Advice on jumping a grade when moving school districts
January 16, 2023 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Our kid is likely going to be forced to jump from Pre-K to 1st grade this summer when we move. We can't be the first people to move to with kids, but we're struggling to find concrete information/advice about what to expect and how to prepare for this. Two questions for parents and teachers inside.

We currently live in a school district that enrolls based on age on September 1. We're moving to NYC this summer. NYC enrolls based on age on January 1. Our kid was born fall 2017 (i.e. is now age 5) so is currently in Pre-K. The move to NYC is going to force them to skip K and jump from Pre-K (where they are the oldest kid in the class) to to first grade (where they will be in the youngest 25%).

1. If you've experienced something similar, is this as big an emotional and academic jump for the average kid as it seems? Should we be worried about this? They have been in school for 3 months, so it's early days, but there are no reasons to think they would be a candidate to skip a grade based on emotional or academic development if we were staying in the current school district. They are a typical 5 year old.

2. What advice do you have on preparing our kid for this change? We are of course discussing this with the current teacher, but we have no idea who the NYC teacher (or even school) will be in the fall, so we can't talk to them about it yet. Hence, I come to you! No tip too obvious! Answers don't necessarily need to be NYC (or USA) specific!

Please assume we're not currently interested in or eligible for gifted and talented or dual language programs. We'll be enrolling in the zoned elementary.

We're assuming our kid will indeed be forced to jump a grade, but if you have specific information to the contrary, that would be interesting.
posted by caek to Education (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Assuming that you know which school district, if not the specific school, I would recommend calling the district to ask what will happen and how you can prepare your child. Look for contact information for transfers on their website.
posted by entropyiswinning at 11:05 AM on January 16, 2023

Response by poster: We've tried two districts and not been able to get hold of anyone who can help us beyond "sounds good, call us when you move here and have proof of residence." We will keep trying.
posted by caek at 11:09 AM on January 16, 2023

A kid who hasn’t been to school would generally start in kindergarten. Lots of parents hold kids back a year anyway. Have you confirmed that the new school system would start a kid in first? That sounds unusual.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:30 AM on January 16, 2023 [4 favorites]

I think the way this works: when you move, you go and register your kid for kindergarten. That’s it. They don’t try to push kids up without going to K first.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:31 AM on January 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As the parent of a 1st grader who has a similar Fall birthday, I’d say Kindergarten is a big jump from pre-K and 1st grade isn’t that much bigger. How hard your kid will find it might depend on: 1) how accustomed to a full day schedule and classroom norms they are (ie, learning and following instructions and rules, keeping hands and body to themselves, etc) and 2) how close to reading they are.

Kindergarten kids are really all over the place in terms of school readiness, so a lot of K is just getting the ones who haven’t been in much of an organized school setting ready. In NYC, you’re likely to have a huge range of kids in many circumstances.

I think skipping K is not ideal but not impossible and doesn’t have to be traumatic. I might try to get into some Kindergarten learning independently, if you can. Outschool has K type classes and the Brain Quest workbooks are good too. We found ABC Mouse to be useful on the iPad as well.
posted by vunder at 11:37 AM on January 16, 2023

@bluedaisy, many districts are notoriously strict about cutoff dates and in many districts Kindergarten is optional. Generally a new arrival will go into their age-appropriate grade. Imagine, for example, how many kids arrive in NYC schools coming from refugee centers or immigration situations. They put those kids with their cohort.
posted by vunder at 11:41 AM on January 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We had the same thing -- our kid went from (online-only!) pre-K straight into first grade. It probably depends a lot on your specific kid, and only you know them. Ours was already pretty bright and curious and quite advanced in some respects, so it wasn't a big jump for him academically, even though he was starting French immersion with kids who'd mostly already had a year of French. He had more trouble with the transition from online-only to in-person school than with the fact that he'd "skipped" a year.

Here's how I think about this: different places have different cutoffs, people move around, and it all works out. In many places, kindergarten isn't even mandatory! Your kid's class might have kids who haven't gone to kindergarten at all! Most of school at that level is about learning how to sit still, pay attention, follow rules, etc. Not that the kids aren't learning anything, but it's not like your kid is going to get so far behind in first grade that they're going to end up on the street or whatever. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see this as a particularly big deal -- just register them for first grade and see how it goes.

As far as resources go, we did a couple Brain Quest books at home (mostly just for fun, no requirements and no pressure) during the pandemic, and we liked them pretty well.
posted by number9dream at 12:02 PM on January 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

For my kid, who is among the very youngest in her cohort, the difference between first grade and kindergarten was tremendous, despite her academic/cognitive readiness, because at that age the readiness to sit down and shut up matters more than just about anything else. I think it’s good you’ve reached out to teachers to talk this through. It’s very possible that a different starting age will mean different expectations that your kid will be fine meeting. But it’s better to talk.
posted by eirias at 1:04 PM on January 16, 2023

Keep in mind that if they put your kid into grade one, and your kid is nowhere near ready for it, they will fail the grade and be held back. Then they will be in the grade they should be in. So if this does end up happening it's what you want to have happen, not a shame, or a tragedy or a problem or a failure. But it will be traumatic for everyone if you treat it as if it is a matter of shame and a failure.

