Preschool California Honors Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla for Support of Transitional Kindergarten

10.24.2012 | Concord Patch | Jenny Kern

On Thursday, Oct. 18, Preschool California honored Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) with the 2012 Early Learning Champion Award for championing transitional kindergarten (TK) and early childhood education. The community celebration featured educators, parents, business and community leaders at Highlands Elementary School in the Mt.Diablo Unified School District.

“Preschool California is honored to present Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla with the 2012 Early Learning Champion Award in recognition of her steadfast leadership in championing transitional kindergarten and critical early childhood education programs this year,” said Scott Moore, senior policy advisor with Preschool California. “Assemblywoman Bonilla has been resolute in her commitment to ensure California’s youngest learners are given the foundations they need to succeed.”

Bonilla said she was “honored” to receive the recognition.

“Thanks to transitional kindergarten, we’ll see greater academic achievement, higher graduation rates, and fewer students being held back or placed in special education,” she said.

Bonilla visited at Highlands Elementary School’s new transitional kindergarten classroom, interacting with students at different learning stations while the teacher explained how the activities emphasize creative play-based learning and shorter lessons appropriate for a younger child’s attention.

After the award presentation, Highlands Elementary School Principal Vicki Eversole, TK teacher Joy Slater and TK parents Teresa Jorgensen and Laura Kelly discussed the success of the launch of TK locally.

Susan Petersen, MDUSD director of elementary support, and Sharon Reposa, parent education coordinator with Mt. Diablo Adult Education, were also recognized for their instrumental work supporting transitional kindergarten implementation across the district.

“We thank Assemblywoman Bonilla for championing this real step forward in education,” said Eversole. “Knowing our youngest learners were starting behind and staying behind, we were thrilled to pioneer TK at Highlands Elementary. In the first two months we’ve already seen tremendous gains in our TK students.”

Jorgensen said that her son Colton, who is part of the first cohort, “has matured and gained so many skills,” in just the first two months of the school year.

“Colton is problem solving, sharing, exploring, and having fun while learning math and reading concepts without knowing it,” she said.

Mt. Diablo Unified School District opened six TK classrooms this fall as part of the historic statewide launch of the first new grade introduced since 1891.

Transitional kindergarten is a new grade serving younger students with birthdays between September and December, established by the California state law that changed the kindergarten entry date so that children enter kindergarten at age five.

All school districts are required to offer transitional kindergarten this year, but attendance is voluntary, as is kindergarten attendance.

The entry date change and the creation of TK address a longstanding need in California, as children have historically started kindergarten at a younger age than kids in almost any otherstate — often without the maturity, social skills and early academic skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. At the same time, kindergarten today is far more academic than it once was: similar to what first grade used to be.

The youngest kids in a kindergarten class risk struggling academically, emotionally and socially. At their young age, some may have limited experience interacting with peers and teachers, while others may not yet know how to listen or follow a structured class schedule. TK ensures that children have these pivotal skills, which are foundations to successful learning, when they begin kindergarten.

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