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New DOE Regulations Clarify That Students Must Attend Kindergarten The Year They Turn Five

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TWC News: New DOE Regulations Clarify That Students Must Attend Kindergarten The Year They Turn Five
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Across the country, schools are requiring students be older when they start kindergarten, except in New York. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

When Beckett was four, turning five in late October, his parents worried he wasn't ready for kindergarten.

"The principal was really accommodating and worked with the head of our preschool on what's appropriate for our son, and we ultimately chose to send him a year later, and it's worked out really well," said Lindsey Manley, Beckett's mother.

However, starting this year, neither parents nor educators will be allowed to make that decision. New Department of Education regulations clarify that students are required to attend kindergarten the year they turn five, even if that doesn't happen until December 31.

It's also the first year kindergarten is mandatory, and while parents are allowed to opt out, the DOE is clear: if you opt out of kindergarten, you have to enroll your child in first grade the following year.

When it comes to the kindergarten age, New York is an outlier. The state requires districts set the cutoff between December 1 and December 31. Connecticut is the only other state in the country that uses such a late date, but there, it's an option, not a mandate.

As kindergarten has become more academic, kindergarteners have become older. Twenty-four states require they turn five the summer before enrolling, and it's September 1 in large urban school districts like Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angles and Boston. Even within New York State, most districts set the date as early as allowed, a month earlier than New York City.

The DOE said it thinks that December 31 is "the best date," saying it allows more students to attend school earlier. Experts say there can be benefits to getting kids in school sooner, particularly with low-income families.

"The mandate for kids to go to school when they're five is a lot about encouraging parents to focus on education for young kids," said Kirsten Cullen Sharma of NYU Langone Medical Center.

Sharma said that the most important thing is not the date itself, but whether teachers are able to work with a range of maturity levels.

"How does the principal and the administrator and the teacher of the school work together to make sure that learning is differentiated so that it targets and is appropriate for all the kids coming in?" she said.

Especially in New York City, where kids are required to come earlier than almost anywhere else.

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