What’s up with Transitional Kindergarten?

I received a few questions about the Student Assignment Committee’s discussion on the district’s plans for Transitional Kindergarten at the August 8 meeting.  For those who aren’t sure what that is, last year the state passed a new mandate on schools, gradually moving the age cutoff for Kindergarten eligibility to September 2 from the current December 2.

Students entering Kindergarten in 2012-13 must be age 5 by November 2, 2012; those entering in 2013-14 must be age 5 by October 2, 2013 ,  and students entering Kindergarten in 2014-15  and thereafter must be 5 by September 2 of the year they enroll.   For students who turn 5 between December 2 and the new cutoff  date, the state will require districts to create a Transitional Kindergarten program to serve young four-year-olds who otherwise might have enrolled in public Kindergarten. This is a good idea, developmentally, but it’s not exactly coming at a great time for California school districts, since there is no additional cash coming with the new mandate (the Legislature is very good at thinking up new things for us to do but less good at figuring out how to pay for them).

Anyway, I wasn’t present at the meeting where staff outlined preliminary planning for SFUSD’s Transitional Kindergarten, but I did listen to a tape, so I’ve posted audio of that part of the discussion here (.mp3, about 20 minutes).

As I said in my earlier post last week, there were really more questions than answers about the district’s plans for this program so far.  Board members asked staff to bring the topic back to a Board meeting in September, hopefully with more of the blanks filled in — time is short as we will need to have enrollment materials printed for prospective families by early November.


7 responses to “What’s up with Transitional Kindergarten?

  1. Pondering mom

    My son has a Nov. 1st birthday, turning 5 in 2012. I hesitate to send him to Kindergarten as that is the cut-off date next year (and he lacks the fine motor skills that his older preschool classmates have mastered). Do you think I’ll be able to petition him into a Transitional Kindergarten program…if there will be one to petition to?

  2. It sounds like you have a bit of a mess on your hands, but it is a mess that folks in Michigan might envy a bit. Our students are still struggling with a December 1st cut off date and, given current curriculum demands in the early years, it does not work well for our 4 year olds, for the most part. Some districts have an “Early 5’s” program, but it is not mandatory, and many many students here struggle with a kindergarten curriculum that sometimes lasts all day and always requires reading and math skills that were once saved for first graders. Best wishes to you. And count your blessings.

  3. First, thank you very much, Rachel, for posting this audio tape. After listening to it, I have to say that I resent the idea of using this Transitional K program as a “recruiting tool” for less popular schools. How about we focus on what’s best for the kids instead of turning this into a way to potentially prop up poorer performing schools? My oldest daughter just started at Clarendon this year and my youngest daughter’s birthday is in late November, so she will be eligible for the Transitional K program next year. The last thing I’d want to do is switch her out of her preschool, into a poorer performing school for one or two years, and then switch her into Clarendon after that (and with even the potential of losing her sibling priority to get into Clarendon with her sister too). How is that good for my child?
    On top of what ever curriculum is developed for this new Transitional K program, the environment in which it takes place is equally important. Kids take time to get used to their new surrounds. They take time to establish bonds with new friends. You can’t expect the program to work if they’re yanked out of the environment after one or two years and put into a completely different one. I think we should focus on what is best for the child, and my two cents is that the only way it works is if you place the child in the same school that they would otherwise gotten for Kindergarten.

  4. @ascanio, I think it’s unlikely that kids will be able to petition into regular kindergarten but individual school districts may have some leeway. Speaking for SFUSD, since we have to go to the trouble and expense of creating a Transitional K program, I think it would be unlikely that we’d turn around and waiver kids into regular K classrooms.

    @mom and @Wondering – these are all good points, and if you listened to the board discussion of this item you heard that board members raised similar concerns. My interpretation of the discussion was that Board members thought the current plans were half-baked. But I also have to point out — parents are not *required* to enroll their kids in Transitional K programs — really the idea is to encourage kids who might not be ready for Kinder to enroll in a preschool-type program when they are 4 years old. The policy was also conceived as a way to make up for the fact that kindergarten is far more academic than it used to be, and kids are at a disadvantage if they are a)younger compared to other kids and b)academically behind because they didn’t attend preschool. So if your kids are already attending preschool for three years and entering Kindergarten when they are already 5 years old (as my two kids with late Fall birthdays did) then Transitional K may not be as good an option for you.

  5. If they envision a two year transitional K an K program at the same school, how do they plan to accommodate children who have older siblings who are in an immersion program? I would obviously want my younger child who misses the deadline with a November birthday to join the older sibling at the same immersion program. Entering as a first grader in an immersion program and missing a full year of instruction would be very difficult, especially if the parents don’t speak the immersion language.
    Since it sounds like transitional K programs would only be at selected sites, how do they plan to accommodate families who have older siblings at other schools that do not have transitional K. There needs to be a method of minimizing commutes for parents who have children in a transitional K program and another elementary school. I can’t be expected to drop two children off at two separate schools that have the same start time if the schools are far apart from each other.

  6. What about kids with older siblings already in SFUSD schools? You are discussing putting the transitional K’s at only “strategic” spots, and requiring them to go for 2 years? Then they can not go to the same school as their older sibling? Ie, I have a child in 1st grade now at a moderately popular school, and another with a November birthday just missing the new K cutoff for next year. So he could only do the transitional K if I have him go to another school than my older child for both the transitional K and the regular K the following year? And that would be one of the districts under-performing schools (the speaker mentioned thinking “strategically” ie trying to get more of us to send our kids to SFUSD failing schools). If that is the case I will just keep him in preschool and get him in his sibling spot for K at the same school as my daughter. I think many parents would feel the same!

  7. Ascanio Piomelli

    Will there be any possibility of kids just missing the new age cutoff to petition to get into regular kindergarten?