School Birthday Cut-Offs


[I promise I'll get back into some "My Story... " posts again very soon. I confess that I'm a little tentative in part due to a rather scathing email I received on that subject, but I'm trying to put that behind me and remember that "majority rules" around here. ;) ]


In the meantime, though, I just HAD to write on this topic because I find it, well, crazy.


Kindergarten birthday cut-off dates.


Some people are apparently surprised to learn that there is NOT, in fact, some federal cut-off date of September 1st. While that is definitely the most common birthday cut-off for starting kindergarten, there is no law to that effect, and, in reality, no consistency whatsoever all around our nation.


Want proof? Check it out.


Kind of crazy, don’t you think?


With cut-offs ranging from July 31 to January 1st, there’s clearly a wide gap there.


I have a January 27th baby and a December 24th baby, both born in the same calendar year. By Connecticut rules, they could have been in the same grade. (They are not, as you probably know, but they could have been. We chose to send C. with the class she should have been in, had she not arrived so early.)


Here’s the thing…


I don’t think there’s any “perfect” cut-off. Children are all individuals and, no matter when you set the date, it’s arbitrary. 


Even though I live here, I find the December kiddos to be super young in their classes. They seem like babies compared to their Spring birthday peers!


Still, my jaw drops when I hear that someone “held back” their AUGUST babies because, frankly, there’s no way on earth that would ever happen here. August babies are in the middle of the pack; it would just be bizarre.


It’s all relative. I get that.


So… I have no answers here, but I feel like we, as a nation, could be a touch more consistent. The thing is, like I said before, no matter when you set the date, some children born before it won’t be quite ready and some born later would do totally fine. That’s just life.


Are these late cut-offs a disservice to children? Not sure. The northeast seems to be where most of the late cut-offs are and, historically, those states fare very, very well in nationwide rankings. That likely has more to do with socioeconomic issues, but, still, I’m not sure the “younger” students are struggling overly much.


I find it fascinating, much like I was completely fascinated with our “back-to-school list” discussion last week. There’s no “right” or “wrong”, really. I just like hearing about the differences!


So, if you’re so inclined, tell us:


1. What’s the birthday cut-off in your state?     (It’s January 1st here.)


2. Do you like it? Why or why not?     (I think ours is a bit too late. That said, I TOTALLY believe that most Fall babies do just fine going ahead.)


3. Do you think cut-offs should be more consistent? Do you have a preference for what that date should be?      (I would like to see consistency. I have no perfect date, but something around October 15th sounds about right to me.)


4. And, finally, do you have differing opinions on sending a child ahead based on gender, i.e. late-birthday boys should be held back while girls typically do fine?     (I do NOT, for what it’s worth, but that could be a whole ‘nother post. ;)



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44 comments to School Birthday Cut-Offs

  • If it were January 1st, Libbie could have gone to K this year. And I don’t really feel like she’s ready socially/emotionally. She still takes a nap most days! She still throws a fit when she doesn’t get what she wants immediately. Etc. Academically, she would be fine, but I would have been hesitant.

    Our cut-off date has been Sept. 30 until this year. They moved it to August 31 for this year and August 15 for next year, when Libbie will go. It was a little relief to me that she won’t be quite so old for her grade (with a late October birthday). But a LOT of people hold back their August babies around here.

    Anyway, I think she’ll be ready next year, and around here it’s the “proper” time for her to start.

    • Also, I have heard from kindergarten teachers that “boys especially” have a hard time starting at 4. But I definitely think it’s on a child-to-child basis, not entirely based on gender. I think generally boys probably have a harder time sitting still at that age, but a good teacher will work with that, right?

      • I very much believe it’s a child-by-child situation and I am one who loathes gender-based generalities, e.g. “girls potty train sooner”, “boys talk later”, “boys are wild”, “typical education is designed for girls”, etc. I just don’t think it’s that simple, to be honest.

