Holding Children Back A Year in Kindergarten

LASchoolScoutMalcolm Gladwell in his book The Outliers discusses the advantage of holding children back a year in kindergarten – and the long lasting effects on their education.

Children who are more developmentally-ready – those who are more physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually ready to learn in kindergarten – are often grouped accordingly (sometimes called ability grouping), and therefore are learning more and are pushed more than the other students in the class.

They aren’t necessarily smarter than their peers – I repeat, they aren’t necessarily smarter than their peers. They are simply developmentally older, and old enough to take advantage of the curriculum. They are being challenged in a way that will benefit them in the long run. Most likely those students will continue to be put in the more challenging groups for reading and math and continue to excel. These small advantages in the beginning lead to larger advantages over the years, including advantages in both academics and sports when it comes to applying for college. But that’s another subject.

Another interesting point that Gladwell discusses is that teachers often mistake emotional maturity for intellectual maturity. Students who are older are able to control themselves for longer periods of time. They are able to act in a manner that is more acceptable in a classroom. While students who aren’t emotionally mature aren’t necessarily any less intelligent, their teachers may see them as such because they aren’t quite ready to learn yet.

A child’s confidence is also a major factor in their success in school. Developmental readiness can be a self-fulfilling prophecy – if the teacher sees your child as a capable and confident student, and your child sees that in themselves as well, they most likely will live up to this expectation. Teachers teaching enthusiastic, capable students – that’s part of what makes for a great school.

All of these factors should be taken into consideration when deciding whether to send your child to Kindergarten or to give them the “gift of time,” in either preschool or a developmental Kindergarten program.

Sandy Eiges


There’s No Such Thing as a Firm No!

It’s that stressful time of year again: acceptance letters from elementary schools are coming out this Friday. High school notifications arrived by mail and email last  Friday, and colleges are in the midst of sending out their letters this month.

This week when you see a rather forlorn looking parent of a high schooler, you can pretty much guess what’s going on.  They’ve received their letters and some of them were not good news…

READ MORE… from education consultant Fiona Whitney  on the Larchmont Buzz.

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The Larchmont Buzz covers news from Larchmont Village, Hancock Park and the Wilshire areas of Los Angeles.


About Fiona Whitney

Fiona Whitney is the author of three successful school guides all published under The Whitney Guide series, about preschool, private and public elementary education in Los Angeles. As a School Consultant she has a stellar record of placing children in the top schools in LA and beyond. Fiona has lived in Hancock Park for over 20 years and raised her two children through the private and public systems. You can find out more about Fiona Whitney on her website The Whitney Guide or her Facebook Fan Page


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Magnet and Charter Schools 101

Can I Apply To A Magnet School and What Are Charter Schools Anyway?

These days we’re getting a fair number of calls from people looking for free, public schools, and wondering about their magnet and charter options. It often comes as a big surprise that residents of incorporated cities other than Los Angeles do not qualify for a magnet school.

I repeat – if you live in Santa Monica, Malibu, Culver City, Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach, Glendale, Burbank (among others) – schools with their own school district – you cannot apply to a magnet school at all. Not even if your student is gifted. Not under any circumstances.

You must be a resident of LAUSD in order to apply to an LAUSD magnet school.

But you can apply to charter schools, no matter where you live.

So what is a charter school?

The California Ed Code has “7 Statutory Purposes for Charter Schools” – I like to think of them as the “7 Highly Effective Ways to Improve Schools.” Here they are:

Seven Statutory Purposes for Charter Schools, as outlined in California Education Code 47601:

  1. Improve pupil learning.
  2. Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.
  3. Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods.
  4. Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site.
  5. Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.
  6. Hold the schools established under this part accountable for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and provide the schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.
  7. Provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.

Now just the fact that a school has a charter that aims to accomplish all of these things doesn’t mean that all charters are created equal. A charter gives the school a choice as to educational philosophy and how that philosophy is implemented in the classroom.

