Transitioning to Transitional Kindergarten

October 18, 2012

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Senate Bill 1381 of 2010 changed the required birthday for admission to kindergarten and first grade and established a transitional kindergarten (TK) program beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. TK is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate. However, there has been considerable discussion and uncertainty about TK. While the program went into effect this year, many charter schools and districts did not know about the program's fate when Governor Jerry Brown proposed deleting funding for the program in his 2012-13 budget proposal. In the end, the California Legislature restored the funding, and the program began this school year as scheduled.

While CCSA believes that the TK program is not mandated for every charter school (see our blog post), there are a number of schools that have chosen to provide TK, and many more that are planning to implement it next year now that the funding appears secure. There are several good reasons to consider TK for your school community. First of all, TK offers an extra year of instruction for those pupils who are eligible, which will likely improve their success in subsequent years.

Funding for TK starts at the kindergarten funding level and schools will have the opportunity to serve pupils a year sooner than they otherwise would. As the minimum age for kindergarten is increased, charter schools may miss out on serving some pupils if they do not offer TK. While TK does require differentiated instruction from traditional kindergarten, it does not necessarily require a separate class or teacher, and no specific TK standards have been established. There is considerable local flexibility on how to operate the program.

A number of resources available for those schools implementing TK exist. The California Department of Education has posted "Frequently Asks Questions" about TK, including pupil eligibility dates and other advice on structuring TK. These FAQs may offer some guidance for those choosing to participate in TK. Many other education organizations have also developed resources. For instance, Preschool California has established a specific webpage dedicated to supporting TK. Charter schools may also want to consult with their local schools district or county office of education for local support, advice and possible opportunities to partner on implementation. All charter schools that offer kindergarten should review these resources and consider the viability and benefits of offering TK.

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