    • We see a lot of parents of children with birthdays between, say, Oct. 10th and the end of the year really taking it on a case-by-case basis. I’d say at least 90% of September babies “go ahead” here, but, as the birthdays get later, the decisions get tougher. Having a Jan. 1st cut-off certainly doesn’t mean that all, over even MOST, of the Nov. and Dec. babies go early… it just makes it an option. (We didn’t even consider sending C. ahead. To be honest, it shocked me when they gave us the choice!)

  • Ours is September 1, and I am THRILLED that Mr. 2 gets a whole extra year at home without us making any tough decisions. :) We had to make the tough decision with Mr. 8. We kept him. He was READY academically, but social/emotional… notsomuch. I taught for 8 years, 4 of those with remedial classrooms, and the stats were STRONG. Overall (every child is SO different, but still. *overall*) my kiddos who struggled were young compared to the rest of their class. So interesting!

    Also, Miss 6 is a July girl, so also young, but NO WAY was I keeping her home an extra year. Girlfriend was READY for school! (Again, each child SO different!)

    • Not gonna lie to you: it blows my MIND that my husband, with a Sept 25th bday, was a full year behind me in school. Whaaaa?? ;) It really is all what you’re used to, I guess. I do believe that the children who are young compared to their class might struggle more– again, speaking in generalities. I guess the issue is… isn’t that ALWAYS the case? Someone’s always going to be the youngest, right? What makes the “ideal” cut-off age? (And, really, WHY isn’t it CONSISTENT???) I find it such a fascinating conversation. :)

  • Ellen

    here in Jersey it differs per town, our town is october 1st.
    (when I was little it was aug 31st.)
    I think that the whole country should be the same date, and I think the cutoff should be dec 31.
    And if it stays where it is and you choose to hold your child back ok. (Not that I agree with that)
    And with that being said, I think if the cut is oct 1 and your bday falls within 30 days of that,you should be able to have your child tested to see if he/she is ready to go to school.

    • “I think if the cut is oct 1 and your bday falls within 30 days of that,you should be able to have your child tested to see if he/she is ready to go to school.” <– I don’t know how much extra work this would create for districts, Ellen, but I SO agree with it, if it’s possible. There should be a window where parents have the opportunity to pursue going ahead if they feel that’s what’s best for the child.

  • Jennie

    I used to be very against holding kids back just because of their birthdate until I talked to a principal who explained it also has to do with leadership roles as the students mature-girl’s especially. I don’t remember exactly her comments but it made more sense to me. I don’t have to deal with it since both my kids have spring birthdays.

    Ours is September 30. But I’m pretty sure it’s by school district here so neighboring districts could have different cut offs.


    • (I don’t know how I missed your comment the first time through, Jennie– I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to skip it in my replies!)

      I have heard some people say that the younger boys face issues upfront (i.e. in kindergarten), whereas the girls tend to encounter issues closer to the teen years. I have no idea if that’s been verified, but I have heard it.

      Inconsistent cut-offs from town-to-town would be even more confusing than from state-to-state, I would think!

  • mlearley

    I am so glad you posted this! Today as most schools are starting, my husband and I were discussing out we wish the cut-off was later in the year. Ours is August 31st or September 1st but our oldest has a December 6th bday so no school for her until next year. She has been in daycare since she was 9 weeks old and always in a class with older kids. She LOVES learning and by 2 yrs knew all the colors in an 8 count box of crayons. She can write all capital letters, recognizes lower case, knows all of her shapes and numbers (starting to write them) and can even spell most of our names. I’m not trying to brag on my kid but SHE’S SOOOO READY FOR SCHOOL!! In your state she’d be going, no questions asked. Now on the other hand, we have friends with a boy who is turning 5 on Friday and they’ve opted to keep him home. He needs it. So my opinion is make it a December 31st cut-off and then parents can opt to keep their kids out if they feel they aren’t ready.

