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.