Director explains benefits of transitional kindergarten

05.14.2012 | Lodi News-Sentinel | Jennifer Bonnett

Children with fall birthdays will have to wait another year to enroll in kindergarten. But a transitional program launching in Lodi Unified in August will help bridge that gap.

Florence Costamagna, director of the district’s school readiness and preschool programs, recently answered questions about transitional kindergarten and early childhood education.

Q: In 50 words or less, what is transitional kindergarten?

A: Transitional kindergarten, authorized by Senate Bill 1381, is a new early childhood education program that builds a bridge between the preschool years and traditional kindergarten, providing students time to build the necessary social and academic skills for success throughout their school experience.

Q: Will it be a requirement for students not yet old enough to enter kindergarten?

A: No, parents and guardians are currently not required to enroll children in transitional kindergarten or kindergarten (under state law).

Q: Why do these children born in the fall sometimes fall through the cracks in traditional kindergarten?

A: Many parents feel that their children may not be quite ready for the academic rigor of traditional kindergarten. These students often have birthdays in the fall and may still be developing the skills they need for academic work.

Just as children learn to walk and talk at various rates of developmental growth, academic readiness occurs at different times in different children. Parents who access the transitional kindergarten program, giving their children two years in kindergarten, will find them well prepared for first grade and the rest of their academic career.

Q: I know the curriculum is still being formulated, but will this program more resemble preschool or kindergarten?

A: The program will more resemble kindergarten, but will include developmentally appropriate elements of preschool. California law defines transitional kindergarten as “the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.”

While no specific state curriculum is mandated, school districts must modify the local course of study to provide age and developmentally appropriate curriculum for transitional kindergarten.

In transitional kindergarten, students learn the foundational skills and concepts of reading and English language arts, mathematics, history-social science and science. This critical year is designed to set them on a path to becoming lifelong learners, fluent readers, effective communicators, both orally and in writing, to compute and problem solve, and to make sense of the larger world.

Q: How much further ahead will transitional kindergarten students be than their counterparts who don’t attend transitional kindergarten?

A: Transitional kindergarten curriculum is based on the California Kindergarten Standards, including focused instruction in literacy and numeracy with a strong emphasis on self-regulation and social engagement. Transitional kindergarten is designed to build the necessary social and academic skills for school success.

Q: What would you say to a parent who feels this is just another unnecessary grade level?

A: Parents and guardians are currently not required to enroll children in Transitional kindergarten and kindergarten, however, the Lodi Unified School District Transitional Kindergarten Program will provide young 5-year-olds with a developmentally appropriate experience to help them enter traditional kindergarten ready to learn.

Expected outcomes for the program

Students will enter kindergarten with an understanding of school procedures and structures.

Students will enter kindergarten with improved social, academic, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Students’ increased readiness for traditional kindergarten will result in higher self-esteem.

Students will require fewer interventions, referrals for special services, or retention during their elementary, middle and high school years.

— Source: Florence Costamagna

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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