06/22/07 — Louis Pate's kindergarten age limit bill goes to governor

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Louis Pate's kindergarten age limit bill goes to governor

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 22, 2007 1:45 PM

Chalk one up for state Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, whose bill to change the age cutoff date for kindergarten students passed the Senate Thursday.

Students currently must be 5 years old by Oct. 16.

The bill, which will go into effect at the start of the 2009-2010 school year, will change that cutoff date to Aug. 31 -- a day before the national average of Sept. 1. The change is expected to keep more than 15,000 children from starting school that first year.

It's legislation that Pate, a primary sponsor, has been pushing for since the beginning of the session. The bill passed the House in late March.

"I think it'll make a big difference in the lives of children," Pate said.

Right now, he continued, "we have children entering kindergarten who have not yet reached their fifth birthday, and we have some children entering who are as much as 6 years old, and at that age there's quite a bit of difference in children."

Studies on whether younger children perform worse then their peers in the same grades, however, have generated mixed results, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

Several studies through the years have found that younger children performed lower than older children in the same grade on standardized tests during elementary school years. But others, including a 2006 report by Texas and California researchers, appeared to show that delaying kindergarten created no long-term advantages for students.

Still, Brodgen Primary School Principal Wendy Hooks has supported the change since debate began in the House.

"It would put everybody on the same playing field," she said. "I do feel like some of our 4-year-olds are just not ready for the standards we have to teach in kindergarten.

"If you back it up to the beginning of school, all those children turning five would go to school together."

And that Pate added, "is going to lead to much greater success for students."

The change is being delayed until the fall of 2009 in order to allow parents time to prepare to make day-care arrangements, which could result in an expansion of the state's More at Four preschool initiative.

The bill now will go to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature.

It has the support of the North Carolina School Boards Association, the N.C. Association of School Administrators and the N.C. Association of Educators.

"I'm just glad we got that done. We're very optimistic that he'll sign it," Pate said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.