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District updated on new program

12.15.2011 | Paradise Post | Trevor Warner

Another grade level is being implemented in California schools to help prepare young students for their school career.

The Paradise school board Tuesday heard information on a new state requirement that provides for a transitional kindergarten class in the district beginning next school year. The program is intended to provide a year of learning for students too young to begin kindergarten, which would help make the transition easier.

Just by the nature of their age, some of the very young students are challenged by regular kindergarten instruction, said assistant superintendent Susan Davis.

As proposed, the transitional program would be offered to students who turn 5 years old between the beginning of the school year and Dec. 2, 2012. Teacher credentialing would be similar or identical to credentials required for kindergarten teachers, said Davis. The district does have flexibility with the start date, said Davis. For instance, the district could qualify children who turn 5 years old between November and December. The following year the district may qualify students with birthdays between the beginning of October and the beginning of December.

She added that other Butte County school districts are considering September as the qualification date. Davis told the board that the district would receive full Average Daily Attendance funding for the students in the transitional kindergarten program. She added that parents would be required to sign a waiver informing them that transitional kindergarten is the first year of a two-year program.

The second year would be regular kindergarten classes.

“I’ve heard it described by some that it’s as though the State of California has added another grade level to our K-12 system,” Davis said.

Board member Tom Conry said it will be beneficial to many parents in the community who pay for a private preschool, as well as students whose parents cannot afford preschool and thus end up behind the learning curve. He added that the transitional kindergarten idea had been in the works 12 years ago, when he sat on a California Teacher’s Association state council, and even years before that. Davis said the idea is partially in response to research that shows a strong early learning experience results in higher student success. Board member Lisa Nelson wanted to know how many other states have an early start for their kindergarten students.

Board member Mike Greer asked about how many students will be utilizing the program and if parents are going to be required to enroll their children in the program. Davis said the transitional program is not compulsory and neither is regular kindergarten. Board member Judith Peters supported the program, saying she has seen students who don’t turn 5 years old until late November or early December struggle with regular kindergarten classes.

Davis said she thinks the state is still sorting out the details of what the program is going to look like, but as next fall gets closer she will be able to provide more information.

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