THIS BLOG UPDATED ON 4/24/18; ORIGINAL ARTICLE AND COMMENTS BELOW
We have received many questions for clarification on the issue of the enrollment age restrictions in Georgia schools, and if there are any exceptions. There is a way for a child to essentially skip a grade and enter school at a younger age than stated in the rules. It is not a clearly stated rule, so please read carefully as I attempt to walk through the logic of how to make this happen.
First, to clarify, in 2015 GA considered changing the age eligibility laws for school entrance, but it did not go through, so the cutoff date is the same as it has been for decades:
“A child must be five years old on or before September 1 to enter a public Kindergarten. The child must be six years old on or before September 1 to enter first grade. School systems must verify age before enrollment.*”
There is no exception to this rule in public schools. However, please note the first of a few very important facts: the only age requirements cited are for Kindergarten and 1st grade entrance! The rules do not address age requirements for 2nd grade and above, and this omission is often overlooked by parents and even by public school system administrators. One might assume that the same rule would apply to all future grades (i.e. a child must be seven by September 1st to enter 2nd grade, etc., but it does not specifically state that in the rules).
Secondarily, there is another GA Department of Education rule addressing age eligibility, but referring only to out-of-state students:
“A child who was a legal resident of one or more states for a period of two years immediately prior to moving to Georgia and who was legally enrolled in either a public Kindergarten or first grade, or a private Kindergarten or first grade accredited by a state or regional association, would be eligible to enroll in Georgia schools, provided that the Kindergartner is five years old by December 31 or the first grader is six by that date.*”
This rule applies to students from out of state. However, many parents have argued to the school system that if it applies to out of state students, it should be applied to in-state students that meet the same qualifications as out-of-state students. Namely, that their child 1) attended a state or regionally accredited Kindergarten or 1st grade, and 2) is at least five years old by December 31st or six years olds by December 31st. However, school systems will often apply the rule very literally, so if the child meets the requirements above by attending a school in GA, the school may choose not to allow them early entrance to Kindergarten or 1st grade.
Another GA Department of Education rule states that:
“Georgia law requires that students attend a public or private school or a home study program from their sixth to their 16th birthdays. Public Kindergarten is available in every school system, but it is not mandatory.*”
Knowing that Georgia does not consider Kindergarten to be a required grade, understanding how they modify out-of-state student age eligibility, and knowing that they do not specifically state age requirements for second grade and above, we have a plan we recommend for families that desire to see their child advance a grade in the public school system. It needs to be understood that there is no guarantee the school system will accept this reasoning, however, we have seen great success with this plan working, when the student is ready for the course work of the higher grade.
Our recommendation is this, for children born after September 1st but before December 31st, that desire to advance a grade in the public education system: attend state or regionally accredited private school for both Kindergarten and 1st grade that will let your child in with a December 31st cutoff instead of the traditional September 1st cut off. When they are ready to start 2nd grade (or a later grade) apply to that grade at your local public school. If they bring up the age cutoff, cite the information above: 1) technically, there is no stated age requirement for 2nd grade and above; 2) out-of-state students would be allowed to enter in with a cutoff date of December 1st instead of September 1st; and 3) my child attended a state or regionally accredited private school and successfully completed the previous grade levels at that accredited school. So far, we have had 100% success with students following this recommendation, but we do not guarantee it. Schools certainly take into consideration that the child needs to be ready for the material being presenting in the grade they enter, or they may recommend holding the student back (in this case, having them enter in at the grade level they would have originally been placed in using the September 1st cut off date).
Foundations for the Future Creative Childcare and Elementary School offers some exceptions to the September 1st age cut off rule, for early Kindergarten entrance, for those students that show readiness. Please contact our Admissions Director for more information and review our private kindergarten and elementary program.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE POSTED ON 1/30/17 BELOW
Georgia House Bill 100, proposed on 1/28/15, would change the kindergarten eligibility date so that children must be 5 years old before July 1st in order to enter Kindergarten. This means that they would have to be 2 months older than the current requirement in order to enter school. For many families, this may mean their child needs to wait to enter school a year later than they had planned. However, there are three important and often overlooked facts to consider:
- This rule does not apply if the student is transferring into GA from having lived in another state for two years previously,
- This rule would not apply to entrance in private school kindergarten programs, and
- There may be exceptions that allows students to enter public school with a birth date as late as December 31st.
Students transferring in to Kindergarten or 1st grade in GA from having lived in another state for at least two years prior do not have to worry about the proposed kindergarten eligibility date requirement, as they could enter into a public program if they are deemed ready. This does of course raise many questions about Georgia’s willingness to make an age exception for out-of-state students but not for in state students, but the proposed bill does not currently address this. So what other options exist for parents that are GA residents?
Private schools can help families that struggle with what to do if this new kindergarten eligibility date goes into effect in GA. Though many private schools use the September 1st cut off date, it is not required. Some private schools may allow children to start Kindergarten early. However, this can come with the challenge of the student being socially and/or emotionally immature in comparison to their classmates, which can decrease their achievement and self-confidence, which is what this proposed kindergarten eligibility date requirement is attempting to avoid. If your child is academically ready for school before they are socially and emotionally ready, what options do you have?
Foundations for the Future School in Kennesaw has worked with many families over the years that miss the September 1st cut off, and Foundations will also work with families if the new proposed kindergarten eligibility requirements go into effect. Foundations’ unique approach helps ensure that students are socially and emotionally ready as well as academically challenged. How does Foundations accomplish this?
- Students that miss the cut off for Kindergarten will not have to go into a Kindergarten classroom at the young age of four years old. Instead, they will be placed in an Advanced Pre-K class, with students of similar age and ability, all of which are on track to complete Kindergarten standards.
- These students then advance the next year to a combined Kindergarten/1st Grade multi-age class, so they are with students their age as well as with older students in the 1st grade. This allows them time to adjust to being with the 1st grade students, as well as the opportunity to complete 1st grade standards.
- If by the end of the year they have completed 1st grade standards, they can enter into a public 2nd grade public program as long as they are 7 years old by December 31st, thereby starting 2nd grade up to six months younger than other students.
- This process provides the benefits to the younger students of an extra supportive environment, with teacher to student ratios at half of a typical public program, allowing the student to have the differentiated, individualized instruction that is critical to helping them enter school at an earlier age.
It will be interesting to see how the Bill 100 does in the GA House, but even if it does not pass, it is important for families to realize that their student does not have to be held back by a Kindergarten eligibility date, whether that date is September 1st or July 1st.
For more information about the Foundations for the Future School programs, please visit www.FoundationsSchool.com or call 770-429-4799 or submit a request for information. Foundations for the Future serves students in the Kennesaw, Marietta, Acworth, Dallas, Powder Springs, Woodstock, and Canton areas.
Also see Fox Atlanta’s news article “Bill would change eligibility date for kindergarten students” published on 1/29/15.
1/30/15 Scholarship Update: Affording tuition at a private school may be a concern for some families looking to take advantage of the private school shortcut. Many families do not know that any child that attends Foundations private Pre-K or Kindergarten can apply for financial aid, which is available for lower to middle income families. This is made possible by contributions our school receives through the GA Education Tax Credit program. For more information on scholarships, please contact our Admissions Director.
1/30/18 Update: The entrance cut off date for Kindergarten did not end up changing, so the age cutoffs that apply for publicly funded programs: 4 by September 1st in order to go into Pre-Kindergarten; 5 by September 1st in order to go into Kindergarten. Foundations private school offers some exceptions to the age cut off rule. Please contact our Admissions Director for more information.
*http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/AskDOE/Pages/New-Student-Requirements.aspx copied on 4/24/18