House Gives Schools Leeway to Let 4-Year-Olds Start Kindergarten

Thousands of Tennessee parents may be affected by a proposal to require their children to turn five a month earlier in order to start kindergarten. But the measure also includes a “maturity” test that would allow four-year-olds to enroll.

Under the proposed system, a youngster could start kindergarten if he or she shows the maturity of a five-year-old on a standardized test. Representative John Forgety says that makes more sense than requiring a child be past his fifth birthday on a particular date.

“There is no, to my knowledge, no absolute hard and fast date where all youngsters mature, acceptably and appropriately, to attend kindergarten.”

The East Tennessee Republican is a former school superintendent in McMinn County. He says the proposed law would help kindergarten teachers who now struggle with youngsters who “aren’t necessarily emotionally, experientially or culturally as mature as they should be.”

The bill passed the House 68 to 30 and could be taken up by the Senate within hours.

Under the bill, a child turning five by August 31, 2013, would be eligible for kindergarten that year. Currently the cut-off date is September 30th. In following years, the eligibility date would be August 15th.

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