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Transitional Kindergarten and The Kindergarten Readiness Act

Kindergarten is traditionally the place where young children learn to color in the lines, identify shapes and colors, and interact with their peers. But a California law, the Kindergarten Readiness Act, asserts that children are not adequately prepared for kindergarten and aims to correct those perceived flaws in the education system.

The law, which passed in 2010 and is slowly being phased in, creates a Transitional Kindergarten for All program. This law changes the date of birth acceptance from December 2 to September 1, meaning that all prospective kindergarteners must turn 5 by September 1 to enroll. It also creates the TK program to help young 5-year-olds prepare for school.

TK aims to help young children develop the focus and skills needed to succeed in later education. According to the law, children who begin kindergarten too early often struggle in later grades. As the law develops, an estimated 350,000 children will qualify for TK.

As with most education laws, there is some flexibility for school districts, especially given the budget fight between Republicans and Democrats over the TK program funding. Governor Jerry Brown’s initial budget completely removed funding for TK. Trailer legislation and additional compromises renewed some funding for the program.

School districts should be aware of a few changes.

  • TK must be offered to eligible children even though enrollment is not mandatory. The minimum age of enrollment in TK is determined by the school district.
  • TK readiness program funding may only be used for the programs. It will not support further hires.
  • The 2014 California Budget allows $25 million for professional development to allow teachers to transition into TK program roles.
  • Though TK is intended to separate TK and kindergarten students, school districts are not required to enact that separation if it does not best meet the needs of their students.
  • Educational standards for the TK program are recommended, but not required. Curriculum is also advised to follow state recommendations.

The Transitional Kindergarten program aims to improve academic readiness in young children and will have a long-term positive impact on graduation rates, social development, and personal drive and development.

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