    • You know, the more I think about this, the more I think a later cut-off (not necessarily as late as OURS, mind you) with the opportunity to have proper evaluation would probably be ideal, really. That way, parents can decide if they think their children are “ready” and, ideally, have access to a school professional who could weigh in with their agreement (or other recommendation.) The thing is– with a Dec. cut-off, plenty of parents choose NOT to send their children ahead. And that’s totally fine. But, with an August or early Sept. cut-off, I kind of think there are children who would be just fine going ahead who, instead, wind up a year behind their east-coast peers.

  • Susan

    I believe LA public schools has a Sept 1st cut off. Most private schools cut off before that. Summer babies are usually held back a year. Older kids do better socially, academically and definitely in sports. You want your child to be at least 50% for height so they can be competitive in sports. Our January 27th baby is right in the middle of the pack for birthdays, height etc.

  • Susan

    Younger kids tend to be socially awkward. They are probably smart enough to be in the higher grade but do you want to have a child that the other kids make fun of? seriously!!! The kid that no one wants to play with because “he’s weird.” No parent should have to go through that.

    • Well, I have parented (and known) some socially awkward (“weird”) children who were absolute delights and I’m not certain that any amount of waiting would have made them more socially savvy. Is it possible? Sure. But, in my opinion, not likely. I’ve also known plenty of unarguably “cool” kids who I am pleased are not my own. I hear what you’re saying. And I’ve definitely heard the argument before. I’m certainly not saying it’s without merit. But, speaking only from my own experiences (which is what most of us do), it’s not a reason that works for me.

  • Erica E

    The cut-off here is Dec 1 and my best friend is the kindergarten teacher (private school). She tests each child to see if they are ready or not. Sometimes they allow a child with a December b-day to attend. She does say that generally the younger boys have the hardest time.

    • I think that having testing in place can be so helpful. Truly, each child is a unique case, in my opinion. Thanks for sharing!

      • mlearley

        I agree and think more schools should do this. You know our country is falling behind in education but let’s hold kids back from their potential because of where their birthday falls. The sooner you get a child started, I think the more likely they are excited about learning. Just my opinion.

        • I think it likely depends on the child whether they’ll get excited or frustrated, BUT I don’t see any reason that we have such a range for which states ALLOW children to start early, should they be deemed ready. Does that make sense?

  • Celine

    I was shocked to see our cut off date as “on or before Jan 1st” as in past years it had been written as “on or before Dec 31st”.

    The end of the year cut off makes a lot of sense as all kids born in the same calendar year would be eligible at the same time. No matter when you make the cut off you will always have kids that are a whole year older then some of the kids.

    I think it is really important for parents to use their best judgement of what they know of their child to determine whether their child is ready. i also think schools should evaluate students to help pinpoint those who might need additional help or services. I know some districts offer optional evaluations for students and others make evaluations as part of their Kindergarten registration.

    Personally I think that having multi-age classrooms in which children remain for more then 1 year and in which older children assist younger children and teachers meet all students at their level would work better and solve some of cut off date issues.

    I have 2 girls one with a June birthday and the other October. While they will both attend Kindergarten when they are first eligible, it was a very tough decision with the October birthday. Academically she was likely to be more than ready but when it came to social/emotional development she might not be ready. Also I was thinking about Middle/ High school even College more so then Elementary School.

    • Celine

      What made my choice easier was getting a spot in a Magnet School that has multi-age classrooms and meets children on their own individual academic level. They all start as 3yr olds and are in 3yr age groupings. When what would have been my October child’s Kindergarten year she was as I expected more then ready academically but not where i would have wanted socially/emotionally. Since she had 3 years in the same classroom I was able to work closely with her teacher. She moves up to the next age grouping this week. I really think that having the multi-age classrooms has helped and it also would have made holding her back a year much easier.

      Ultimately there is no right or wrong cut off. There will always be other factors that effect whether a child does well in school beyond just the cut off date.

      • I agree that there is no “right” or “wrong” cut-off, Celine. You are very correct in that there are many factors at play. It still just amazes me what a variance there is around the country!

