Transitional kindergarten is a good thing for kids

01.29.2013 | The Orange County Register | Carol Veranavich

Q. We are on the fence with whether to try the new transitional kindergarten next year or go right into kindergarten. It seems good that it is an option to us. Our son will turn 5 in mid to late September. My husband is all for waiting for kindergarten so he can be bigger for sports, but I don’t think that is a good reason to wait. How is the transitional program, really? Will it last for the next five years? All of our kids have fall birthdays, I think we really like winter in our house.

A. Transitional kindergarten is here to stay, even after it is fully implemented, unless the legislation is changed.

This is the first year we have implemented this new grade level. Transitional kindergarten opened because our state is rolling back the age requirement for starting kindergarten in California. We are one of the few states that were allowing kids who were four years old to start kindergarten. California had one of the latest entry birthday requirements, saying kids who were five years old by Dec. 2 could begin kindergarten. Ask any kindergarten teacher and I think they would all say the same thing, the age roll-back is a welcome change.

This is the first year California adjusted the age requirement for kindergarten, so now the children have to be five by Nov. 2 in order to start kindergarten. Next year, kids will have to be five by Oct. 2. By the year 2014, kids will have to be five by Sept. 2 in order to start kindergarten. In the years after this, transitional kindergarten is expected to remain in place.

All of your children with late fall birthdays will be able to go to transitional kindergarten. Later, you will not have a choice between kindergarten or transitional kindergarten. It will be based entirely on the age of the child.

This coming year, you have a choice, and I highly recommend transitional kindergarten. If parents are ever “on the fence,” I always say it is best to wait. I don’t think you ever harm a child by making sure he or she is more mature, but you can harm a child by placing them in a situation they are not ready to handle. When in doubt, wait. There is also a practice of holding kids out of school to gain an advantage in sports, and I do not recommend this either, but it does show you that putting your child in at the earliest age possible will make your child one to two years younger than peers in school.

In your question, you are also asking about the quality of the program. This would depend on each district, but I know my district spent a great deal of time finding the right people to fully implement the program. Transitional kindergarten is designed to prepare children for an academic kindergarten the following year. We are expecting kids to read and write very early in kindergarten now. By giving children a year to develop the preparatory skills, fine motor skills, and classroom experience, I think we are going to find a very prepared group of children with a lot of confidence as they start school. I believe in this step, and I would not be afraid of this new grade level at all. It is a good thing for kids.

Most of us teaching today have a three year span among the children in our rooms. This is incredibly difficult on our youngest students. With the age rollback, it will lessen the classroom age span which certainly helps the children socially and emotionally. Consider this as a fine option for your son this coming year.

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