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How can I tell if my child is ready? Will my child have to take a screening test? No single factor determines whether a child is ready to start school. Here’s how to tell if your child is mature enough physically, socially, and cognitively. Cutoff dates are deadlines schools use to determine who can enter the next kindergarten class.
Your child must reach the age of 5 by the cutoff date, which is usually around September 1 in most school districts, though some states have later or earlier cutoffs or no deadline at all. Many schools still use these dates to determine who is ready for school, but research shows that your child’s chronological age isn’t the best way to decide whether he has what it takes to be a successful kindergartner. Kindergarten “readiness” is the real issue. In recent years, early childhood educators have begun to focus on a child’s physical, social, and cognitive development rather than age.
Experts say no single or simple factor determines whether a child is ready for kindergarten. Instead, a child’s development needs to be evaluated on several fronts. His ability to think logically, speak clearly, and interact well with other children and adults are all critically important to success in school. A child’s physical development also needs to be considered. In reality, very few children are equally competent in all these areas. Many children who are advanced mentally may lag behind emotionally, while children who are extremely adept physically may be slower in terms of language development.
If he’s in preschool, talk to the teacher. She probably has a good sense of his development and how he compares with other children who would be at his grade level. If your child is not in preschool or you just want another opinion, check with your child’s doctor. She will know about your child’s physical development and can offer helpful feedback as to whether your child is ready. You can also talk with family members and friends who know your child well.
Pay particular attention to the comments of teachers, or those who have experience working with children in schools, whether as a staff person or a volunteer. Visiting a kindergarten class in the school in which you plan to enroll your child can also give you invaluable information. As you stand in the back of the room, pay attention to how the other children are behaving, how they play with each other, and what kinds of skills they have. Can you picture your child sitting in one of those chairs and joining in an activity?