Tranisitional Kindergarten Expanding

05.20.2013 | San Diego Union-Tribune | Tom Sheridan

When the Murrieta Valley Unified School District began planning for transitional kindergarten, a new state-mandated program, administrators expected to offer three classes.

Transitional kindergarten, a two-year kindergarten program that districts across the state of California have begun to implement in response to the passage of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, reminds Cole Canyon Elementary School teacher Alicia Jaime of the old days.

Jaime, who first worked in a classroom as a teachers aide in the early 1990s, says the emphasis on oral skills and developmental learning in traditional kindergarten makes for a more open — and frankly louder — environment in the classroom.

“So they talk a lot,” Jaime said. “You know, not every teacher likes their kids talking.”

The program started in the Murrieta district this year, and is getting off the ground in districts across the region and state. It is a two-year program that provides for students who miss the new age cutoffs for enrolling in kindergarten.

Before 2012, children who turned 5 on or before Dec. 2 were eligible to start kindergarten that fall. The Kindergarten Readiness Act rolled that date back to Nov. 1 last fall. It will be Oct. 1 this coming school year, and finally Sept. 1 in 2014.

Transitional kindergarten is offered for those children whose birthdays are caught up in the roll back. In Jaime’s classroom, that is illustrated by the cluster of candles over the month of November on the birthday board.

Murrieta school district spokeswoman Karen Parris said the district initially planned to offer three transitional kindergarten classes this year. But the response from parents prompted administrators to expand the program to eight classes in five schools, Parris said.

Parris said students who previously would have been eligible for standard kindergarten are allowed to take part in the program.

Beyond providing an adjustment period for the youngest kindergartners, the standards and curriculum are designed to get students prepared for changes that are coming as the state adopts the national Common Core program.

“One of the differences with the TK program is there is a lot more emphasis on oral language skills, less reliance on worksheets,” Parris said.

And while the students were busy playing with Legos recently in Jaime’s class, they weren’t just trying to assemble imaginary light sabers and robots, they were linking together patterns of colors at the teacher’s direction.

“There is an academic component, but it’s all through the developmental approach,” Jaime said.

Jaime said that all of these students will be back with her next year for the second year, or TK2.

“The old school was, they sit quietly and it’s all about the teacher,” Jaime said. “And now it’s not. Now we’re the facilitators, but we’re just part of the show. We’re all in the show now. They learn from each other, too.” (951) 676-4315

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