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Is your child ready for T-K?

11.10.2011 | 89.3 KPCC

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  • Catherine Atkin, president of Preschool California

 

  • Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas Fordham Institute

Last year, then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Kindergarten Readiness Act, which changes the date by which children must reach their fifth birthday in order to start kindergarten.

Previously, with a cutoff date of Dec. 2, California’s kindergarteners were among the youngest in the nation. Many were starting school at age four, which many educators feel is too young for the rigors of a modern kindergarten education.

The new kindergarten cutoff date will move up by one month each year starting in 2012, reaching Sept. 1 in 2014 and thereafter. This opens the door to “Transitional Kindergarten,” a groundbreaking new program that gives autumn-born four-year-olds a year of pre-kindergarten – essentially, a two-year kindergarten experience and, some say, a much-needed step up to academic readiness.

“T-K” lets younger children develop literacy and math skills, as well as the emotional maturity to thrive and learn in a kindergarten classroom. Before T-K, parents who could afford an extra year of daycare or private preschool could still hold their four-year-olds back. But as an affordable option for all families, T-K levels the playing field.

The program, which will kick off in the fall of 2012, has received the support of education leaders statewide. Detractors of T-K, however, have called it “stealth universal preschool,” and point out that studies haven’t proven the lasting benefits of a pre-K education.

The state is estimated to save $700 million annually as kindergarten classes grow smaller – which makes the new grade a zero-sum proposal.

WEIGH IN:

Do you have a child that would benefit from Transitional Kindergarten? Or do you see it as an unnecessary step, a waste of educational resources? Is there a better way for the state to spend the money it will save? If you’re a teacher, do you welcome the thought of a slightly more mature class of 2025?

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