California schools offer transitional kindergarten to add extra year of early education

KindergartenCalifornia schools are now offering a new grade—transitional kindergarten (TK). During 2012-2013, 39,000 California children attended TK, which provides children with an extra year of high-quality education.

California adopted a new law in 2010 that changed the kindergarten entry cutoff so that children must turn five by September 1 (instead of December 2) to enter kindergarten. It phases in the new age requirement by moving the cutoff date back each year for three years beginning in the 2012–13 school year. The cutoff was moved to November 2 last year and will be moved by one month in each of the next two years. Some school districts have already moved the cutoff date to September 2.

SB 1381 established the new transitional kindergarten grade level as the first year of a two-year kindergarten experience for students who turn five between September 2 and December 2. The new grade level is taught by credentialed teachers using a modified kindergarten curriculum that is developmentally appropriate. Just over half (57%) of schools offered TK in combination classrooms, where TK students were combined with students from another grade (such as kindergarten). A total of 43% reported having stand-alone TK classrooms at one or more of their schools and others reported having both stand-alone and combination classrooms among their schools. Most small districts offered combination TKs. Larger districts were more likely to offer stand-alone classes. Small and rural districts were more likely to report that they were not able to offer the program in 2012–13.

Transitional Kindergarten in California Initial Findings from the First Year of Implementation, American Institutes for Research, June 2013.

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