Transitional kindergarten, the first new grade level added to the California curriculum since kindergarten debuted in 1891, is the first phase of a new two-year kindergarten program established in 2010 as part of the Kindergarten Readiness Act. While some of the state’s school districts have already implemented the program, 2012-13 marks the first school year it will be mandatory in all districts.
“Transitional kindergarten will offer 4-year-olds a bridge to standard kindergarten,” said Fran Courter, Antioch Unified School District coordinator of educational services. “This program gives students the gift of time to build a strong foundation for success before they enter elementary school.”
Under the old rule, students born by Dec. 2 were eligible to attend kindergarten, but the Kindergarten Readiness Act has bumped the cutoff date to Sept. 1. Children who turn 5 on or before Nov. 1, 2012 are eligible to attend traditional kindergarten. Children who turn 5 on Sept. 1 through Nov. 1 have the option of being enrolled in transitional kindergarten or traditional kindergarten, but children who turn 5 between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 must attend transitional kindergarten beginning in the 2012-13 school year or wait a year to enroll in traditional kindergarten for the 2013-14 school year.
Under the new system, all kindergarteners entering the classroom will be 5 and thus on a similar developmental path physically, socially, emotionally and academically. Similarly, students entering transitional kindergarten will be 4 and thus benefit from a developmentally appropriate curriculum that will help them be better prepared for kindergarten.
At a recent transitional kindergarten summit, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said transitional kindergarten will become a “bright spot” in the California education system, creating a wave of success for future generations.
Deborah Kong, communications director at Preschool California, a statewide nonprofit organization working to increase high-quality early learning opportunities, also supports the program.
“Transitional kindergarten is critical because kindergarten in California has changed over the years, and many of the skills children were once taught in first grade are now taught in kindergarten,” Kong said in a recent press release. “Transitional kindergarten is the right program at the right time.”
Gov. Jerry Brown, however, recently proposed that funding for the transitional kindergarten program be cut from the state’s 2012-13 budget, a proposal that leaves some districts in limbo.
“It’s frustrating,” said Oakley Union Elementary School District Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Anne Allen. “We don’t know if the funding will be cut or not until the state government works out the budget, which won’t be until late June. Our classes start Aug. 1, so we don’t have time to wait and see what happens. So we’ve decided to move forward with the program regardless of the budget decision.”
The Oakley district is in a good position because it launched a pre-kindergarten program 10 years ago at Laurel Elementary School. Most of the program’s infrastructure is already in place.
Brown’s proposal to cut the funding and postpone transitional kindergarten would displace approximately 125,000 students from kindergarten, as they would no longer be age-eligible under the new standards. Allen said that to ensure students with November and December birthdays don’t get left behind, those students would be given priority into the pre-kindergarten program.
State Sen. Joseph Simitian, who authored the Kindergarten Readiness Act, plans to create legislation that will allow schools to collect Average Daily Attendance funding for the students enrolled in a transitional kindergarten program even if state funding is cut.
For the latest information about transitional kindergarten, visit www.preschoolcalifornia.org.