Lisa Borah-Geller's picture

Transitional Kindergarten: Questions and Some Answers

Transitional kindergarten continues to be a hot topic among educators, legislators, and parents alike. We’re reposting this blog to support discussion on this important consideration. For more recent information on California’s policies, please read this article on prekindergarten from The Washington Post. For a different perspective, try also reading: Transitional Kindergarten: Delay School at Your Child’s Peril? Enjoy!

I recently found out that my son, who will turn five years old in November 2012, will be eligible for California’s new transitional kindergarten program. I had planned to hold him back and keep him in preschool another year. As an educator and parent, I have witnessed firsthand how many kindergarteners with fall birthdays are not ready academically or socially for the requirements of today’s kindergarten classrooms. Now it looks like I have another option. Here are my questions about transitional kindergarten and the answers I found (or at least partial answers).

Q: What is transitional kindergarten and how does it differ from kindergarten?

A: Transitional kindergarten is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program specifically designed for children who turn five in the fall of their kindergarten year. It uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for younger children. It provides a bridge between preschool and traditional kindergarten and is intended to help students with fall birthdays become more successful in their future years of schooling.

Q: Who is eligible for transitional kindergarten?

A: A child is eligible for transitional kindergarten if he will have his fifth birthday between:

For the 2012–13 school year: November 2 and December 2
For the 2013–14 school year: October 2 and December 2
For the 2014–15 school year and each school year thereafter: September 2 and December 2.

Each elementary or unified school district in California is required by law to provide kindergarten and transitional kindergarten classes for all eligible children.

Q: How and why did California decide to implement a transitional kindergarten program?

A: Children in California were eligible for kindergarten if they turned five years old by December 2. Most states do not allow children to begin kindergarten at age four. California also has some of the highest learning standards, yet many “young fives” (kindergarteners with fall birthdays) were not ready socially or developmentally to meet these standards. Providing “young fives” with a year of transitional kindergarten gives them more time to develop socially and cognitively and to be successful in kindergarten.

Research shows that moving up the kindergarten entry date helps increase test scores by as much as 27 percent. If students are in high-quality early childhood programs like transitional kindergarten, studies show they are less likely to become high school dropouts, repeat a grade, or place in special education programs.

Establishing transitional kindergarten and moving up the kindergarten start date in California are part of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010.

Q: What are the standards and curriculum for transitional kindergarten?

A: Currently, there are no state standards for transitional kindergarten but the state Board of Education has asked the Early Learning Advisory Council to develop them. Until those standards are available, educators are advised to refer to the Common Core State Standards, California’s Content Standards, and California’s Preschool Learning Foundations.

There is no mandated transitional kindergarten curriculum. District educators are to modify the current kindergarten curriculum to make it age and developmentally appropriate for transitional kindergarteners.

Q: How will transitional kindergarten be funded and who will teach it?

A: Transitional kindergarten will be part of the public school system and will use existing funding and credentialed teachers previously allocated to students with fall birthdays (“young fives”).

Q: How many students will be in transitional kindergartens in California?

A: Eventually over 120, 000 students per year could be eligible for transitional kindergarten.

Q: Which districts in the state already have transitional kindergarten programs?

A: Long Beach, Los Angeles Unified, Palo Alto, and Kingsburg Charter Elementary in Fresno are examples of districts that already have programs.

Q: What other states have transitional kindergarten programs?

A: Some states have universal prekindergarten programs or transitional kindergarten in private preschools or schools. The only other school districts I found that have government-funded transitional kindergarten are in Iowa. See the following examples: Woodward-Granger Community School District and Sioux City Community Schools.

If you know of any other states that offer government-funded transitional kindergarten that are part of the K–12 public school system, please let me know in the comments section.

Q: What kinds of professional development opportunities were offered or will be provided for teachers of transitional kindergarten?

There will be no additional funding for transitional kindergarten professional development although existing funds may be used. The California Kindergarten Association’s annual conference in January 2012 will offer a strand on transitional kindergarten.

Two statewide learning opportunities on transitional kindergarten took place in spring 2011—the Central California Regional Summit and the South Bay Transitional Regional Conference. Resources from the Central California Regional Summit are available on this website.

