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New Law Would Make Illinois Children Have to Attend School by Age 5

 Posted on September 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

Most children start kindergarten at age 5, though some areas have kindergarten programs for children who are only four years old. While most parents like the idea of getting their children into school as soon as possible, there are instances of parents holding their kids back from kindergarten until age six.

Why would any parent want to do this?

By holding a child out of kindergarten until age six, some parents hope their kids will have an academic or athletic advantage over their younger classmates. In other cases, parents may want to give a child who is lagging a bit behind a chance to “catch up” developmentally. Holding the child back would effectively make them a year older than most of their classmates throughout their entire school career. Coined after the football term, this has been called academic redshirting.

Now, legislators in Illinois are considering a bill that would require children to start kindergarten by age five instead of six.  The proposed bill would require children who are five on or before May 31 to attend kindergarten. However, parents of five-year-olds with birthdays during the summer would have the choice of whether to send their child to kindergarten or wait an additional year.

Opinions in Favor of Proposed Bill

Supporters of this bill say that this would allow disadvantaged children to have access to early education.

“I think that we can all understand that the first years of life are critical for social, emotional and cognitive development,” says state Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, the bill’s sponsor in the House. Buckner says that this bill, which has already passed the state Senate, aims to close the achievement gap for children. If the bill passes both houses of the state legislature, it would take effect in the 2020-2021 school year. It applies to both public and private schools in Illinois.

Opponents of the bill say that academic redshirting allows kids who are developing at slower rates a chance to catch up. Stanford University professor Thomas Dee says he is concerned about the bill. “For some kids, you might see an improvement, if they’re not in a developmentally right setting, but for others, it could be harmful.”

A study co-authored by Dee in 2015 showed that children who started kindergarten later “showed lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity – and that they continued to show benefits at age 11.”

Rep. Buckner says that he welcomes conversation with parents who think this bill diminishes their ability to make educational choices for their kids.

This bill is meant more to help disadvantaged youth. Those who live in lower socioeconomic areas in Illinois or those who are not in a developmentally stable area would gain the resources available to attend school. Even Professor Dee says that these students may see an improvement. While there is a program in place in Illinois that requires schools to have policies in place to help advance academically gifted children, it has not been fully implemented across the state. This program is called the Accelerated Placement Act. Even when it does become fully implemented, it would still require parents knowing about it and ensuring their children are evaluated.

The bill in the Illinois legislature right now may be controversial for many, but Rep Buckner says it could positively affect a child’s future for their entire lives.

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