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Early Entry to Kindergarten Has Children Facing Tough Requirements

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SMITHFIELD — A new state law allows "exceptional" four year olds to enroll in kindergarten,if they meet some tough requirements. Some parents say the testingrequirements children have to pass are unfair and in some cases ridiculous.

The North Carolina General Assembly agreed this summer to let "gifted"four-year-olds into kindergarten, but lawmakers didn't say what "gifted"meant.

State education leaders admit they were caught off-guard by the move andinstead of letting each school district make their own guidelines, theyset out to make the new rules. They're rules that are surprising someparents.

Chelsea Tripp is four years old and she wants to be in kindergarten. Hermother heard about the new North Carolina law allowing four-year-olds intokindergarten and applied for the paperwork.

Desiree Tripp was told Chelsea would have to test in at a 99th percentilelevel, better than 99 percent of other four-year-olds. When she called thepsychologist who administered the tests, Tripp was told a 99th percentilelevel means a seventh grade reading level and a third grade math level toget into kindergarten.

Tripp said she expected the levels to be a little out of the ordinary, butnot what they are.

Leaders at the Department of Public Instruction said the rules were meantto be tough.

Tripp thinks Chelsea is ready for school. She said the new rules justaren't fair.

The test also includes a psychological evaluation to judge maturity levels. Education leaders said they didn't expect many children to test inwhen they set the rules. Some parents are asking why pass the law in thefirst place.

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