Audio Archive

Episodes by Date

Calendar is loading...

KQED Newsletters


Get regular updates on great programs and events

More from KQED


State Senator Honors 2 School Teachers Who Rewrote The Age Law For Kindergartners

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Earlier this year Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill requiring that children are 5 years old before they can enter kindergarten beginning in 2012.

Two Palo Alto teachers, reading specialist Natalie Bivas and kindergarten teacher Diana Argenti are being honored Tuesday night for suggesting that bill to State Senator Joe Simitian early last year.

Before the bill became law, California was one of only four states nationwide that allowed kids to enter kindergarten if they turned five by December 2.

"They really made the case, as pretty much all the research does, that younger kids are struggling with today's kindergarten. And that that struggle continues --not just in the kindergarten year, but year after year after year," Simitian said.

The law also creates a year of public pre-kindergarten for children whose birthdays fall through September to December.

Argenti began teaching kindergarten in 1993 when it was still much more like preschool is now, focused on social skills and academic readiness, she said.

"Nowadays we actual have academic standards that we work toward in a much more academic curriculum. And what I was seeing was that some of the youngest children in the class were not able to master standards simply because they did not have the developmental maturity to reach those standards," Argenti said.

The extra year will help children throughout their academic career, Bivas said.

"When they start off behind, they never really catch up," Bivas said.

Bivas said that she thought of contacting the state senator once she realized that often the children who had difficulties had birthdays in October or Novemeber.

Later Bivas sent out an e-mail asking for support about raising the kindergarten age to teachers in her school. Argenti contacted Bivas and the two put together a petition that every elementary school teacher in their district signed. The teachers from throughout the state joined the effort.

"I think it was that unified voice that people really heard," Argenti said. "People want to do what's right for children, I think they just didn't understand the level of frustration that teachers were feeling."

Argenti says that she initially did not expect that the petition would do anything.

"To me it was a way to vent my frustration," she said. "This experience makes me realize that if teachers work together toward something that they think is really important, we can create change in our state and the world."

Sponsored by