District to Offer Transitional Kindergarten

With the state program up in the air, the school board decided to go ahead with transitional kindergarten in order to improve school readiness.

Kids who turn 5 between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2 of this year will be eligible for an extra year of early education due to the school board's decision last night to offer transitional kindergarten for the 2012-2013 school year.

Citing their commitment to children and school readiness, the SSFUSD trustees voted 4-0 to implement the extra year of kindergarten for young students against staff advice.

"We have an obligation to them," said Trustee Maurice Goodman.

A 2010 California law, the Kindergarten Readiness Act, was set to create a new transitional kindergarten program for students statewide who would otherwise be very young kindergarteners starting in the coming school year. But budget uncertainty , leaving individual school districts on their own for now to determine what will happen next year.

Up until this point, children who turn 5 by Dec. 2 have been allowed to enroll in kindergarten. In order to improve kindergarten readiness in young children, the Kindergarten Readiness Act rolled back the birthday cutoff date by three months over a three year period, so that by the 2014-2015 school year, students would have to be 5 by Sept. 1 to enroll in kindergarten.

Transitional kindergarten was supposed to fill the gap for children with fall birthdays who would no longer be served by regular kindergarten. The program is voluntary, and students who enroll will be limited to a total of two years in transitional kindergarten and kindergarten.

The prospect of the state eliminating funding for transitional kindergarten (as Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget does) means less for the South San Francisco Unified School District, a Basic Aid District where funding comes largely from local property taxes rather than per-pupil state allocations, than for other districts. But with the requirement itself in the air, district staff recommended that the district postpone implementing the program for a year.

"To date, there has been no clear guidance from the state," said Robert Beauchamp, director of curriculum and special projects. "Eventually, we would need new teachers. The state is essentially creating a new grade level."

"We don't want to start transitional kindergarten, then stop after one year," Beauchamp said.

But trustees said educational preparedness for young children was a compelling reason enough to start the program now and would prevent the need for intervention later in a student's education. Furthermore, families have been told to expect transitional kindergarten next year, Goodman said.

"We're going to deal with the future as it comes," Goodman said.

Theoretically, transitional kindergarten doesn't present a fiscal impact for next year because the district is serving the same children it would regularly serve in regular kindergarten, with 60-70 students in transitional kindergarten instead. Beauchamp told the board that new teachers wouldn't be needed.

But Sandra Lee Lepley, interim assistant superintendent of business services, said that up to three additional teachers, at a cost of up to $200,000, could be needed for next year since transitional kindergarten students would be siphoned off from all district elementary schools and fed to classrooms at just three sites. Depending on how the numbers work out, elementary schools might not be able to eliminate three regular kindergarten classes to make up for the three additional transitional kindergarten classes. Plus, there would be costs involved in setting up the classrooms, Lepley said. Costs incurred would need to be paid out of district reserves.

The district would need to add teachers year by year as more students enrolled in transitional kindergarten before completing a regular year of kindergarten. Eventually, the district would need nine additional teachers if the program were fully implemented, Lepley said.

The board will reconsider the issue next year, when it will have more information about state policy.


