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LEUSD adds new ‘Transitional Kindergarten’

08.31.2012 | The Friday Flyer | Georgia Zermeno

Lake Elsinore Unified School District is participating in a historical move along with other California school districts.The school district has added a new school grade level called transitional kindergarten (TK). This level of education is the first new grade level in the state since 1891. The goal is to bridge preschool and kindergarten, an outcome educators felt was needed after the new cutoff age of kindergarten came into effect.

In September 2010, the state of California approved the KIndergarten Readiness Act, Senate Bill 1381. Prior to this bill, the law required that a child be admitted to kindergarten at the beginning of a school year, or at any time later in the same year, if the child would have his or her 5th birthday on or before December 2 of that school year.

An elementary school is required to admit a child to the 1st grade during the first month of a school year if the child has his or her 6th birthday on or before December 2 of that school year.

The bill changed the required birthday for admission to kindergarten and 1st grade to November 1 for the 2012-13 school year, October 1 for the 2013-14 school year, and September 1 for the 2014-15 school year and each school year thereafter, and requires a child whose admission to a traditional kindergarten is delayed to be admitted to a transitional kindergarten program, as defined.

The bill requires pupils who are participating in transitional kindergarten to be included in computing the average daily attendance of a school district in accordance with specified requirements. To the extent those changes establish new administrative duties on the governing boards of school districts in implementing the changes, they would impose a state-mandated local program.

Thus, the creation of transitional kindergarten, the first year of a two-year kindergarten experience for children born between September and December. The program is designed to prepare children for kindergarten and beyond.

Transitional kindergarten uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.

The facility requirements for TK are the same as they presently are for kindergarten. The program will also have the same statutory class size limits as regular kindergarten, and the teacher must be properly credentialed as is currently required of kindergarten teachers. Students entering into TK are required to meet the same immunization requirements as students entering into kindergarten.

Although the intent of the law is to provide separate and unique experiences for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students, districts have flexibility to determine how best to meet the curricular needs of each child.

Parents and guardians are currently not required to enroll children in transitional kindergarten or kindergarten. (Education Code Section 48200). Children who are age-eligible to attend kindergarten, but enroll in transitional kindergarten, will need a signed parental permission to continue in kindergarten for one additional year.

The California Department of Education posts on their website,www.cde.ca.gov, “TK provides time that will help students build a strong foundation for success in elementary school. It gives parents an additional option to ensure their children enter kindergarten with the maturity and skills they need to excel. And for schools, it means that students are better prepared to succeed, and less likely to be placed in special education and retained in later grades.”

Supporters of the program, Preschool California, state on their website, www.earlyedgecalifornia.org, “Transitional kindergarten is critical because kindergarten in California has changed over the years, and many of the skills children were once taught in 1st grade are now taught in kindergarten. Transitional kindergarten is the right program at the right time.”

According to Mark Dennis, Tuscany Hills Elementary School currently has 13 TK students and Cottonwood Canyon Elementary school has 11 TK students. Parents who would like more information can contact the Director of Curriculum and Instruction Marybeth Slane at 951 253- 7000.

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