Reservations about kindergarten law

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f course, we support efforts by the Department of Education to do its very best for our children. No one would argue with improving opportunities for education at all levels. That said, we have some reservations about the state enacting Senate Bill 2768 that makes kindergarten mandatory for children who will be at least 5 years of age on or before July 31 of the school year, unless otherwise exempt.

“Mandatory kindergarten builds on this administration’s early childhood education initiative by providing continuity in a child’s learning experience,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. “This legislation assists in implementation of Common Core State Standards designed for kindergarten to grade 12, and places our students on the path to success in today’s global marketplace.”

“This bill aligns with the Department of Education goals and supports our young children so they may be successful learners,” stated Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

That sounds fine, but we believe children can be successful learners if they start kindergarten at 6 years old, too. If there are any studies out there that shown definitively that a child starting kindergarten at age 5 will score higher on tests, have a higher graduation rate or go on to college, we’d like to see them.

It also seems parents, not government, should know best whether their children are ready for kindergarten at age 5 or age 6. Some kids are, some aren’t. Some parents may be delighted their child must start kindergarten at age 5. 

Others, not so much. We won’t speak for teachers, but we imagine they find that year’s difference is a big one when it comes to a child’s ability to follow directions and learn. 

What we don’t want to see is kindergarten become more of a daycare than school by lowering the mandatory age. 

This move will also affect homeschoolers. The Home School Legal Defense Association says it is opposed to lowering the compulsory attendance age. Here are a few of the reasons why:

• Only eight other states, nine with the addition of Hawaii, have their compulsory attendance age that low. Twenty-three have their compulsory attendance age at 6. Sixteen states have it at 7 and two states wait until 8.

• According to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress report, test scores of children from states that have low compulsory school attendance ages (5–6) did not score any higher than children from the other states, and in some subjects their average was actually lower.

• Many education experts have concluded that beginning a child’s formal education too early may actually result in burnout and poor scholastic performance later.

• Lowering the compulsory attendance age erodes the authority of parents who are in the best position to determine when their child’s formal education should begin.

• Forcing children into school early delivers short-term benefits at best.

We applaud the DOE for its efforts to improve education in Hawaii. But making kindergarten mandatory for children who will be at least 5 years of age on or before July 31 of the school year is a questionable step toward that goal.

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