Public TK or Private K? So confused.

Our daughter's birthday is Sept. 3, 2012. (2 days after the Sept. 1 cut-off) We live near Lake Merritt in Oakland and are zoned for Piedmont Avenue Elementary School (PAES) which has a transitional kindergarten program. The school seems to have low test scores and some of the older reviews seem to suggest there's been bullying and violence. The demographics of the school means that our 1/4 Asian and 3/4 white child will be a minority.  The school is majority African American and close to 20% hispanic. She currently attends a wonderful play-based preschool. All of her friends from preschool will be attending K (mostly Chabot, Cleveland, Hillcrest, and Glenview or Park Day, St. Paul, Shu Ren, EBI, Aurora, Redwood Day). None of the parents plan to send their kid to PAES. I don't think we want to keep her at the same preschool for the 3rd year when all of her friends have graduated to elementary school. Her preschool does not have a TK or pre-K program. 

We are torn about what to do.

1) Do we send her to PAES for just one year (TK) and then try to get her into a higher performing OUSD elementary school such as Peralta, Chabot, Crocker, Glenview, Kaiser, etc.? Obviously this will save us a lot of money but our kid will be literally the oldest kid in class and all of her current friends will be a grade above her. And we'll have to do the school search again next year.

2) Do we go for private school and enroll her in K, since many private school cutoff is Dec. 1? We're looking at spending $30,000 / year factoring in tuition and after school care. I guess once she has done K at private school, public school will have to accept her at a higher grade than she would have been if she started at public school. So, if we can't afford the cost for the long term, we could switch her to public school, although my wife is strongly against changing schools in mid-stream. 

Of course, a lot depends on the child as well. Our daughter is very tall (90th percentile in height) and is socially and emotionally pretty mature. She is also very articulate and an excellent negotiator. She isn't academically brilliant or anything and we haven't been pushing the academics. She knows how to write her name and a few other letters, has known her alphabets for a long time, and can do basic math (2 + 2 = 4). She knows colors and shapes as well. Her self care skill is on par with her friends. (potty trained, dress/undress, albeit clumsily, etc.)

We'd love to hear from parents whose kids were the youngest or oldest in class and your take on the pros and cons and what you would do for the kid. Also we'd love to hear any recent experience on Piedmont Avenue Elementary School's TK program. 


-- Confused

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Your question is right in my wheelhouse - I have 2 fall birthday kids; we agonized over placement for each. The older one, a boy, made the K cutoff by one day. We sent him anyway! So he is the absolute youngest in his cohort (now in mid-elementary school). It's fine. The younger one, a girl, spent last year in TK (in a different district than you, but same situation - not our home school since they centralize the TK class). Knowing her and believing her to be very smart (like your daughter sounds) before the year started we were kind of expecting her to thrive so much that it would become apparent to all that she should actually be in kindergarten, and moved partway through the year. Guess what, daughter didn't bother making an effort in TK until more than half the year was over. But, she finally got the lead out in the spring, tested very high in the academic abilities they measure, and we requested she skip kindergarten at our home school, where it was approved. So, she's now in first grade and doing fine. I could not imagine a smart child going through TK and then sitting through a year of K, which virtually duplicates the curriculum. Long story (and I'm even leaving out some details!)... if I were you, I'd enroll your daughter in TK wherever that is; closely monitor her performance. If it warrants it, request moving to kindergarten (wherever there's space that you want to be) midyear; or if she's not quite there yet, starting bugging the teacher/principal/district about accelerating in May for the coming school year. Bottom line, a girl who is the oldest in her class will almost certainly not be academically challenged for at least the first few years of elementary, and we did not want our daughter getting lazy and assuming she doesn't need to try. Don't worry about where her preschool friends are going, or what they're doing. She will make new friends. Good luck!

Our son started K at Piedmont Ave Elementary this year and I'd encourage you to check it out and tour the school, before you write it off. Test scores are not the best way to assess a school. They don't have a lot of the resources that wealthier schools have, but they do a lot with what they do have. Their principal is very responsive about concerns and his kindergarten teacher is fantastic. I still have some concerns about the higher grades, but things appear to be changing and the staff that have been working directly with my son have been fantastic, including Ms Peggy, the lunch lady.

In terms of age, there are a lot of early September birthday kids in TK. Our son's birthday is late August, so he's one of the youngest in K. It doesn't seem to be affecting his experience one way or the other.

Hi - we were actually in the same predicament (early October 2011 birthday) and are currently at Shu Ren International. We recently moved back to the area so enrolled him in their Pre-K4 class and he just started Kindergarten a few weeks ago. He loves it and we love it - the atmosphere and community are great. Since we were new back, we actually didn't know about TK options and really wanted him to attend Kindergarten early per cut off dates (and felt comfortable him being one of the youngest in the class) since he is pretty mature (and also tall) for his age. We figured we would have to pay for another year of pre-school care anyway, so why not give Kindergarten a go and ask the teacher to help us assess along the way. This gave us the option to continue onto Grade 1 or repeat Kindergarten. We highly recommend Shu Ren if you are considering them, no need to speak Mandarin as kids learn along the way (especially when entering at Kindergarten). Feel free contacting me if you have any questions, unfortunately we don't have any experience comparing oldest vs youngest child in class, but have queried a lot of my friends (and educators) and their advice has always been that each child is different and all really depends if you feel they are ready. And we did. Hope that helps. 

Why not do the TK program at PAES? It's free, a great chance to meet families from nearby OUSD schools who are all regionally routed to PAES for TK, and buys you a year to consider your options and get more data on how your child is doing and what might fit her best. I've heard wonderful things about the OUSD TK at Emerson in Temescal, which like PAES is not a top-scoring school by the numbers, but seems to have a lovely and well-liked TK program. I bet PAES is similar!