It also gives the school the choice to specify the type of curriculum, subject matter emphasis, or even the way teaching and learning occur. For regular public schools, all of these matters are decided centrally, by the school district. So charter schools give schools a measure of autonomy above and beyond other public schools.

I say other public schools because charter schools are free public schools, in this case chartered by a school district. As such, they still need to attain a certain level of performance to retain their charter, and adhere to all kinds of governmental requirements, both state and federal. While there is a school board of directors that is responsible for the school, they are not entirely independent schools, and there is very definitely accountability to the school district, the state, the federal government and most importantly, to the parent body at the school.

If you’re considering charter schools, this is the time to start touring. You can tour and apply to any charter from anywhere in the city – or in the state of California, for that matter. But yes, some charters do give preference to neighborhood residents, so check with the charter you’re considering.

Each charter runs its own application process, and they all have separate tour dates, their own enrollment forms and their own admissions lotteries. You will need to check on when a particular school needs your application and get that in on time.

Los Angeles PreSchool Thoughts from Sandy Eiges

In the coming weeks I’ll be writing a lot about elementary, middle and high school admissions. There will be updates on college admissions, announcements about testing – there might even be a newsletter or two devoted to homeschooling, when to start your child on reading, and other burning issues of the day.  If you don’t find your particular issues addressed in this newsletter, wait a week, or two or three – or simply let me know and I’m happy to respond.

But today I find myself thinking about preschool. And I’m thinking about preschool because I find myself, after years away from my own active day to day involvement as the parent of a preschooler, once again actively involved in a preschool. Yes, five years later and I find myself on the board of the preschool my daughter attended – The Growing Place – Ocean Park, in Santa Monica.

In thinking about whether or not to join the Board – trust me, I do not have a lot of time on my hands! – I thought about everything my daughter’s preschool had done for her. Did she go into elementary school reading, writing and doing arithmetic? No. That really wasn’t what her preschool was about. Did she enter fearlessly into exploring topics about which she knew nothing? Yes – preschool expanded her universe in ways I never could have. Did she see teachers as approachable, and use them as resources for learning? Absolutely – she did, and does still. Did she learn words to help her address conflicts with others? She did. Did she learn other words that would help her puzzle out her school day? Yes – she has breathtakingly internalized the scientific method, and whether it’s for an art project, science, math or reading, to this day she can outline her hypothesis and a methodology for testing it. She has ideas, and she’s not afraid to share them, test them, develop them – this is a priceless foundation that preschool gave her. As a Reggio-inspired school this particular preschool is both play-based and arts-based, and as such gave my creative child a belief in herself as an artist, a rich vocabulary and a world view that continues to inspire me.

So, back to basics – preschool is a launching pad into the larger social universe outside of your friends and family. In preschool children learn the fundamentals of getting along with others, whether they like them or not; how to work in teams (now there’s the way of the future); they test how far they can push themselves, physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively. They learn how many shades of purple there really are out there, and that they can try them all. They learn that if they try something and it doesn’t quite work out the way they planned, they can try again. And again and again. Preschool, in many ways, allows children to be fearless for one great shining moment of their lives. Preschool is great preparation for life, not just preparation for school.

That said, not every preschool is a fit for every child. If you need help puzzling this out, and navigating the wide variety of schools out there, feel free to give me a call at 310 926 0050.


  1. Palisades Charter Complex Lottery Dates for 2012-2013: 
    February 6th :  Applications available. These must be picked up and hand-delivered to each of the PCC schools
    March 29th:   4 pm Deadline to submit applications, no exceptions
    April 13th:  Lottery Drawing at each of the schools – you do not have to be present. Check with each school as to time and location of the lottery.

    For those of you who don’t know which schools are in the Palisades Charter Complex, they are: Canyon Charter, Kenter Canyon Charter, Marquez Elementary, Palisades Elementary and Topanga Elementary. You can put a separate lottery application in to each of these schools.

