According to the new book Getting Into NYC Kindergarten:
If your child was born between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011, and you would like them to go to Kindergarten in September of 2016, New York City must find a seat for them....
New York City age cut-offs are strict. Except when they are not. Parents of December babies sometimes want to hold their children back from entering Kindergarten when they are only four years and nine months old. In theory, this is not possible. In practice, there are, as with all things, loopholes. Medical exemptions are a possibility, especially if the child was born prematurely and is actually even younger than his or her calendar age. Another option that’s proven successful for some people is to not enroll the child in their local Kindergarten until May. Then they can appeal to the principal that the child is not ready to be promoted to 1st grade, and the principal can make the call to have them “repeat” the year. You could also enroll your child in September, then ask to have them repeat in June. Finally, you could enroll your child in 1st grade as mandated by their age and, within the initial few days, make the request to have them “sent back” to Kindergarten. (None of these are official procedures endorsed by the DOE. They are merely options that have anecdotally worked for some families.)
The problem with the above is that if your local school is oversubscribed, you might not be able to secure a spot for 1st grade because all the seats are filled by rising Kindergartners. Or even if you do get a 1st grade seat, there might not be a free space available in Kindergarten for your child to be moved down to. (Class size expands in 1st grade.)
In light of the difficulties, Lauren, a mom of 2, is pleading with the Department of Education to make changes, writing:
New York City is an amazing place to raise your children, but it is also challenging. The public school system captures a lot of what makes it hard to be a parent here. First of all, parents have to use everything at their disposal to find a good public school – and the city doesn’t make it easy.
Take the age cut-off date, for example. Parents of young children have been pleading with the Department of Education to take the bold step of moving up the age cut off now that universal pre-k is in place. Parents should be given the option to hold children back a grade if they feel their child isn’t ready for kindergarten because these young children can be in a more age-appropriate pre-k class.
Parents need to be able to make choices for their families. Most New York City private schools and most states require children applying to kindergarten to turn five before Sept. 1 but the New York City public school system's cutoff is Dec. 31. This forces many parents to send their four-year-olds to kindergarten before they are ready.
Many young kindergarteners aren’t able to sit still long enough to sing a nursery rhyme, much less complete exercises in the curriculum. Affluent families have the option to delay kindergarten by sending their children to private school, but families with lower incomes can't. This only adds to an already uneven playing field in our education system.
The youngest children in kindergarten are often poor black and Hispanic children whose parents cannot afford to pay for the alternative. Children with disabilities and culturally and linguistically diverse students of all backgrounds are also put at a disadvantage.
All four-year-olds deserve access to a good education, but they also deserve a more progressive, play-based environment, with realistic expectations. Rushing them into a classroom where they will be socially or academically disadvantaged is not in their best interest.
This inequity is exacerbated by the private-school practice of admitting summer babies, especially boys, into kindergarten at the age of six, not five. The general consensus among private school administrators is that many five-year-old boys are not socially ready for kindergarten.
Because of parent involvement and pressure, since 1975, most states have moved their admissions cut-off dates to earlier in the year, on or before Sept. 1.
New York City has moved in the opposite direction.
The department policy is more inflexible about allowing parents to hold back children either for social or academic reasons. The new rule is that the school superintendent must sign off on all exceptions to the cut-off rule. Principals of schools can no longer make the decision.
Parents should be able to choose for their children and that choice should be honored. The answer is simple: Move the kindergarten admissions cut-off to Sept. 1 or give parents the option to choose the grade best suited for their children.
What do you think? Should NYC's public school cut-off be moved back to September 1?