Research should guide mandatory school age


(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Indiana’s public education leadership seems to be determined to assure that Hoosier kids are on the right path for success from an early age.

Recent measures to address the concern include a pilot program for pre-kindergarten education, and the IREAD exam, which requires that third-graders master a third-grade reading level before they’re promoted to fourth grade.

Recently, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick proposed another measure to boost elementary school education. She advocated changing the compulsory age for attending school from 7 to 5.

In Herald Bulletin news reports on McCormick’s proposal, three local educators and the head of the Indiana State Teachers Association supported the idea.

As it stands, the vast majority of Hoosier children enroll for kindergarten at age 5, but it’s not mandatory. Jan Koeniger, Anderson Community Schools assistant superintendent for elementary education, noted that about 92 percent of ACS kids attend kindergarten, lagging a bit behind the state average of about 95 percent.

Getting many of the students whose parents have chosen not to send them to kindergarten enrolled could help them to keep up with their peers and be better prepared to meet more rigorous academic standards when they get into middle school and high school.

Any move to lower the compulsory age for education, though, should take into account that children develop and mature at different rates. Parents should have the discretion to opt out of sending kids to school at age 5. Parents will usually know what their children are ready for and be the best judge of whether they should wait a year to start school.

Also, McCormick and the state’s other public school leaders should take into account the most recent research on the best age to start school. Some studies have suggested that 5 years of age might be too young.

Some state legislators are concerned about the increase in funding — an estimated $12.4 million annually — that would be needed to provide education for more 5-year-olds in school.

But if McCormick can show that the preponderance of research supports the idea of compulsory education for 5-year-olds, it would be money well spent.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].

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