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Transitional kindergarten: new ‘old school' way of starting
To learn more about transitional kindergarten, visit www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/em/kinderfaq.asp#E1
It is not kindergarten — not really.
But it isn't preschool either.
What it is is new, and after about six weeks into the school year, educators in Arbuckle and Williams are proclaiming transitional kindergarten as a win-win for students and teachers.
"It is a huge benefit for the students and the regular kindergarten teacher," said Carol Geyer, principal at Arbuckle Elementary School and a former kindergarten teacher.
She said there is a significant difference between 4-year-olds and children who are 5.
"There is a big maturity difference, and there are parents who choose to keep their children out (of kindergarten) a year because they do not think they are ready," Geyer said.
Transitional kindergarten gives those parents another option.
"We are treating it like the first year of a two-year kindergarten program," Geyer said.
Barbara Mayberry returned to her teaching roots when she became the lead teacher in Williams Elementary's transitional kindergarten.
She led her 15 students on a fall leaf-hunting adventure on Thursday, infuses them with art and music, and mixes in a bit of reading and math as well.
"I am trying to make it like kindergarten used to be," said Mayberry, noting that the academic requirements for regular kindergartners today don't allow for as much, if any, of the painting, singing and other activities of the past.
Mayberry was part of a family-owned preschool business before she returned to school to get her teaching credential. She has worked at Williams Elementary for more than 25 years, most of that as a third-grade teacher.
When the idea of transitional kindergarten started to float around several years ago, she made it clear she would be very interested in leading that program.
"These students are settling in. They are getting the school experience and getting used to the classroom setting, but still making it a lot more fun," she said.
Maxwell and Princeton school officials said they do not have a program this year. Schools that do not have enough students for a transitional classroom on its own, can integrate those students into their regular kindergarten classes, but they will be on a different program.
Burchfield Primary does have a transitional kindergarten class, but staff was not available this week for comment.
Transitional kindergarten was established through the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, and changes the birth dates on which children are eligible to go to kindergarten.
This year a student must be 5 years old prior to Nov. 2 to attend regular kindergarten, and is eligible for transitional kindergarten if 5 on or before Dec. 2.
Next year, the date is moved up to Oct. 2, and after that, students must be 5 prior to Sept. 2 to qualify for regular kindergarten classes. The Dec. 2 eligibility cutoff date is fixed.
Arbuckle is already giving parents with children who meet the 2014-15 Sept. 2 qualification date the option of putting their children into transitional kindergarten.
Nine of the 18 students fall under the state's first-year eligibility; the other nine would fall under next year's or even the date set for year after that.
Mayberry said five of her students have October birthdays.
Teachers must still be credentialed to teach the class, and while students do not have meet the same standards — such as counting and reading capabilities — the state said the curriculum must be a modified kindergarten curriculum.
"While no state curriculum is mandated, local education agencies must modify the local course of study in order to provide age and developmentally appropriate curriculum for transitional kindergarten," the state reports.
It suggests schools use such sources as California's Preschool Learning Foundations, California Preschool Curriculum Frameworks, California Academic Content Standards, and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Art and Mathematics as guidelines in developing a program.
But Mayberry said the reality is the program is left up to the teachers, the site administrators and the governing school boards to develop.
Mayberry said it certainly has allowed her to use her creativity and experience to build the program from the ground floor, but admits there are risks of not having something standardized from which to work.
She said if a brand-new teacher was put in that situation, or perhaps a teacher with little or no background with that age group, then she could see issues rising from that.
Arbuckle placed a teacher who taught second grade in the class this year.