If your kid is having a crummy time in Grade One your best option maybe to set things up so that they do flunk. Trying to force kids who are not ready for it to do stuff they are not ready for is a good way to make everyone unhappy and for the unhappiness to last. So remember you have a pre-kindergarten aged kid on your hands and treat them like they are in pre-kindergarten, rather than trying to live up to an arbitrary standard they will want the kid to meet, simply because some administrator slotted them into the wrong spot.

Also, you might try looking for a private educational pre-kindergarten to put them in, rather than trying to slot them into the school system. You won't get into trouble for holding them back at that age. Of course this will only work if you don't need the school system to provide day time child care for you, and are stuck working with it. And they might decide your kid has to go from there into grade two - but if they are screwing around like that, they are doing it with all the other kids too. It may not actually matter that your kid is going from pre-kindergarten into grade one, if all the other kids in grade one are also only four years old or just turned five.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:19 PM on January 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

What you are hoping to do is called redshirting. My googling suggests that it's not really possible in NYC (without involving at least a year of private school), but maybe knowing that term will
help your research
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:10 PM on January 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

I was skipped ahead a year and it was a terrible idea. My sister skipped kindergarten and did fine in school. I taught in a boy's school and the kids who were "red shirted" (started a little late) were the best adjusted for the grade and the most able to keep up with the work. Schools tend to try to rush kids for various reasons, often because they're afraid the kids "won't be ready for the next grade" (and as a department chair who observed in grades K-12, I saw that the worries were largely unfounded) so some savvy parents deliberately held their kids back.
posted by Peach at 2:10 PM on January 16, 2023

Response by poster: Thanks all! Correct, we'd be interested in redshirting if it were allowed in NYC, but it is not (so bluedaisy's advice does not apply in NYC as far as I know, although if anyone has specific advice, e.g. districts that are more tolerant, etc. then I'm all ears.)

So my question is not about how to hold back a grade. It's about what to do given that is almost certainly not an option. Keep thoughts coming!
posted by caek at 2:15 PM on January 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Caveat: I'm basing my impressions on my own experiences in elementary school and not those of my children, because I don't have any. But I would be super-surprised if they actually skipped your kid a grade solely based on cutoff dates. Even taking into account that it's Kindergarten. Every new school I started, I tested at least 3-4 grade levels ahead academically, but they always prioritized social development. I went to six different schools from K-12, all in New York State, and only one of them didn't have a strict policy against skipping grades.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2023

Pre-K, K, and 1st grade are really different in different places, even neighboring districts. It may be worth trying to find out what kindergarten is like there. On one end, the kindergarten kids came from rigorous pre-K programs, know all their letters and sounds, and are expected to learn to read by the end of their full-day kindergarten program. On the other end, most kids don't go to preschool and start learning their letters on day 1 in kindergarten. It is probably somewhere in between though I don't think it will be as easy as asking the school since public schools have to be welcoming of everyone including the 5 year-old who already reads and those who have never attended preschool.

Trying to figure out the comparison between your pre-K and their kindergarten will help you know what to expect and maybe how to catch up academically (if necessary) this summer. It does not sound like there is a lot you can do about being in the youngest 25% of the class if NYC requires enrollment based on January 1 age.
posted by RoadScholar at 3:41 PM on January 16, 2023

Best answer: I was young for my grade because of a move in the opposite direction (I started kindergarten at age 4, then moved to a state where you had to be 5 by September 1st). In elementary school I was noticeably immature (although not clear whether that was due to age or brain stuff) -- in any case it all evened out by high school, where I had a really nice time.

As a teacher: the biggest challenges we see in 1st grade are in kids who have never been in a full-day school setting before. Going from half-day to full-day instruction is a HUGE shift, especially these days when we make so much less space for play and exploration (and rest!!) in primary school. If your child is happy and successful in a full-day pre-k program right now, I wouldn't be worried about this transition.

If your child is not currently in a full-day program, I would try to arrange for that to happen, even if it's just pre-k for half the day and a more structured daycare for the other half. The more structured/academic the pre-k, the better in terms of preparation for school (although maybe not better in terms of developmental appropriateness, sigh).

Either way, I'd explain to your child's school -- upon enrollment and again early in the school year -- that he didn't get to attend kindergarten, just so they are aware that he may need some extra support.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:08 AM on January 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again. Some very useful perspectives.

In case anyone has anything further to add, a little more context that may help: our kid does have school setting experience. He is currently in a full-day Pre-K program in a K-8 school. Prior to that, he was in a full-day preschool program for two years. The preschool was for 18m-5 year olds, so it wasn't a school, but they did introduce (with a very light touch) writing and homework in the final year. So we feel like we're in as good shape as possible in terms of his understanding of the school environment.
posted by caek at 10:13 AM on January 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

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