Q: Where can I learn more about transitional kindergarten?

A: Here are some websites that provide more information:

California Department of Education’s FAQs About Transitional Kindergarten

Preschool California

Transitional Kindergarten Library: A Website to Facilitate Sharing Knowledge Between School Districts

Implementing SB 1381, The Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010: Suggested Guidelines for Local School District Administrators

Delaying Kindergarten: Effects on Test Scores and Childcare Costs

Other Questions

I have two more questions, which I haven’t been able to answer yet. Let me know if you have any thoughts or answers!

Q: Will most districts decide to form separate transitional kindergarten classrooms or will they mix transitional and traditional kindergartners in the same classrooms?

Comment: If my home district, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), decides to only accommodate transitional kindergarteners at certain schools, this may pose a dilemma for those of us with an older child (like me) already attending school. If there is no transitional kindergarten option at my older daughter’s school, I will not send my son somewhere else for two years just so he can attend transitional kindergarten. I think it would be logistically impractical. SFUSD is in the process of deciding how it will provide transitional kindergarten to eligible students.

Q: If kindergarteners and traditional kindergarteners are in the same classrooms (which is permitted by the new law) how will teachers differentiate instruction?

What are your thoughts on transitional kindergarten?

This blog by Lisa contrasts with a later blog on transitional kindergarten by DSC Writer Kenni Smith.

Lisa Borah-Geller is a Materials Developer at Developmental Studies Center.

Read more blogs by Lisa Borah-Geller

Comments (57)

Hi Lisa, I don't get your

Hi Lisa, I don't get your logic that requires your son's state-funded TK must be in the same school as your older child. You started your post by saying that your son is already in preschool (presumably at a different site then your older child), and you had planned on keeping him there another year. I thought that your dilemma was having an additional choice: FREE daycare (provided by the State) versus PAID day care (provided by your current preschool).

Why are you demanding that the FREE TK year must be at the same school as another child? You are doing the drop-off routines now, and had planned to continue for another year, so why can't you manage the same type of situation for the FREE option? Why is the FREE option "logistically impractical" if you have separate drop offs now. Why do you feel such entitlement?

I feel that it is logistically impractical to fill all of the popular elementary school K classrooms (like Clarendon, Sherman, Alvarado, Alamo, Miraloma, etc) with kids who will occupy those coveted seats for two years. Hello! Has anyone done the math? Is the District going to eliminate even more of the limited playground space at some schools but installing trailers for these children? Geesh!

There are fine under-enrolled locations around the City for these TK programs, many of them near some of the most reputable for-profit preschools in the City: Cobb for Richmond/Pac Heights/Marina, Muir for Inner Sunset/Haight/Western Addition, Chavez for the Mission, etc, etc, to name a few.

Thank you for your questions.

Thank you for your questions. Yes, it is true that I do two drop-offs now for my children. My understanding of the TK option though is that it is a two-year program meaning that if I send my son to a TK in a different school than my daughter, he would stay there for two years (TK and K). This would add an additional year of drop-offs at two different locations instead of one. It would also add an additional transition for my son as he would go to one school for TK and K, and then I would probably want to switch him to my daughter's school. As a working parent who is very involved in helping my children's schools, I would love to save time and focus my energy by having my children attend the same school whenever possible.

I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both options: integrating TK students into all K classrooms and having separate TK classrooms at only certain schools. Rachel Norton, a San Francisco school board member, posted information about TK and SFUSD:

