner a learning disability is detected, the better the child’s chances for reaching his/her full potential.”
How is it possible to judge a person’s maturity level based solely on the month they were born? Which statement is more accurate “children born in October is less mature than children born in March” or “children born in 2014 are less mature than those born in 2013?” While you think about that, also think about the studies conducted by The National Association of Early Childhood Specialists and the National Association for the Education of Young Children that say children are better off starting school based on their relative age (the child’s age in comparison to his/her classmates) rather than their absolute age (how many days the child has been alive).
Many of the studies conducted do not support redshirting with oppositions such as redshirted children are more likely to drop out of high school, have social issues, and utilize government assistance including welfare. In retrospect, not only are these children being held back academically but also socially and economically because their birthday is a little late.
In an effort to conform with the September 1st cutoff date, many parents explore alternatives such as extended daycare, head start, home-schooling, as well as private and charter schools. These alternatives, often, come with either a waitlist, a luxurious price tag or both, putting them out of reach for many. Daycare and private schools can become a financial burden while head start programs typically have waitlists. Homeschooling isn’t free and it isn’t always a simple transition into public schools from homeschool. This leaves Charter Schools, a free and public education option with limited availability; Children are selected through a lottery based process and those not selected end up waitlisted. This means, with all the alternatives there are to choose from, our children can still be left behind due to financial struggles (or even financial advantages, for many head start programs).
With the alternatives out of reach for many families, what do we do with our children who have later birth months? How do we tell our children that the school system decided that they are not mature enough to go to school, although the school system has never met them? Should we tell them they are victims of prejudice? How do we tear our children away from their peers and drop them into a class of children (sometimes) more than 15 months younger? What are we actually accomplishing with a September 1st cutoff date? Why are we failing our children before they ever have a chance?
Changing the cutoff date to December 31st across the United States means that there would be one standardized enrollment birthday cutoff date and all children across the nation have the opportunity to enter school based on their relative age rather than the absolute age. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Southern California have proven this to be beneficial. In a country that puts a lot of focus on standardization within our school system, this could be a step that increases our standardized test scores and unity as a nation which would increase the overall quality of life.
While there are valid concerns ranging from the curriculum being too challenging to children not being ready socially and/or emotionally, these can and should be addressed on a case by case basis!
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