Transitional Kindergarten: Questions and Some Answers
Transitional kindergarten continues to be a hot topic among educators, legislators, and parents alike. We're reposting this blog to support discussion on this important consideration. For more recent information on California's policies, please read this article on prekindergarten from The Washington Post. For a different perspective, try also reading: Transitional Kindergarten: Delay School at Your Child's Peril? Enjoy!
I recently found out that my son, who will turn five years old in November 2012, will be eligible for California’s new transitional kindergarten program. I had planned to hold him back and keep him in preschool another year. As an educator and parent, I have witnessed firsthand how many kindergarteners with fall birthdays are not ready academically or socially for the requirements of today’s kindergarten classrooms. Now it looks like I have another option. Here are my questions about transitional kindergarten and the answers I found (or at least partial answers).
Q: What is transitional kindergarten and how does it differ from kindergarten?
A: Transitional kindergarten is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program specifically designed for children who turn five in the fall of their kindergarten year. It uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for younger children. It provides a bridge between preschool and traditional kindergarten and is intended to help students with fall birthdays become more successful in their future years of schooling.
Q: Who is eligible for transitional kindergarten?
A: A child is eligible for transitional kindergarten if he will have his fifth birthday between:
For the 2012–13 school year: November 2 and December 2
For the 2013–14 school year: October 2 and December 2
For the 2014–15 school year and each school year thereafter: September 2 and December 2.
Each elementary or unified school district in California is required by law to provide kindergarten and transitional kindergarten classes for all eligible children.
Q: How and why did California decide to implement a transitional kindergarten program?
A: Children in California were eligible for kindergarten if they turned five years old by December 2. Most states do not allow children to begin kindergarten at age four. California also has some of the highest learning standards, yet many “young fives” (kindergarteners with fall birthdays) were not ready socially or developmentally to meet these standards. Providing “young fives” with a year of transitional kindergarten gives them more time to develop socially and cognitively and to be successful in kindergarten.
Research shows that moving up the kindergarten entry date helps increase test scores by as much as 27 percent. If students are in high-quality early childhood programs like transitional kindergarten, studies show they are less likely to become high school dropouts, repeat a grade, or place in special education programs.
Establishing transitional kindergarten and moving up the kindergarten start date in California are part of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010.
Q: What are the standards and curriculum for transitional kindergarten?
A: Currently, there are no state standards for transitional kindergarten but the state Board of Education has asked the Early Learning Advisory Council to develop them. Until those standards are available, educators are advised to refer to the Common Core State Standards, California’s Content Standards, and California’s Preschool Learning Foundations.
There is no mandated transitional kindergarten curriculum. District educators are to modify the current kindergarten curriculum to make it age and developmentally appropriate for transitional kindergarteners.
Q: How will transitional kindergarten be funded and who will teach it?
A: Transitional kindergarten will be part of the public school system and will use existing funding and credentialed teachers previously allocated to students with fall birthdays (“young fives”).
Q: How many students will be in transitional kindergartens in California?
A: Eventually over 120, 000 students per year could be eligible for transitional kindergarten.
Q: Which districts in the state already have transitional kindergarten programs?
A: Long Beach, Los Angeles Unified, Palo Alto, and Kingsburg Charter Elementary in Fresno are examples of districts that already have programs.
Q: What other states have transitional kindergarten programs?
A: Some states have universal prekindergarten programs or transitional kindergarten in private preschools or schools. The only other school districts I found that have government-funded transitional kindergarten are in Iowa. See the following examples: Woodward-Granger Community School District and Sioux City Community Schools.
If you know of any other states that offer government-funded transitional kindergarten that are part of the K–12 public school system, please let me know in the comments section.
Q: What kinds of professional development opportunities were offered or will be provided for teachers of transitional kindergarten?
There will be no additional funding for transitional kindergarten professional development although existing funds may be used. The California Kindergarten Association’s annual conference in January 2012 will offer a strand on transitional kindergarten.
Two statewide learning opportunities on transitional kindergarten took place in spring 2011—the Central California Regional Summit and the South Bay Transitional Regional Conference. Resources from the Central California Regional Summit are available on this website.
Q: Where can I learn more about transitional kindergarten?
A: Here are some websites that provide more information:
I have two more questions, which I haven’t been able to answer yet. Let me know if you have any thoughts or answers!
Q: Will most districts decide to form separate transitional kindergarten classrooms or will they mix transitional and traditional kindergartners in the same classrooms?
Comment: If my home district, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), decides to only accommodate transitional kindergarteners at certain schools, this may pose a dilemma for those of us with an older child (like me) already attending school. If there is no transitional kindergarten option at my older daughter’s school, I will not send my son somewhere else for two years just so he can attend transitional kindergarten. I think it would be logistically impractical. SFUSD is in the process of deciding how it will provide transitional kindergarten to eligible students.
Q: If kindergarteners and traditional kindergarteners are in the same classrooms (which is permitted by the new law) how will teachers differentiate instruction?
What are your thoughts on transitional kindergarten?
Lisa Borah-Geller is a Materials Developer at Developmental Studies Center
This blog by Lisa contrasts with a later blog on transitional kindergarten by DSC Writer Kenni Smith.
Read more blogs by Lisa Borah-Geller