Junior kindergarten better fits children to academics
Public schools in Hawaii have a new classification for the youngest students.
CHILDREN enrolling in Hawaii's public school kindergarten are being evaluated as to their readiness for the classroom
. The new program is expected to give them a better chance at academic success. It is a good beginning, particularly for children who have not gained learning skills through preschool or who are younger and perhaps less prepared.
As the Star-Bulletin's Dan Martin reports, a 2004 law directs schools to assess, then place children in junior kindergarten or kindergarten, based on ability.
The program grew out of a proposal that would have limited kindergarten enrollment to children who had reached age 5 before Aug. 1 on the belief that later-born children were not as prepared for school. However, that ran into opposition from some parents and educators who argued that delaying school was not the answer.
Junior kindergarten is a smarter strategy. It gets younger children into schools while providing the additional assistance some might need. Teachers can more closely match lessons and methods among peers without holding back older pupils.
All children entering kindergarten are being evaluated, and though the younger ones are targeted for junior kindergarten, age is not necessarily the deciding factor. Many schools will place students according to skills.
Schools are being given the flexibility to apply the program. Some will keep juniors in one class and regular kindergartners in another. Some will mix the two groups except for studies in core subjects like math and reading. Others might place older children not ready for kindergarten in junior classes.
Because of the variations from school to school, administrators and teachers need to make clear to parents what they can expect and how their children will fit in to the program. Though most schools aim to promote all kindergartners to first grade, some junior students could need another year of kindergarten before advancing.
The program's advantage is that it pushes educators to look for appropriate ways to get through to younger children and to focus on the child rather than his or her age. An additional bonus: Schools that piloted the program saw higher test scores and fewer children referred to special education.
Since the program is in its initial phases, adjustments might still be necessary. Whether it will be standardized remains to be seen, but schools should be free to adopt what works for them.
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