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Transitional Kindergarten 101

History of TK | Benefits of TK | About the Project

History of Transitional Kindergarten

In 2010, California implemented the Kindergarten Readiness Act, signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which changed how Kindergarten was offered to children in California. Early Edge California, under its former name of Preschool California, sponsored ​​the Kindergarten Readiness Act (Senate Bill 1381), which was authored by Senator Joe Simitian.

The 2010 Kindergarten Readiness Act, changed the Kindergarten entry date from December 2nd to September 1st so that children enter Kindergarten at age 5. The law also established Transitional Kindergarten (TK), a developmentally appropriate grade to serve younger schoolchildren with birthdays between September and December.

The 2015-16 state budget further clarified the law to allow school districts to enroll 4-year-olds even if they turn 5 after the December cutoff date, providing another local option to get more children ready for Kindergarten. The Expanded TK approach gives districts an option to use a combination of local and Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding to offer school readiness opportunities to children who might not otherwise have access.

In 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 130, which will gradually expand TK over a four-year period, between the 2022-23 to 2025-26 school years, until all 4-year-olds have the opportunity to attend a high-quality, developmentally appropriate TK program and enter Kindergarten prepared to learn and thrive.

Benefits of TK

TK bridges the path between preschool and Kindergarten and gives students the gift of time that will help them build a strong foundation for future school success. It blends social and emotional experience with academic learning, so that students not only learn essential pre-literacy, pre-math, and other cognitive skills, but also develop social and self-regulation skills needed to succeed in school and life.

TK is a win-win-win for children, families, and schools.

  • Children are better prepared to succeed.
  • Families have an additional option to ensure their children enter kindergarten with the maturity, confidence, and skills they need to excel.
  • Schools benefit because children will be better prepared to succeed academically and less likely to be placed in special education or held back in later grades.

Research shows that the return on early investments in education is substantial. According to Deborah Stipek, professor at the Stanford University School of Education, “the cost is paid back many times over in reduced grade retentions, special education services and in lower expenditures for incarceration. Returns also come in the form of the increased productivity that results from higher levels of academic achievement and high school completion rates.”

About the Project

Early Edge California (formerly Preschool California) and a panel of experts worked together to develop TKCalifornia in 2012 to serve the needs of teachers and administrators as they implemented TK. TKCalifornia is the result of a content creation and a review process led by 20 experts from across the state, including local school districts, county offices of education, researchers, and state-level decision makers. Their expertise spans the areas of language and literacy development, early math, social emotional development and executive function, culturally responsive education, and dual language acquisition.

Early Edge California is in the process of partnering with experts to update the materials on TKCalifornia to reflect the expansion to younger children and to ensure that all material provides the most up-to-date information and recommendations.

  • The content and materials on this site are based upon the following key agreements and recommendations identified by our experts as critical to TK students’ learning:
  • Reflecting the continuum of development of all children, recognizing the breadth of their experience, and meeting them where they are to help them advance.
  • Fostering warm, responsive relationships.
  • Supporting family involvement.
  • Offering examples of developmentally appropriate teaching practices.
  • Providing concrete guidance for teachers by showing how to sequence instruction and presenting easy-to-use resources.
  • Helping teachers understand the use of formative assessment.
  • Supporting teachers in differentiating instruction.
  • Articulating with preschool and kindergarten.
  • Focusing on the essential strands for teachers to build the foundation for kindergarten success.
  • Providing integrated learning and instruction.

TKCalifornia is operated and maintained by Early Edge California, a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization that is working to increase access to Early Learning opportunities for all of California’s children, starting with those who need it most.

This project was created in 2012 and continues to expand and grow. For more information about the expert planning and advisory committees, leaders who contributed, and facilitators involved with Early Edge California (formerly Preschool California), please contact us at tkinfo@earlyedgecalifornia.org. TKCalifornia will continue to be developed over time, and Early Edge California looks forward to connecting with educators and implementers in the field to provide updated, high-quality resources to support TK implementation.