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SCVNews.com | Buzzwords in Education: Transitional Kindergarten | 04-16-2012
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TK, or Transitional Kindergarten may become the hottest new buzzwords in education. Next year school districts in the state of California will be adding TK classrooms to bridge the transition from preschool to kindergarten.

In 2010 the Kindergarten Readiness Act was passed to amend the California Education code to change the required birthday for admission to kindergarten and first grade and establish a transitional kindergarten program beginning in the 2012–2013 school year.

According to Preschool California, a nonprofit advocacy organization, TK will give 120,000 more children each year an additional year of preparation so that when they enter kindergarten they are more prepared to learn and succeed.

“We really feel TK is a win, win, win for children, parents and schools. Children will be better prepared to succeed; parents will have an additional option to ensure their kids enter kindergarten with the maturity, confidence and the skills they need to excel. Schools are going to benefit because children are going to be better prepared to succeed academically and less likely to be placed in special education or be held back in later grades,” said Deborah Kong, Spokesperson, Preschool California.

The Saugus Union School District has already announced plans for two TK classrooms, one at Cedarcreek and another at James Foster Elementary.

The Newhall School District has already drawn up plans for a single TK classroom to be implemented at both Oak Hills and Newhall Elementary. However, Superintendent Dr. Marc Winger says they are awaiting clarification on whether or not to proceed based on passage of the state budget June 30.

Sulpher Springs School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Nolet is keeping an eye on the governor’s May budget revision as he prepares for three TK classrooms. They are planning on having 20 to 22 students per class, while Newhall School District is preparing for 60 students in two classrooms.

Last week the California State Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education voted to reject Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to eliminate transitional kindergarten. The California Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance had already voted to reject the governor’s proposal on March 13.

Kong is confident the act signed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will remain on the books.

“Right now the legislature is the last vote on the budget. I think they’ve already indicated their intent and sent a very clear message that Transitional Kindergarten is the law,” said Kong.

Unlike legislators, Kong says the public may not fully understand the need for TK.

“Kindergarten is not what it used to be. Today it’s far more academic,” Kong said.

She says kindergarten children are now expected to read, write and do simple arithmetic by the end of the school year. Not all children are ready for that, she says, especially when they are at the younger end of the age/maturity spectrum.

“Transitional Kindergarten compared to kindergarten is more flexible in teaching, more circle time, an ability for those kids who don’t have the maturity or the social and emotional skills that they might need to be able to develop those,” said Kong.

The non-profit Public Policy Institute of California stated in a public policy paper their support of children entering kindergarten later:

Our review of 14 recent studies on the short- and long-term effects of entering kindergarten at an older age suggests that increasing California’s entry age will likely have a number of benefits, including boosting student achievement test scores.

While kindergarteners can focus on those skills that appear on state and federal achievement tests, TK can build a stronger foundation of literacy and math skills and  support social and emotional development.

“When you go to a TK class room you might see play stations like a dress up area, a puppet theatre, a play kitchen a painting station, and a water table, whereas a kindergarten classroom has rows of desks,” said Kong.

According to the Kindergarten Readiness Act here are how the enrollment ages are changing:

2012: Student must be 5 by November 1

2013: Student must be 5 by October 1

2014: Student must be 5 by September 1

Transitional Kindergarten is the first of a two year kindergarten experience and will be taught by a fully credentialed teacher. After the first year students would go back to their home school sites for kindergarten.

Contact your local school district for kindergarten and Transitional Kindergarten enrollment round ups. Letting districts know early will help them plan accordingly.

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