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The Value of Transitional Kindergarten

Child Care Director Resources

21st October 2020

For parents with young kids turning five within the year, or in a year, kindergarten education systems become essential. The enrollment age for kindergarten children is five years, which creates a gap for four-year-olds who turn five before the end of the year. Kids who don’t have pre-school experience may also fall behind their peers once they join kindergarten, and it’s also common that children who have already turned five can benefit from an additional year of growth before entering kindergarten. Transitional kindergarten (TK) bridges these gaps by providing education to four-year-olds until they turn five, and helps provide foundational skills for children who have recently turned five and may not be ready for kindergarten.

Why Do Kids Need Transitional Kindergarten?

Under the previous law, young children, namely four-year-olds, joined kindergarten together with older kids which oftentimes created a mismatch between the required emotional, social, cognitive, and academic maturity needed for kindergarten, and the developmental level the younger child was at. As a result, these children risked struggling academically, emotionally, and socially at school. There was also the need for a transition period to help young kids who weren’t ready for new kindergarten curriculums. Current curriculums contain academic content that was previously reserved for first grade.

Transitional kindergarten helps children learn how to socialize with other children and their teachers. It can help identify when additional support may be needed for a child, especially for children who didn’t have access to high-quality preschool programs. By enrolling children in transitional kindergarten, they can learn how to participate with a group, listen, cooperate, learn with classmates, and follow structured schedules.

By participating in TK, children may be better able to enter kindergarten with a solid set of pre-academic skills.. This includes social emotional skills, together with foundational academic skills. At the end of the year, the children have had the opportunity to learn:

  • Social skills
  • Self-regulation
  • Pre-literacy
  • Pre-math

How Do Parents Benefit From Transitional Kindergarten?

In California, the mandatory age for enrolling kids in school is 6 years. Before this age, parents can decide not to enroll kids in early childhood education programs (or even kindergarten). Transitional kindergarten helps parents who may have missed out on pre-school programs for any reason. They can ensure that their children grasp the basic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

The program is especially beneficial for migrant families unfamiliar with the California education system and for parents with inflexible schedules that make it challenging to focus on school curriculum. These parents who missed out on early childhood education programs can use TK programs to help their children catch up.

How Do Schools Benefit From Transitional Kindergarten?

Schools can enroll kids with the same level of foundation skills needed to excel in the K-12 system. The program helps schools improve their overall academic performance, and also deliver quality education to all children. Kindergarten teachers can also teach kids the material and curriculum with confidence because their students have the requisite background knowledge, instead of starting from scratch with each kindergarten enrollment.

How Is Transitional Kindergarten Different From Preschool?

Transitional kindergarten is part of the California public school program. Generally, children enrolled in a TK program are trained by credentialed kindergarten teachers, but preschool teachers aren’t mandated to have the same credentials, which means kids may miss out on some training aspects. By enrolling a child in a TK program, you ensure that they develop the necessary foundation skills for a public school system.

When Was Transitional Kindergarten Launched in California?

In California, the program was launched in September 2012 under the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010. The previous law allowed four-year-olds who turned five on or before December 2 to enroll in kindergarten on September 1. However, the new act requires all kids who are enrolling on September 1 to be five years. Any four-year-olds turning five between September 2 and December 2 are eligible to enroll for transitional kindergarten. Children are not required to attend TK, just as they are not mandated to attend Kindergarten in California.

Is Transitional Kindergarten a Public School Program?

The transitional kindergarten program is controlled by the California Department of Education and is essential to all school districts and public schools. It is a recognized school grade under free public school programs and contributes to a school district’s average attendance.

Does Transitional Kindergarten Have a Curriculum?

There is no specific mandated program for transitional kindergarten. Children learn through a modified version of the kindergarten curriculum. The districts and schools can alter the curriculum to train kids, as long as it aligns with the California Preschool Learning Foundations. This set of guidelines offer assistance to early childhood educators. The foundations in Volume 1 focus on social-emotional development, math, English, literacy, and language development. Volume 2 focuses on arts, health, and physical development, while Volume 3 focuses on history, social sciences, and science.

Is Transitional Kindergarten Mandatory?

In California, parents can enroll their children for transitional kindergarten and regular kindergarten at their discretion. The programs aren’t mandatory, and many children who are already attending a preschool or other early learning program may choose to continue for another year in that program before starting kindergarten. However, enrolling kids is excellent for their development and education if they have not yet had another early learning experience.

What Happens When Your Child Turns 5 After December 2?

Fortunately, parents can talk to the school district to enroll their kids in transitional kindergarten if they turn five within the same school year, after December 2. The decision is made in the best interest of the child. After the kid turns five, the school district can begin collecting average daily attendance.

Can You Enroll 5-Year-Olds into Transitional Kindergarten?

Parents who feel that their five-year-olds aren’t ready for kindergarten can choose to enroll them in TK programs. Of course, this depends on the child’s development levels. Most districts in California have different criteria for enrolling kids in transitional kindergarten. The purpose of this type of enrolment would be to allow children that are five by September 1 a chance to catch up with their peers.

However, the parent is mandated to sign a continuance form, which means that after the first year of TK, the parent must enroll the kid for kindergarten. The child cannot skip kindergarten and move to first grade. However, there are school districts that allow kids to accelerate to the first grade after completing two years of transitional kindergarten.

Visit Wonderschool to access our broad range of resources for early childhood education programs.