What is Transitional Kindergarten?

 Why Transitional Kindergarten?


The program was created as a result of the 2010 Kindergarten Readiness Act, signed into law by then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which changed the birth date for admission into public school kindergarten from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1.

Beginning in 2012, each year the cut-off date for kindergarten admission has moved up one month. The final change takes place this fall, when a child must turn 5 by Sept. 1 in order to be eligible for kindergarten in California.

So what happens if you have a child born between September and December? The same law that changed the kindergarten entry date also established transitional kindergarten to accommodate those older 4-year-olds and to prepare them for kindergarten. Your youngster is now eligible for this new grade.


 What Is Transitional Kindergarten?


Transitional kindergarten uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for younger children. It smoothes the transition between preschool and traditional kindergarten and is intended to help students with fall birthdays become more successful in their future years of schooling.

This is particularly appropriate in California, since children in our state have traditionally started kindergarten at a younger age than kids in almost every other state. As a result, they have often lacked the maturity and social skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. At their young age, some may not be practiced in socializing with their peers and teachers, while others may not yet know how to listen or follow a structured class schedule. As any kindergarten teacher will tell you, these are huge stumbling blocks for youngsters.

At the same time, kindergarten today is far more academic than it once was, similar to what first grade used to be, leading the youngest kids in a kindergarten class to struggle academically. Transitional kindergarten (also known as TK) ensures that children have these pivotal skills, which are foundations to successful learning, when they begin kindergarten.


 How Can I Find Out More About TK?


Each elementary or unified school district in California is required by law to provide kindergarten and transitional kindergarten classes for all eligible children.

As part of the public school system, transitional kindergarten is free. It is taught by credentialed teachers from the K-12 system, which now includes transitional kindergarten.

If you have a child who is turning 5 between September and December 2014, now is the time to call your local school district office or visit the school district website to find out how to sign up.&pagebreaking& Should I Choose TK Or Preschool?

Proponents of transitional kindergarten point out that the program is an important step between preschool and kindergarten and gives students a head start that will yield payoffs in future academic success. They say TK will help ensure that your child enters kindergarten with the maturity, confidence and skills needed to succeed. These are some of the goals and objectives of the program, and all TK teachers must be credentialed.


Teachers at preschools are not required to have a teaching credential, although many do. A preschool may also have similar standards and curricula to TK programs, but as a parent, you need to check this out. Private pre-K institutions vary widely in their approach to education, ranging from glorified childcare centers to academic training grounds. Visiting the school, along with your child, is the best way to decide what's right for your child. Your child is unique; find out where she fits best.


 TK for All 4-Year-Olds?


There's even a push to extend the TK program to all 4-year-olds. In January, State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) joined with 10 of his Senate colleagues in proposing that the state’s transitional kindergarten program, which currently serves only a small number of California’s nearly 500,000 4-year-olds, be expanded to accommodate all 4-year-olds in the state who wish to enroll. SB 837 is currently making its way through the Senate; the expansion would begin to roll out in the 2015-16 school year and would accommodate all eligible students by the 2019-20 year. The bill also aims to reduce class sizes and improve teacher qualifications.


This, of course, would be in the spirit of Preschool for All, something that President Barack Obama has proposed at the national level, and which is already in place in San Francisco.


 Preschool For All


"I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America,” Obama declared in his 2013 State of the Union address. “Let's do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let's give our kids that chance."

The Preschool for All initiative is designed to improve quality and expand access to preschool, through a partnership with all 50 states, to provide all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds with high-quality preschool, while encouraging states to serve additional 4-year-olds from middle-class families.

Decades of scientific research have shown that children who attend preschool learn better socialization skills, go into kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, have richer vocabularies and can handle basic math skills better than children who have not attended preschool.


San Francisco already has a Preschool for All program. First 5 San Francisco is dedicated to providing every child in San Francisco County with equal access to a high-quality preschool program.

Funded by Proposition H, Preschool for All is a citywide preschool program that offers free and reduced cost preschool for 4-year olds who reside in San Francisco County. The goal is to serve all income levels, ethnicities and languages. Preschool for All funds both private and public preschools.

Deborah Stipek, a professor at the Stanford University School of Education, is a huge proponent of early childhood education for all.

"The cost is paid back many times over in reduced grade retentions and special education services. Returns also come in the form of the increased productivity that results from higher levels of academic achievement and high school completion rates," Stipek says.


Judy Molland is a freelance writer and a teacher at Capuchino High School in San Bruno. 

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