Austin Choi March 24, 2012 at 04:42 AM
This is a very good move. I can say with first hand experience that any type of pre-school program gives children a head start in Kindergarten.
Tess March 24, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Having had two YOUNG kindies myself who ended up getting their Masters and Phd's and never struggled in school – I don't think it's a matter of when they start Kinder but how much help the parents are willing to give. We could hand over our children to “teachers” from day one, but then how much of that child can we claim as our own? I suppose the Board approved what the community wants – I’m just not sure that is what is BEST for the children. One on One between parent and child is a lesson that goes beyond the abc’s and it’s unfortunate that parents these days are unable, or unwilling, to partake in. Before the hate mail from “working” moms begins – let me just say that I’ve always declared that motherhood IS a full time job which needs to be acknowledged and compensated by all government programs. Teachers, I feel, are just looking out for themselves and would push for any program that employs more of them regardless of what it does to the family unit – or are they actually going to claim to care more for the children than parents do?
Austin Choi March 24, 2012 at 07:04 AM
Yes, I should have included that parental involvement with their children is a huge key to their success. Just as well, teachers can't do it alone and do need our help. I volunteered in Kindergarten classes and omg, how do the teachers do it??? And there was a time when i was the only parent in attendance at PTA meetings (besides the PTA officers, principal and teacher rep.) Really....
Kindergarten Teacher March 24, 2012 at 08:33 PM
As a kindergarten teacher, I can say that kindergarten has become much more rigorous in the last ten years. It is not the kindergarten program that I attended when I was 5 years old. It is more akin to what was first grade in the past. By the end of the year my students must know 32 sight words and how to read simple text. They must know how to subtract and add among other things. My students are amazing and love kindergarten and thus work really hard to succeed. I have no doubt that I could not be successful at my teaching endeavors without their hard work as well as the tremendous parent support that I have. The parents truly work with me as a team for the benefit of their children. Having said that, I do see a huge difference between the students that come to my class and turn 5 in November compared to the ones that are already 5 years old or close to it upon entering my classroom, regardless of how hard that student tries or how much the parents and I work with said student. It is about not being developmentally ready. That is just silly to assume that teachers are pushing for this because they are "looking out for themselves". I have an Associate of Arts Degree in Early Child Education, 20 years experience working with young children, as well as my teaching credential. I am a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. TK offers a better chance of school success for our youngest students in kindergarten and in later years.
Tess March 25, 2012 at 04:29 AM
@Kindergarten Teacher - Yes, those are impressive degrees, years of experience and memberships - but like I said earlier I had two kids who started school when they were four - and there were five other students also with birthdays in late August to early December and all kept up through high school and all finished 4-year universities. I guess some 4 year olds ARE "developmentally ready" and when you see, as I did, seven students out of a class of 27 do well in their school career despite their age - I don't think my feeling (not assumption) that teachers are looking out for themselves is silly. TK may offer success to the younger kindies but it definitely offers more jobs for teachers.
Kindergarten Teacher March 25, 2012 at 07:40 PM
When were your children in kindergarten? As I have stated, kindergarten has CHANGED dramatically in the past ten years. This is not the same kindergarten class as when they were there. It is much more rigorous. Just because your child may have a late November birthday does not mean they have to have this extra year, but many would benefit from it. I am a tenured teacher and have nothing to benefit personally from TK.
Upsetparent March 26, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I support Tk, however, I do not feel my son need this program. He turns 5 on Dec. 2nd and I feel it is unfair that he is going to be "stuck" in kindergarten for two years. I know he is prepared, he is currently in preschool. He already knows all the upper case and lower case letters, how to write his first and last name, most of the letter sounds, shapes, colors, rhyming, addition, subtraction, patterns, and he's able to count to one hundred. I feel that if other children who are not in the TK birthday range are able to be in TK, then others such as my son who are prepared for kindergarten should be given the option to move on to kindergarten. Or at least, if he does have to go into TK, that he is assesed at the end of the first year to see if he needs an extra year or if he could move on to first grade.
Kindergarten Teacher March 28, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I understand that the birthdays that fall within a week of cutoff for entering kindergarten can be upsetting and frustrating. (Cut off time is the end of November I believe) Your son sounds very ready for kindergarten! I do hope that his school can assess him at the end of the year and see if he can go to 1st grade. What an amazing amount of knowledge your little one has! Keep up the good work and good luck with getting him exactly where he needs to be.
Hector Camacho, Jr March 28, 2012 at 03:31 AM
These concerns hit right at the issue that I attempted to raise at last week's Board meeting. While the statute states that students must have attained the age of 5 by September 1 to start Kindergarten beginning in 2014, there is still a "case by case" provision that allows for exemptions. I think it would help if the District clarified the standards by which these exemptions will be made and inform the public of these anticipated standards. Additionally, while I believe that an assessment at the end of year one of TK can be a valuable tool for determining whether an additional year is necessary, the students potentially eligible for skipping to 1st grade will have missed the second half of instruction considering that the standards will now be spread over two years. While I recognize that State Senator Simitian's had noble intentions, the Kindergarten Readiness Act fails to consider the significant efforts of some parents to effectively prepare their children for school.
christina sandoval August 28, 2012 at 03:04 AM
I do not think it is right to move my 5 year old son WHO'S birthday is in summer beforefall out of his regular kindergarten class to a transitional kindergarten class when he us doing all the level of work that the rest of the 5 year old kids are doing just bcuz he had no pre k when he know"s what he should be learning already...


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