    • That verbiage surprised me too, Celine, as I had always heard the “Dec 31st” guideline before. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who has sent a New Year’s baby ahead, so I think it’s probably moot. :)

  • mary

    I believe all kids should be tested to make sure they are ready. My brother and I started school in AZ where I believe the deadline was December 31/Jan 1. His b-day is in Dec, mine is in Sept. I did well academically, he did better socially. My dad once commented that the teachers did him a disservice in comparing him to me (I’m 14 months older). My social may have been better, but I have a moderate hearing loss and can miss some of what is said.

    He may have been better if he had been held back, but maybe not.

    Our other brother is an Aug b-day, and he did fine in school-started in Colorado.

    My kids are all fall/winter b-days and couldn’t start till the next year-Aug 31/Sep 1 deadline. Does it make a difference? For some kids it does, some it doesn’t. My kids are usually the oldest (or nearly so) in their grades, and do well compared to their peers.

    I will say again, all kids should be tested, and retested to be moved up or down without being made to feel superior for going up, or inferior for going down.

    Another thought, the kid may not work well with a teacher, and do poorly in that class, or there may be other considerations. While I had my hearing loss, I did well in school as long as I knew what I was learning and I wanted to learn. Case in point, I “quit” school in 2nd grade. No one knew what to do. 3rd grade was a joke, and after my family moved states before 4th grade I caught up and got ahead. I went from being 2 yrs behind to 2 yrs ahead.

    It was later figured out that I “quit” because I wanted to stay home and “help” my mother with my new little brother. I also didn’t learn the foreign language offered in 5th grade because it was not the one I signed up for and I was put in the language class that had openings.-don’t push me where I don’t want to go, it won’t work.

    My kids seem to do better than I in similar situations, but I know how to “work” them to get them to work/learn.

    I know this is long, but with 6 kids and many years experience I get that way.

    • I think testing could be so very helpful in making the determination. I have a feeling that the time and money involved in the process are prohibitive for many (most?) districts, but it would be helpful.

  • I live in Iowa and the cutoff is Sept. 15. A lot of people advised against sending my July birthday son, but we knew he was ready. I think most people here are wary about summer birthdays, but hopefully are using kid-by-kid judgement. Our son is now in 4th grade and has thrived, so we made the right choice.

    • I love that you knew your child and made the right choice for him, Cori! I really do think that it’s such an individual decision. It’s just wild to me that, in some parts of the country, there is NEVER a question about sending summer babies whereas, in others, it’s commonplace.

  • Wow – Michigan changed it since I was a kid. My birthday in in June and I was ALWAYS the youngest. I think the cutoff was a few days after my birthday, so everyone was 5 when they got to kindergarten! Now the cutoff is December but they’re moving it up so that by 2015 it’ll be September.

    My DS turned 5 in August. The same year our schools went to all day everyday kindergarten. Yea….academically he was super ready, but socially he was not. So we homeschooled and still are. Because after a year of schooling at home there was no way he would do well in kindergarten as he’d “been there, done that”. But socially first grade was a stretch. We’re into second grade this year and I think the social part of him is catching up with the academic part finally!

    I really think it would have been a recipe for disaster sending him to Kindergarten at 5 and holding him back a year. For us homeschooling was the best option.

    • It’s all about finding the best option. I truly believe that. It seems clear to me that you evaluated exactly what your son needed and worked to meet those needs– I think that’s awesome!

  • 1. What’s the birthday cut-off in your state? WV – 5 by Sept. 1. (NC, where I started school was 5 by Aug.31)

    2. Do you like it? Why or why not? Not sure, I really think it should be a case-by-case or child-by-child determination.

    3. Do you think cut-offs should be more consistent? Do you have a preference for what that date should be? I think a more consistent cut-off (I don’t like that term so shall we say, kids need to begin formal education no later than age __ by a consistent date across the board).