Hi. I am currently dealing

Hi. I am currently dealing with the so-called transitional kindergarten ”experiment', if you will and it is non-sense. The most difficult part is that my son is stuck in the middle of it and he is the one that suffers. So my son starting tk last school year, birthday nov. 26.( missing cut off date by 22 days. So because he is 22 days younger than the other students he needs 2 years of kindergarten. The last question here is the best, and I will tell you what happens. Because districts are not getting more funding (ie. teachers, money, curriculum, etc.) many schools have tk and k all in same classroom. Because the state implemented new program but did not provide new curriculum teachers 'modify' regular curriculum..and what happens is that all kids recieve the exact same instruction. Meaning, all kids take the same tests, same skills are required, same homework, same spelling and site words, same everything. Almost everything, all the students who passed get to go to first grade yet my son who was second in his class and did all required work like the other k students (his friends) has to stay another year in the same class's doing the same thing for another year. Ridiculous! My sons education is being hindered because he is 22 days too young. 2 years ago when my daughter was in k this was not even a discussion. My son hates school and says so now, he says he must not be smart since they held him back, and he talks in class and says it's because he already knows this stuff. It's sad to see him wave at all his friends in first grade and say he wished he could be like them. How do you answer a child who asks, 'mom if I did all the same work and passed all the same tests why didn't I get to go to first grade?' Well folks, you don't. It's unfair, unjust and all in the name of what? There is no set curriculum for tk, they don't have to be seperate classes, what's the point. It's a joke. I understand the thinking behind the initiatives but without set curriculum and a way to assess these kids you will still have same issues. Parents need to evaluate their own kid and decide, but not make my kid suffer. Again ridiculous! And now my former child who was at top of class and loved school, hates it and is at bottom of class cause he said he's not doing the work cause he's already done. What exactly. Y is this extra year accomplishing? Nothing!

Parents How many of you went

How many of you went without and busted your tails by working two jobs, collecting cans,selling avon along with items on Craigslist and EBay doing whatever you had to from once a month cookies and cakes bake sales to every two weeks garage sales just so you could pay that private preschool monthly tuition. This was our routine for two years $ 8,760.00 was our finale total. It was worth every penny because our little one who was born on October 5, 2009 thirty four days after the September 01 cut off date. He was allowed to start (TK )but he was not allowed to be enrolled into kindergarten because of his birthday being in October. This is where I've noticed that a lot parents started complaining about the (TK ) program
(T. K. ) Transitional Kindergarten ( N C L B ). No Child Left Behind Act
In my opinion transitional kindergarten is a wonderful program that does help many young kids in preparing them for school. NOW THE BEST PART OF THIS STORY: On Sunday, October 05, 2014 ( nine days ago ) my son turned 5 years old.
On Monday, October 06, 2014 ( eight days ago ) my son was taken out of transitional kindergarten and place into regular kindergarten and he loves it.
So if you do not wish for your child to be in ( TK) go to ( ) and do your homework. Just because THE LAW FEELS THAT NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND IS A GREAT IDEA DOES NOT MEAN YOUR CHILD SHOULD HAVE TO WAIT GOOD LUCK PARENTS

Thanks for writing this. I am

Thanks for writing this. I am now facing this same dilema and trying to do my homework as a parent. My now 4 year old (birthdate 10/16) has been reading and writing for months now and another year of Pre-K will bore her! I am looking for any possible way around this Act because if she cannot start kinder in 2015 Fall it will be holding her back. I will be checking out this website :)

Hi  did you find any


 did you find any information if a child can go direct to kindergarten? my daughter are very bright, we already do the volunteer 3 x a week during my son kindergarten year. She will turn 5 on Sept 12 and I dont want her to go back to tk and kindergarten. any suggestion? hoped you can help me.



thank you

I spoke with many public and

I spoke with many public and private schools to see if i can have her tested the summer prior to starting and they all said NO :(. BUT good news is that our home school district said that I can register my daughter for transitional kinder and once she turns 5 in October I can petition (fill out a bunch of forms) to have the school give her as assesment test and interview with some teachers. The main point is that i couldnt do anything until she is officially 5. If she passes then they can place her in the regular kindergarten class! They did mention that the main thing they will be looking for is to see if shes emotionally ready. So now we just have to be patient and wait for her to be 5 to do anything.

If she passes, we will be happy and have her stay in public school kinder. If she doesnt for whatever reason, which is ok.... Then we are faced with deciding to put her back in her private school preschool courses or in a regular public school TK (which is only half day)

I'm in the exact same

I'm in the exact same situation. My son turns 5 on September 8, 2015. But what they told me was that I have to wait 6- 8 weeks until after he starts TK to have the teachers access him. I just got off the phone with someone from the district but she kept repeating herself with with different concerns I had to top it off she hung up so quickly I didn't have time to ask anything else! Im glad I'm checking online because there is a lot of useful information. Thank you!

