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California Launches First New Grade Level Since 1891

PHOTO: Transitional kindergarten is meant for students who would normally have enrolled in regular kindergarten, but are now too young under a new state law.
PHOTO: Transitional kindergarten is meant for students who would normally have enrolled in regular kindergarten, but are now too young under a new state law.
August 20, 2012

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Starting today, California is launching its first new public school grade level in more than a century. Some 800 school districts will be offering transitional kindergarten, or TK, for children who have fall birthdays and will be too young under a new cutoff date to enter regular kindergarten.

Deborah Kong with Preschool California says the state's new law will translate into huge payoffs.

"We think that transitional kindergarten is an exciting education innovation that really sets up our students for academic success."

The Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 requires children be five years old by September 1 to start regular kindergarten, compared with the previous cutoff date of December 2. However, the new law is being phased in a month at a time over three years. Research shows that beginning school at an older age improves children's social and academic development.

State Senator Joe Simitian, the author of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, says transitional kindergarten will get kids off to a strong start at no additional cost to the state.

Kong says that's because funding that would have been used to support young five-year-olds in regular kindergarten will be redirected to support those in transitional kindergarten.

"So, transitional kindergarten does not add more children to a school, because the total number of children served remains the same, and then existing teachers and classroom facilities will be used."

Around 40,000 California pupils will be offered the TK curriculum this year, but that will increase to 125,000 California children once the program is fully phased in by 2014.

For a Rand study on the benefits of entering kindergarten later, go to www.rand.org.


Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA