[note] Colleen is a local parent with young children and today shares her thoughts on Young Five’s. All opinions are her own.[/note]
[pullquote_left]by Colleen Fuelling [/pullquote_left]
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The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Young 5’s is a state-endorsed early kindergarten program for children who turn five between September 1 and November 1.

These children will not be five years old when school starts in the fall and may not be ready for the rigor of full day kindergarten for cognitive, mental or social reasons.

I am one of the lucky parents who can take advantage of the final year of the Young 5’s Program here in West Michigan. When my husband and I went for kindergarten round up, we learned that not only would my son’s class (the graduating class of 2028–wow do I feel old!) be the last class to have the Young 5’s Program, but that new cutoff requirements made it even more difficult to enroll children in the Young 5’s program this year.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that moved up the cutoff birth-date for enrolling your child in kindergarten. Moving forward, your child will have to turn five by September 1 (and not December 1, as it was in the past) in order to enroll.

Moving the cutoff date to September 1 effectively eliminate 4-year-olds (who would turn 5 by December 1) from enrolling in kindergarten.

Not only will this transition allow more academic focus on early education, as the students in kindergarten will be older, but also brings Michigan’s cutoff date in line with a majority of other states in our country.

Due to budget and funding, many school districts opted to phase in the new age enrollment standards.

Now children enrolling in Kindergarten must be five years of age by

  • November 1 for the 2013-2014 school year
  • October 1 for the 2014-2015 school year
  • September 1 for the 2015-2016 school year

Depending on your school district, this may very well be the last year the Young 5’s program is offered at your local public elementary. (Perhaps your district has already phased out Young 5’s.)

One reason the Kindergarten cutoff date was changed in Michigan is that kindergarten is now all day, everyday and has a lot more emphasis on academics than in the past. Children are expected to read going into first grade, and the classroom is much more structured.

The boost in standards not only requires a greater knowledge base, but greater maturity as well. Requiring a child to be no younger than five when entering full-day school is a way to help all children be able to compete in the classroom.

So is the new cutoff date and the end of Young 5’s a good thing or a bad thing?

The jury is still out on that one. On the plus side, four-year-olds aren’t being thrust into kindergarten before they’re ready. The downside is that some five-year-olds may still not be ready for kindergarten, but because Young 5’s is gone, they will be pushed into all day school unless their parents want to pay for another year of preschool.

According to Evart Republican Sen. Darwin Booher, research shows that delaying kindergarten, even by as few as three months, leads to significantly improved test scores.

As a parent with a child who will turn five in October, I personally feel that Young 5’s is a great transitional program into the full day kindergarten. My son is already in a pre-kindergarten program in Cascade Township, so I feel that another year of pre-K would be redundant.

Although the new cutoff date will make for older kindergarteners, and hopefully increased readiness, I say bummer that we are losing this great program!

What about you? Will your child be affected by the changing Kindergarten enrollment criteria?