  2. SPOTLIGHT ACADEMY ON SUNDAY, September 30 at the Music Center

    ·         Navigating the high seas of higher education for music programs
    ·         What are college audition panels looking for?
    ·         Be a successful college applicant no matter which school you apply to!
    ·         The world of dance agents
    ·         How to get a gig and keep it – networking, attitude and professionalism
    ·         Singing from the heart for classical and non classical singers

    **High school students at all levels of prior training are welcome to attend, whether or not they plan to
    audition in the Spotlight program. If you are interested in attending this workshop, please email spotlight@musiccenter.org
    To learn more about Spotlight, please visit: www.musiccenter.org/spotlight

Until next time,
Sandy Eiges
Sandy Eiges, M.S.W.
L.A. School Scout

First Day of Kindergarten in Los Angeles Help

First day of Kindergarten – what to expect?

 So here it is, that day you’ve been looking forward to – or maybe dreading. The first day of Kindergarten. You hope you made a great choice for your child, and that he or she will come home exhilarated, bursting with new information, and excited by what they are sure are new best friends. You hope you made a great choice for yourself, and that you’ll find other parents to talk to, an administration you feel is responsive to your concerns, teachers who communicate with parents – in short, you hope it’s kind of like that preschool you love to death and can’t imagine leaving.

Well, sort of. Let’s face it, Kindergarten – and elementary school – is not preschool. Because here’s the thing – preschool was focused primarily on your child’s development, whereas school is more about making sure your kids have the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in life. Both of them are of course really about giving your child the foundation they will need to become learners, to explore, to work well with others, to think deeply and be confident in their ability to do so.

But for now this is the first day of Kindergarten, and, while in preschool your child might have been given snack twice a day, reminded to eat their lunch, drink water, and then taken a nice long nap, that’s not going to happen in school. So what can you expect? What do you need to prepare?

For one, don’t stock up on those fetching pencil cases, pencils, erasers, scissors, etc. – unless your school has sent you a list to fill before the first day of school. Most schools will let you know what you need, and what they need from you, from the first day on through the last. Do pack some extra clothes – yes, a complete set, just in case of accidents. School yards and bathrooms aren’t always right next to each other. And an extra sweatshirt won’t weigh them down too much.

There will be time for a morning snack – but if your school hasn’t told you otherwise, for the most part you will need to provide it. If your child is staying for an extended day – after school is out – you definitely want to pack a morning and afternoon snack. You will also have to pack a lunch – again, unless you have made other arrangements with your school. If you’re going to public school, you might want to have your child buy lunch at the cafeteria – kids LOVE cafeteria lunches! – but you’ll still need to pack a lunch on that first day.

If you need to drop your child off before the school day, in public school you can also opt for the cafeteria breakfast available to the before-care students. Then, mid-morning, there is a morning snack break. Either pack a snack – fruit, nuts, trail mix, muffins, croissants, cheese sticks, juice, bagel and cream cheese, quesadillas, hard boiled eggs – or plan on the morning snack available in the public school cafeteria for purchase, where there is always a boxed cereal option if you have a picky eater. School lunches are getting healthier these days, and really, the kids do love them. Private schools often have many hot lunch options you can sign up for online and in advance – but still, that first day, you might want to pack their lunch in that brand new lunchbox that matches the brand new backpack.

In the afternoon, if your child is staying for an extended day, sorry, no napping, and there is generally no food available at the school. Again, check with your school on this! Active parent groups are changing what the options are at schools everywhere. Whatever you do give them for afternoon snack will have to tide them over until dinner – you can include things like veggies and dip, salami, crackers and cheese, pretzels, corn chips, trail mix, fruit, yogurt. If you include something perishable, don’t forget to put an ice pack into their lunchbox – most schools don’t refrigerate student lunchboxes. And don’t forget to pack water! No one is going to be reminding your child to drink throughout the day – the best reminder is the bottle peeking out from the backpack side pocket – and maybe the little notes they will find from you reminding them to do so.

