Transitional kindergarten handled different ways

01.28.2013 | The Press-Enterprise | Dayna Straehley

Teacher Ellie Carrillo works with children in transitional kindergarten at Parkridge Elementary School in Corona. In 2011, school districts were scrambling to plan transitional kindergarten to start next August as the state begins pushing back the cutoff date for regular kindergarten. (David Bauman/The Press-Enterprise staff photographer)

Transitional kindergarten continues to attract educators, perhaps growing, interest as schools start to plan for the second year of the program.

Transitional kindergarten is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program now required by state law for school districts to offer children who turn 5 in the fall. They were the youngest kindergarteners before, and statistics showed those younger children often struggled in their first years of school. Under the new law, the state is rolling back the cutoff birth dates for children to be eligible to start kindergarten, from November to September over three years. By 2014, children will have to turn 5 by Sept. 2 to start regular kindergarten but can start transitional kindergarten at age 4 if their birthdays are in September, October or November.

Although school districts have to offer it, it’s not required for families. Parents can keep their children home an extra year. But the law’s author, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said no state legislator wanted to tell parents they had to pay for an extra year of day care or wait another year before going back to work.

Inland districts have adopted it different ways. Some, like Corona-Norco, which piloted transitional kindergarten in 2011, ofter the program at some schools as a separate class.

Riverside Unified opted to offer the transitional kindergarten program in the same classrooms as regular kindergarten. The teacher just has to provide different instruction for the youngest learners.

The school board adopted a policy Jan. 22. Riverside is also teaching full-day kindergarten classes this year, giving teachers more time to offer a full range of academic lessons and what educators call “developmental” activities for younger learners, teaching them fine motor skills and the ability to sit still for longer periods. Developing children’s social and emotional skills are prerequisites for students’ academic success, and that’s the topic for the keynote speaker at the upcoming Transitional Kindergarten Implementation Conference co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Transitional kindergarten represents yet another phase in changes to the way today’s children’s parents and grandparents are educated. Kindergarteners today are expected to read, write and do math at levels not taught until first or second grades a generation or two ago.

Written by Dayna Straehley

Original source at The Press-Enterprise.

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