Ensuring more of California’s kindergarteners are ready for success

10.15.2010 | | Ruth Yoon

Ruth Yoon is administrator for Los Angeles Unified School District’s Early Childhood Education.

Recently, California took a great step toward closing the achievement gap when Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, enacting a historic reform to elementary education that will help ensure that 120,000 more children each year are better prepared to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

The Kindergarten Readiness Act changes California’s kindergarten entry date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1 so children enter kindergarten at age 5. It also establishes a new transitional kindergarten, the first year of a two-year kindergarten program for those children born between September and December. This new law is sorely needed because every year, nearly a quarter of the children entering kindergarten in California are 4-years-old and are some of the youngest students in the nation.

Here in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Unified School District is proud to be leading the state in its effort to close the kindergarten age gap and level the playing field for kindergarten students with our own newly established Transition Kindergarten. Through its initial implementation, LAUSD is offering Transition Kindergarten classes at 36 elementary school sites throughout the district. We are excited to be a model for California as the state works to implement the Kindergarten Readiness Act statewide.

LAUSD’s Transition Kindergarten provides an extra year of preparation for children who need the gift of time to develop before entering traditional kindergarten. This program benefits children who need time to develop socially, emotionally, physically, and/or intellectually. The new Transition Kindergarten classes provide children high-quality instruction focused on helping them develop their language, literacy and pre-math skills, while supporting their social and emotional development.

Additionally, Transition Kindergarten encourages children’s development through whole and small group instruction and activities, as well as independent and “hands-on” learning. Transition Kindergartners build confidence and social skills through their close connections with their fellow kindergarten friends, enjoying lunch and recess together and participating in all kindergarten activities such as music and art throughout the year.

High-quality early childhood programs like Transition Kindergarten develop a strong foundation for learning and can help narrow the achievement gap. Research shows that moving the kindergarten entry date up increases test scores by as much as 27 percent.

Additionally, children who attend high-quality early learning programs are less likely to drop out of high school, be held back a grade or be placed in special education, and are more likely to score better on reading and math achievement tests.

While LAUSD is the largest school district to implement a transitional kindergarten program, they are certainly not the first. There are at least 20 similar programs throughout the state, and LAUSD’s Transition Kindergarten program has incorporated the best practices of similar programs and modified them to meet the needs of our unique student population.

For example, a significant number of our incoming kindergartners are English learners. To better support these students, our Transition Kindergarten strongly promotes language acquisition and development, helping to develop multilingual students with the communication skills they need for success in school and beyond.

The new statewide Kindergarten Readiness Act will help ensure all young learners – including Latino children, who account for more than half of the children under age 5 – begin school prepared for success through Transition Kindergarten. As the state looks toward implementing transitional kindergarten statewide, these important programs statewide, we look forward to the expansion of this program in the district.

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