Study of California’s Transitional Kindergarten Program: Report on the First Year of Implementation
In 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Kindergarten Readiness Act into law, which changed the kindergarten entry age so that children must turn 5 by September instead of December to enroll. The new grade level was put into place to promote school readiness for California’s youngest learners. It also established a new grade level—transitional kindergarten (TK)—which is the first year of a two-year kindergarten experience for students born between September 2 and December 2. When fully implemented, TK is intended to provide an additional year of early education to this group of children, with the goal of promoting their school readiness.
A study looking at the first year of transitional kindergarten in California finds that most districts implemented the new grade level, and that approaches varied widely. Overall, transitional kindergarten appears to provide a different experience than traditional kindergarten. The results are shared in AIR's Study of California’s Transitional Kindergarten Program: Report on the First Year of Implementation.
The study collected data from focus groups, interviews, surveys and classroom observations. Other notable findings from the analysis include:
- Some districts served transitional and regular kindergarten students in combination classrooms. Classrooms that included only transitional kindergarten students were more likely to focus on social-emotional instruction and use child-directed activities than combination classrooms.
- There was substantial variability in how districts approached implementation of the new grade level, including variation in the curricula teachers used to guide classroom instruction.
- The most common challenges reported by districts implementing transitional kindergarten were funding, developing a transitional kindergarten report card, selecting curricula for the new grade level, and providing professional development for teachers.
- Parents participating in focus groups were pleased with the program overall and said they felt their children were benefiting from the additional support prior to kindergarten.
The report also includes recommendations for the development of transitional kindergarten. For example, the authors emphasize the importance of providing more training for teachers and expanding outreach to parents.
This report is a second in a series highlighting findings from the study, which is supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The first paper offered an initial look of the number of districts who enrolled transitional kindergarten students, and how they approached implementation. The next phase of the study, now underway, is examining the impact of the program on students’ preparedness for kindergarten.