LAUSD expanding transitional kindergarten to all its elementary schools

05.18.2012 | LA Daily News | Barbara Jones

Despite a lack of financial and political support from Gov. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles Unified will expand its transitional kindergarten program this fall to all 400-plus elementary schools in the district, officials said Thursday.

TK is a two-year program that lets youngsters progress at their own pace, giving them extra time to master the academic, social and developmental skills required of today’s kindergartners.

Los Angeles Unified has been operating 109 TK classes under a pilot program. While the district initially planned to add 100 more schools each of the next three years, officials have decided instead to launch TK everywhere this fall.

“With the success of our transitional kindergarten pilot program, we have seen first-hand the impact of giving our students the gift of time,” Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement.

“Our students are making strong gains, especially in early literacy and math, and our English-language learners are making dramatic progress.”

TK is the result of a 2010 law that gradually moves up the date that kids are eligible to enroll in kindergarten. Under the new law, the cutoff for standard kindergarten shifts this year from the long-standing Dec. 2 deadline to Nov. 1, and to Oct. 1 in 2013 and Sept. 1 in 2014.

Youngsters whose birthdays fall between the cutoff date and the previous threshold of Dec. 2 will be eligible for TK – an estimated 125,000 statewide by 2014.

There has been considerable uncertainty about the future of transitional kindergarten.

Because of the state financial crisis, Brown said in January he wanted to eliminate TK, a proposal that was eventually rejected by both the state Senate and Assembly. When he released his revised budget proposal on Monday, there was no money to fund TK programs.

But Nora Armenta, executive director of the Early Childhood Division for Los Angeles Unified, said administrators so believe in the program, they figured out a way to expand TK using existing resources.

Essentially, TK students will be assigned to an existing kindergarten class, with teachers given additional training for how to best work with the younger kids.

“We’re doing the work already, but this is just a different way of organizing the children and having more skill in understanding their needs,” she said.

She estimated that 4,000 students will qualify for TK classes this year, with a similar number signing up annually through 2014 as the new cutoff date is implemented.

“This is putting 4,000 students back into the system,” she said. “It’s saving jobs and helping parents who wouldn’t have a place to put their kids or would have to put them in a private preschool.”

Canoga Park Elementary Principal Patricia Del Pino said she’s been getting inquiries from parents anxious to enroll their 4-year-olds in TK. She’s already looking ahead to the 2012-13 school year, and how she’ll organize the six kindergarten classrooms in her 880-student school.

“We’ll have a kinder class with TK kids enrolled in it,” she said. “The teacher will differentiate between the TK and kinder students, and will provide intervention and support for those who need it.”


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