No matter what they eat or drink, though, they will definitely feel your presence and how you are still there taking care of them by packing what they love – and that’s probably the most important thing to remember about the first day of Kindergarten. They’ll do fine – will you?


A group of parents and educators are creating a language immersion public charter school in West Adams. There will be an informational coffee on Tuesday August 28th at 7:30pm at 1836 Virginia Road, Los Angeles, CA 90019. They will talk about the upcoming West Adams Charter Public School – the school philosophy, the curriculum and language immersion. The languages to be offered are Spanish and French so those who want the FIRST French immersion program at an LAUSD school, it is very important that you show up! Please rsvp to frenchimmersionla@gmail.com


Sandy Eiges, M.S.W.
L.A. School Scout

LA School Admissions – What You Can Do Right Now

Some public schools are scheduled to start the school year on August 15. And the private schools aren’t far behind. So to get everyone up to speed, here are some of the things you can do this month:

For preschool – if you’re starting your process, relax – most preschools are closed in August, or don’t do any tours even if they’re open. Unless you are relocating, for most preschools you need to tour before applying. You can start making a list of schools to start calling come September. Otherwise – enjoy the rest of your summer!

For DK – if you’re not sure whether to start your summer birthday child in Kindergarten, or keep them in preschool for an extra year, DK (developmental Kindergarten) can provide another option. If your child is on the cusp of the Kindergarten cut off, be sure to discuss this with the preschool, so that you know whether you’re applying for DK or K for the following year.

For Kindergarten – August is a great time to buy that perfect backpack and lunchbox, and try out some possible lunches. Don’t buy a whole lot of school supplies unless your school has already sent you a list – you’ll get that list when school starts. At some schools, they’ll provide the supplies, and just ask for your contribution.

For 1st – 3rd grade – While many schools make it a priority to make sure that all Kindergarteners are reading by the end of Kindergarten, in terms of child development the bell curve for learning to read spans anywhere from age 2 to age 9 – that is, third grade. All children should be reading comfortably by the end of third grade – remediating reading after 3rd grade becomes much more difficult.

If your child is going into third grade and still not reading fluidly, think about getting them some extra help.  If you need help thinking about your options, please feel free to contact me for a referral – there are some terrific resources out there. You can always reach me at sandy@LAschoolscout.com.

For 5th – 11th grade – If you are planning to apply to private schools for grades 5 through 11, then your child will need to take the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam). This exam is required, whether they are applying from public, private or parochial school. Online registration for this year opens up at the end of August – go to https://iseeonline.erblearn.org/Welcome.aspx for more information.

For K-12 – Some school applications are available online now, or will be by September 1. Whether you know which schools you’re applying to or not, this is a great time to formulate your plan for the coming year. If you need help developing a school list, I’m here to help. You can reach me at 310 926 0050; or sandy@LAschoolscout.com.

For College – if your student is entering 10th or 11th grade, this is the time to have that frank family talk about financing their college education. Whether you need a general overview of how the college application process works, or you’re starting to think about putting together a list, our college counselor Sue Eiges Hansen can work with you on your options – you can reach her at college@LAschoolscout.com.


  1. There is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on creative ways to finance a college education: http://is.gd/ycFK9y
  2. Next Parent of LD meeting
    The next meeting for the parent of children with learning disabilities will be August 13, 8-10pm.
    We’ll hold this meeting at our house and this meeting will not have a speaker.  Though the speakers are very helpful, sometimes it takes away from people being about to talk and share ideas or questions.
    We hope to have an attorney at our September meeting to discuss parent and children’s rights.
    Our address:
    4229 berryman avanue
    LA, CA 90066
    (please enter through side gate and children will be asleep)
  3. Article:
    Creating Advantage in College
    Summer camp gives children meaningful advantages in college.