Transitional kinder as an investment in the future

09.02.2010 | Fox 5 San Diego | Perette Godwin

SAN DIEGO – Starting kindergarten is a major rite of passage for most kids. Proof, at least in the minds of children, they are no longer babies. Some kids enter school at five, while others start their primary education at four.

“When you start kindergarten when you’re still four, you just aren’t set up for as much success,” said Special Education teacher Janette Quinnett. “A student entering kindergarten who is four needs much more support than a 5 year old.”

A new bill recently passed in the California state senate would delay the start of kindergarten for approximately 120,000 children. Called the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, it would provide instead transitional kinder for children not quite five by the start of the school year.

‘Kids definitely have to be at least five years old to go to Kindergarten because at an earlier age they are not ready,” said Olga Blocksom, the nanny of five boys. “They can’t spend many hours just sitting there and they can’t concentrate. The teachers have trouble giving them the material and some kids just fall behind.”

Blocksom said a tough time in kindergarten can affect a child for a lifetime.

“Two of the boys I babysit, the parents decided to hold them back, although they are five already,” she said. “They’re still doing another year of preschool just because they’re not ready to go to kindergarten yet.”

Under the current law, if a child is four but will turn five by December 2, they can attend kindergarten. Under Senate Bill 1381, kids wiould have to be five by September 1. For who will turn five after September 2, a transitional kindergarten would be created. It would get kids prepared for their first year of primary education. If signed by the Governor, transitional kindergarten would begin in 2012. The plan would be introduced over a 3 year period.

“There is a huge difference between a four year old and a five year old,” said Julie Meier Wright, ceo of San Diego Economic Development Corporation.

It makes sense that educators support the plan. Many are challenged by working with kids who may not be emotionally prepared for the tasks and expectations of their first year of school.

“They might know their letters and they might be able to write their name, but socially they need a lot of extra support,” said Quinnett.

Perhaps surprisingly though, even the business community sees value in a transitional kindergarten.

“What the schools are trying to look at is whether the kid is emotionally, socially, academically and by all these qualifications ready,” said Meier Wright. “We need, and will benefit greatly, if we grow the kind of workforce that our companies need in order to thrive here.”

Meier Wright sees transitional kinder as an investment in the future. You could call it a prepatory course for school, that will ultimately prepare kids for life.

“When you look at early childhood education in general, there’s more and more research that says there is a huge return on investment for doing the right thing with kids early on,” she said. “This is why it is a business issue. The return on investment is huge because then your child will be really ready for the grade level that she’s entering.”

See the related Fox 5 San Diego video State Could Delay Kindergarten Cutoff Date here.

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