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Breaking Down Transitional Kindergarten

Educators, administrators explain what Transitional Kindergarten aims at doing for the public school system's early learners.

Early Start, early learning, preschool, nursery school ... there are so many different types of learning that young children can do so why add another option with Transitional Kindergarten?

Deborah Kong, the spokesperson for the nonprofit advocacy organization Preschool California says that everyone, even those that do not have children in the school system can benefit from this program.

It is a benefit for California as a state because it means that children are going to be more likely to succeed at school, less likely to be placed in special education or held back and that saves the state money,” Kong says. “If our kids aren’t ready to start school, it costs everyone in California in the end.”

Transitional Kindergarten is the second part of the Kindergarten Readiness Bill, authored by State Senator Joe Simitan. It addresses the children who aren’t 5 years old by Sept. 1, who would have otherwise been enrolled into kindergarten.

“Transitional K is a bridge class between a preschool program and kinder program in its purest sense,” says Ruth Bareket, Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services. “In California, it came about as a result of having one of the youngest kinder start dates in the country.”

Prior to the 2010 legislation, children had to turn 5 by Dec. 2 in order to enroll into that school year’s kindergarten.

Differences in Curriculum

Kindergarten has long since been the transition from the home or childcare into the school setting.

“A dress up station, sand areas, all once a staple of kinder classrooms but have since almost disappeared entirely,” Kong says.

What kindergarten looks like now can be compared to what the first grade used to require, Kong says.

“It’s far more academic,” she says. “Students need to read words by sight, add and subtract, write in complete sentences.”

Which is why educators and advocators of the transitional kindergarten program say this stepping-stone is necessary and should not be cut from the California school system as Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing.

“While kinder involves a lot of paperwork and listening to the teacher, transitional kindergartners will learn all the essentials to succeed in kinder: alphabet, letters shapes and sounds, colors and numbers.”

Having a multi-aged classroom—as young as 4 years old up to 6 years old—add to the teachers’ challenges of effective teaching.

“When you look at young children, there’s a very broad developmental range,” Bareket says. “Each month brings milestones because it’s a significant percentage of their lives. Children who are 4 years old are socially and emotionally less mature.

“A child who is not ready has trouble with how rigorous kinder has become, Bareket continues. “Where there used to be nap period, just a few hours and a lot of play now kinder gets full academics, no naps, they have to follow the rules and it is all day.”

What happens to children that have been starting kinder at a young age, Bareket says is they start to develop a very poor self-image of themselves because teachers have to redirect them.

“Which is a slippery slope,” she says. “There’s even many studies with children that have a poor starts, socially, emotionally, that are not ready to start school and a correlation with prison and drop out later at life.”

Peggy Dodge January 19, 2012 at 07:24 AM
They are using the "Save Kindergarten" tag line to promote Transitional Kindergarten. Read what Deborah Kong of Preschool California has to say. They are simply writing off kindergarten, accepting the inappropriate program it now is and proposing adding another grade. Frankly, until the school system does right by our 5 year olds, why in the world would be give them our 4 year olds.

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