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.


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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