Transitional Kindergarten

Created by the 2010 California law called the Kindergarten Readiness Act, and offered across the state, transitional kindergarten (TK) is an exciting educational opportunity to prepare children for kindergarten. Under the 2010 law, TK offers children with birthdays between September and December a developmentally appropriate curriculum taught by credentialed teachers from K-12.

The 2015-16 state budget further clarified the law to allow school districts to enroll 4 year olds even if they turn 5 after the December cutoff date, providing another local option to get more children ready for kindergarten. The Expanded TK approach gives districts an option to use a combination of local and Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding to offer school readiness opportunities to children who might not otherwise have access.

The 2010 Kindergarten Readiness Act, signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger, changed the kindergarten entry date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1 so that children enter kindergarten at age 5. The law phased in the new age requirement by moving the cutoff date one month a year for three years. Some districts opted to fully phase in TK in the first year. The law also established transitional kindergarten, a developmentally appropriate grade to serve younger schoolchildren with birthdays between September and December.

The entry date change and the creation of TK address a longstanding need in California, as our children have historically started kindergarten at a younger age than kids in almost any other state – often without the maturity, social skills and early academic skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. At the same time, kindergarten standards and curriculum have changed over the years, and many of the skills children were once taught in first grade are now expected in kindergarten.

The youngest kids in a kindergarten class risk struggling academically, emotionally and/or socially. At their young age, some may not be practiced in socializing with their peers and teachers, while others may not yet know how to listen or follow a structured class schedule. Likewise, many 4 year olds in California still do not have access to high quality preschool that also provides these learning opportunities for our children. TK ensures that children have these pivotal skills, which are foundations to successful learning, when they begin kindergarten.

Transitional kindergarten bridges the path between preschool and kindergarten and gives students the gift of time that will help them build a strong foundation for future school success. It blends social and emotional experience with academic learning, so that students not only learn essential pre-literacy, pre-math, and other cognitive skills, but also develop social and self-regulation skills needed to succeed in school and life. One out of every four kindergarten students in California will benefit from transitional kindergarten. As of 2014, TK serves 134,000 students each year.

TK is a win-win-win for children, families and schools.

  • Children are better prepared to succeed.
  • Families have an additional option to ensure their children enter kindergarten with the maturity, confidence and skills they need to excel.
  • Schools benefit because children will be better prepared to succeed academically and less likely to be placed in special education or held back in later grades.

Research shows that the return on early investments in education is substantial. According to Deborah Stipek, professor at the Stanford University School of Education, “the cost is paid back many times over in reduced grade retentions, special education services and in lower expenditures for incarceration. Returns also come in the form of the increased productivity that results from higher levels of academic achievement and high school completion rates.”