    4. And, finally, do you have differing opinions on sending a child ahead based on gender, i.e. late-birthday boys should be held back while girls typically do fine? I’ve got three boys, the younger two were born in February and January with my oldest being born in August. Most of the teachers I spoke with pretty much consistently recommended not starting my oldest in kindergarten until he was 6 saying that in their experience summer 5 year old boys weren’t ready for kindergarten emotionally, socially or physically. My oldest just happens to have Down Syndrome so that made him appear (and often act) much younger so waiting an additional year helped some. I’m one that was ready for school as a 4 year old and in order to get me in school my parents started me in a private school (the public schools wouldn’t hold me back the following year since I had already completed kindergarten yet they wouldn’t have allowed me start when I did). Yes, I was the youngest (or one of the youngest) in my class but academically I was ready, perhaps socially not so much. I had a teacher (when I was in 2nd grade or 3rd grade) mention that I would be a much better student if I was only more mature. Turns out she was comparing me to students a full-year or more older and yet, my grades were often better. When she was asked how much older I was to act (and told how old I really was) she was quite amazed. Do I regret starting as a much younger child? No. Do I feel any of my boys might have been ready to start at a younger age? Only my middle one (my February boy born 5 weeks early).

    • I do think a case-by-case, or child-by-child determination would be ideal, Cari. I’m not sure how much time/money that would cost each district, but I think it would be super helpful. Barring that, having some sort of consistency just makes sense to me.

  • Susan


    It seems like most of your readers have young children and try to push to get their kids into kindergarten on the early side because “they are ready academically.” Many of these parents will regret their decision when their children get to middle school and high school. I know a half dozen parents with “summer” boys who had to redo a year in high school. Yes, I actually know two families who had one boy redo 11th grade and one boy redo 12th grade. Both boys had over 3.4 overall grade point averages. The boys were fine academically but behind socially and were definitely not ready to apply for colleges. You need to think long term and not let your own pride get in the way.

    • Most of my readers definitely have young children; that’s my primary demographic. I truly believe we’re all just trying to do what we believe is best for our kiddos, though. I know we don’t all agree on “what’s best”– I have plenty of readers who think A. should have skipped a grade or two. Or that I should homeschool him. But we’ve made the choice we think is best, based on our beliefs and our knowledge of our own child. I think that’s all we can do, really. Will I disagree with some people’s decisions? Sure thing. But I have to believe they’re doing their best, just like I am.

    • Kim Nev.

      In TX, the current trend is parents holding their kids back a year and having them start school at age 6 (or almost 6). They believe that will give their kid an academic and physical (think football and sports scholarships) advantage later on. They may be right in that their child will have an advantage later on. Unfortunately, lower income households cannot afford the “luxury” of delaying their child’s school due to childcare costs, so their child is at an even greater disadvantage (in addition to socio-economic disadvantages) when compared to their classmates.

      • I’ve heard the “hold him back so he’s big for sports” argument/suggestion more times than I count. (I’ll withhold my opinion on that one. ;) ) You bring up an excellent point about the privilege of having a choice, though. This is something that is too often overlooked in the debate. Admittedly, I completely failed to address it in my post, so I appreciate your calling attention to it, Kim.

    • Kim Nev.

      Just adding another parenting/school philosophy that is out there. There are some great reasons for parents to push their kids into school earlier or later. I just rhink the decision should be made dor the child’s best interest AND in consideration of their classmates and teachers. See my post below for what works for us. :)

  • Kim Nev.

    Bring back “My Story…!” I don’t comment a lot, but I enjoy reading them. I hope your hiatus from the series is short-lived, because I’d miss it! Don’t let a couple of random haters win!

    As for school, we homeschool and are blessed to do so in TX. Pretty much anything goes, legally speaking, though the majority of homeschool families follow similar age standards to the public schools. I love that we have the freedom to make those decisions all on our own, though, as we the parents know our children best! My May baby is 7the and is already halfway through 2nd grade for most subjects, but we took a step back temporarily in math when he was struggling. I love that I can tailor his education to him as an individual! :)

  • [...] I was a senior, my now-husband was a junior. (This is due to those whackadoodle birthday cut-offs we previously discussed.) He and his friends were all preparing their portfolios and, somewhere in there, he happened to [...]

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