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As Transitional Kindergarten (TK) expands to serve all 4-year-olds, it’s critical that school districts get creative about how to support our teachers and meet growing workforce demands, while ensuring a high-quality experience for our kids. Luckily, there are existing models California can turn to as the state works to expand TK. One such model, known as the “co-teaching” model, comes from San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) which has implemented co-teaching in its commingled TK 4 classes, and is now in its Universal Transitional Kindergarten (UTK) classrooms. The TK co-teaching model includes both a Multiple Subject credentialed teacher and a Child Development Permit holder that together teach a TK class. This model makes it more feasible to implement lower child-teacher ratios by adding more Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers in addition to a TK credential teacher to teach in a classroom of up to 24 students.
To implement a successful co-teaching model, SDUSD underwent a dedicated planning process, starting with developing a clear definition of co-teaching that was agreed upon by teachers, leadership, and staff. An important element of that definition is making it clear that there is no hierarchy amongst teachers. Teachers in a co-teaching TK classroom are a team of equals who use their respective expertise to support the social-emotional, developmental, and early academic needs of their students. To reinforce these values, neither teacher has the authority to direct or supervise the work of the other teacher. This way, the co-teaching model brings the knowledge, expertise, and skills of its ECE workforce into the TK classroom and leverages the pairing of ECE and TK teacher expertise to blend alignment between the California Preschool Learning Foundations and the Common Core State Standards.
As explained by Stephanie Ceminsky, SDUSD’s Director of Early Learning, “Our TK 4 classrooms embrace the ‘perfect blend’ of alignment between the California Preschool Learning Foundations and the Common Core State Standards. Based on this alignment, the instructional and physical conditions are designed with purpose. Teachers model behaviors to support social-emotional foundations, facilitate learning rather than solely direct instruction, and create opportunities for discovery, exploration, and problem-solving.”
ECE and TK teachers plan, share data, and participate in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) together. In addition, the teachers also collaborate vertically with Kindergarten teachers. This articulation supports the identification of learning needs and priorities, as well as allows for sharing of best practices.
SDUSD also provides and incentivizes regular professional development and supports teachers interested in pursuing new coursework or a credential. The district holds a commitment to creating opportunity through a teacher pipeline that increases the diversity of their workforce and offers current employees opportunities for career advancement. A career lattice for ECE teachers aspiring to become fully credentialed teachers in California is one of the critical components of the SDUSD’s approach. This pipeline provides both a pathway and financial support for qualifying staff who successfully complete coursework or training to obtain a teaching credential. Support for staff on this career lattice includes reimbursement to cover the cost of tuition, books, and other required fees while completing coursework or training during non-working hours. In addition to financial reimbursement, SDUSD will support the professional growth of candidates through Early Learning Cohorts that will undergo district-led quarterly training through PLCs designed to augment their credential programs.
The co-teaching model supports a cohesive vision for development and readiness. Combined with critical professional development opportunities, this model is one potential way California can grow and support its TK workforce as it expands TK over the next several years.
Learn more about SDUSD’s co-teaching model or watch the webinar recording of An Overview of San Diego Unified’s Co-Teaching Model: An Option for TK Implementation presented by Early Edge California.