School districts to introduce transitional kindergarten

01.08.2012 | Redlands Daily Facts | Will Bigham

A new transitional kindergarten program will be introduced in the 2012-13 school year at districts statewide to supplement traditional kindergarten and to accommodate a change in state law.

The move comes as the state begins changing the date by which children must turn 5 to be eligible for kindergarten.

“California is currently one of the few states that still has a Dec. 2 start date for kindergarten, that you have to turn five years old by Dec. 2,” said Camille Maben, director for the California Department of Education’s Child Development Division. “In most other states you have to be five by Sept. 1.”

The cutoff date for students is currently Dec. 2.

In the 2012-13 school year, it will move to Nov. 1.

In 2013-2014, it will move to Oct. 1, and in 2014-2015, it will move to Sept. 1, which will be the permanent cutoff date.

Children who are born between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2, and thus no longer eligible for kindergarten, will be eligible to enroll in transitional kindergarten, Maben said.

The new transitional kindergarten program will be the first year of a two-year kindergarten education, Maben said.

“They should be two different programs,” Maben said. “What you want to ensure is that for both a transitional and traditional kindergarten class is that they’re both age and developmentally appropriate.”

“So they should look different … It shouldn’t be two years of the same thing, but two different types of activities.”

All elementary and unified school districts that teach kindergarten will be required to offer transitional kindergarten starting in the 2012-13 school year, Maben said.

Pomona Unified School District officials met Wednesday to plan the district’s transitional kindergarten program, two officials said.

“Our meeting (Wednesday) engaged all of our key stakeholders … so that we can indeed roll this out successfully,” said Stephanie Baker, assistant superintendent and chief academic officer.

The district has 81 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten courses who fit into the age bracket for next year’s transitional kindergarten program, Baker said.

The district is working with demographers to find out whether there are other children in that age group in the district who aren’t enrolled in pre-kindergarten courses, Baker said.

Lilia Fuentes, Pomona Unified’s director of curriculum and instruction for elementary, said the pace of learning will be slower for children in transitional kindergarten compared to their older counterparts in traditional kindergarten.

Research shows that “often many students are not ready for kindergarten, not because they’re not smart, not because they’re not capable, but because they need more time,” Baker said.

The new level of kindergarten in Pomona will include instruction in phonics, writing as well as oral and learning skills, the officials said. It will also encompass social and emotional development, they said.

Students too young for traditional kindergarten will have more time to become familiar with teachers, students and the overall school environment, officials said.

“This gift of time allows children to build their confidence within the academic environment,” Baker said.

Baker said Pomona Unified expects to have its plans for transitional kindergarten completed early next month before the enrollment period begins.

Cynthia White-Piper of the San Bernardino City Unified School District said her district is on a similar timeline. Administrators plan to present transitional kindergarten plans next month to the Board of Education.

District administrators expect 300 children to enroll the first year, with enrollment growing to more than 1,000 in the 2014-15 school year, White-Piper said.

The dual levels of kindergarten will allow teachers to tailor instruction to each group, White-Piper said. Teachers in traditional kindergarten can plan lessons for 5-year-olds without fear of leaving 4-year- olds behind, White-Piper said.

“And the 4-year-olds aren’t competing with 5-year-olds,” White-Piper said. “They’re competing with children their own age.”

Jackie Brown, director of educational services for the Walnut Valley Unified School District, which includes schools in Diamond Bar and Walnut, said: “Transitional kindergarten will provide our young learners with the gift of time by giving them the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that is tailored to meet their developmental, emotional, academic and social needs.

Reach Will via email, call him at 909-483-8553.

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