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Transitional kindergarten students get head start in academics
TK pic1
Transitional kindergarten students recite the days of the week while dancing to the Macarena at Dennis Earl Elementary in 2012. According to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler, TUSDs TK classes have been very well received by parents and the school community and has continued to grow since the district initially offered four classes in 2012-2013 to the current nine classes. - photo by Journal file photo

While Turlock resident Angelina Garcia admitted that her 5-year-old son Ezreal Garcia got off to a rough start in transitional kindergarten this year at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, she said that she is now beginning to see the many benefits of the pre-kindergarten option at Turlock Unified School District.

“In the beginning, he didn’t want to be in class, so at the time I wasn’t sure if I should have enrolled him in TK,” said Garcia, “but we kept encouraging him and now he’s more involved and focused. He’s raising his hand and he’s more drawn in to what he’s learning. He’s more himself now.” 

Although Garcia said that she was hesitant initially about keeping her son enrolled as he struggled to grasp the Spanish component in the curriculum, she now wholeheartedly endorses transitional kindergarten as an educational option for students before they embark on kindergarten. 

“TK allows students to advance,” said Garcia. “When they get into kindergarten, they’re already going to know what they should be learning in kindergarten. They’re going to have that advantage.”

Garcia is one of the many parents who have taken advantage of transitional kindergarten classes, which TUSD began offering during the 2012-2013 school year in accordance with the Kindergarten Readiness Act. Now, there are nearly 200 students enrolled.

 “TUSD’s TK classes have been very well received by parents and the school community and has continued to grow since the district initially offered four classes in 2012-2013 to the current nine classes,” said Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler. “Our TK teachers have worked to develop an exceptional program that prepares students for all aspects of kindergarten, including academic and social expectations.

“In addition to working with their kindergarten colleagues, the TK teachers collaborate regularly as a Professional Learning Community to ensure that the needs of our young students are met,” continued Lawler.

Statewide, students who attend transitional kindergarten were shown to be more advanced than their peers in language, literacy, mathematics and executive function, according to early results from a study by the American Institutes for Research.  These differences amount to as much as a five-month head start in kindergarten.

“Students who attended transitional kindergarten are better prepared for kindergarten than those who didn’t the year before kindergarten,” said report co-author and AIR senior researcher Karen Manship. “The results are even more notable when you consider that 80 percent of comparison students attended a center-based preschool the year before starting kindergarten.”

Transitional kindergarten grew out of California’s Kindergarten Readiness Act, which was passed in 2010. Historically, the state required children to be five years old by Dec. 2 in order to enroll for kindergarten. When the new law moved the cut-off date to Sept. 1, transitional kindergarten was created to serve those who turned five years old between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2.

Among other benefits, AIR showed that transitional kindergarten has a significant impact on students’ pre-literacy and literacy skills, and students who attended transitional kindergarten outperformed their peers in mathematics at the beginning of kindergarten. While it was shown that students also have an edge in executive function, which includes remembering rules and inhibiting impulses, they did not get higher ratings than their peers in social skills and behaviors.

“The TK program benefits students in many ways,” said Lawler. “Designed to develop early literacy and mathematics skills by using a development approach appropriate for younger children, TK prepares students for success in kindergarten and beyond by building a strong foundation.

 “TK also helps children adjust to the school environment and develop strong learning skills,” added Lawler.

Transitional kindergarten and kindergarten registration for the 2016-2017 school year is scheduled for January and February. Children who turn five years old between Sept. 2, 2016 and Dec. 2, 2016 are eligible for transitional kindergarten.

To be eligible for kindergarten, a child must be five years old by Sept. 1, 2016. Parents of incoming transitional kindergarten or kindergarten students complete the enrollment process at their home school.