I'm so frustrated having to

I'm so frustrated having to deal with my son in TK.. I don't understand how they came up with the guidlines based on age?! It should've been done according to a test based on where their skills && understand is.. my so missed the deadline by 10 days!! That does not mean hes socially or mentally slower than someone with a birthday 10 days before his.. nor does it mean the child allowed to go to reg. Kinder is more developed in the areas they are basing their TK requirement..

I understand how you feel so

I understand how you feel so here's my advice take your son out of TK and place him into k before it's to late it can be done good luck.

that's insane andd i say the

that's insane andd i say the same thing about my kid who will be six in kindergarten just because he missed the cut off by two months its silly he is older than everyone in his class and knows all of the work and should be in the first grade not kindergarten i wish they would change this. I too was started late just because my birthday was less than a month when school started so silly.

I understood that if there

I understood that if there are stand-alone TK classrooms (ie, not intermixed with K students), then the student would only stay there for one year (the underage year) and would go on to enter K at the school of their choice through the normal lottery procedures for 5 year olds. It doesn't make any sense to occupy K seats in every school for 2 years with underage children that supposedly don't belong there in the first place according to the new age rules. If that were the case, than what would the new age rules accomplish? It would be the same old, same old. Aside from tying up coveted K seats throughout the City, isn't intermingling TK students with K students counterproductive to the intent of keeping unprepared, underage, undersocialized children out of Kindergarten in the first place?

SFUSD needs 1-year TK programs, from which they gently push the baby birds out of the nest for flight, 'er I mean Kindergarten. There are probably 10 or more elementary schools in SF with classroom capacity for stand alone TK classrooms in close proximity to the underserved children who need these services.

Thank you Lisa for this

Thank you Lisa for this interesting and informative article. It will help me make the best decisions for my kids as they enter school.

I live in san diego ca. Which

I live in san diego ca. Which schools are available for my daughter which offer traditional kindergarten

  Hi Carolina,   I suggest

Hi Carolina,

I suggest that you check the website of your local school district to find out information about traditional kindergartens in your area.


I found this post while

I found this post while trying to find more info explaining the intent and logic for TK. I still don't get the intent. And here is my stickying point. If you take students that would have been the youngest in K if the cutoff dates hadn't moved. These are the students that will be the oldest in the K class the following year. So just age alone should make them more 'mature'. Then add a year of TK for them which will help w/ the social/emotional aspects and academic elements. Now the following year when they go to K, you have that small group that are now the Oldest + TK experienced. Doesn't this create a big 'gap' between them and the other younger kids in the K class? The only part that might make sense is if districts really do implement it as a 2 Yr program and keep the TK students together for K and don't mingle them into the normal K classes. But I think our district is mingling them after their TK year.

Shane- These were very

Shane- These were very similar to my thoughts exactly. On top of all the transitional kindergarten/traditional kindergarten, I am left wondering what then is pre-k? And the ages for attending that, and the thoughts and options for choosing pre-school versus pre-k versus transitional kindergrten... All of this is enough to leave one's head spinning. If you add in the private schools that are adding tk classes, the game shifts even more skewed. For example: the children who are old enough to get into a tk class then take the much competed for spaces in regular k, they roll into the 1st grade and so on. The children who are not old enough will not even have a chance to compete for a space in k as those spaces will already be filled with previously enrolled tk students... Gah! This is all such a mess. Oh- FYI- When I was reading the State guidlines for tk, it does not make you stay with the same school for both tk and k. The only mention was for children who were old enough to attend k, but the parents opted to have them go to tk... The parents must sign a waiver of aknowledgement and agree to the child spending 2 years in k. Again, no mention that it must be attended at the same location. This may, or may not assist in your choice of enrolling your son in tk versus keeping him in pre-school...

Shane--My thoughts exactly! I

Shane--My thoughts exactly! I have a daughter who will miss the age cut off by 14 days. She is already doing basic math, writing and spelling her name, identifying letters and numbers--and so much more. My concern is that she is ready for Kindergarten already but will not be allowed to start because she was born 2 weeks too late. So she will be placed in a setting where she is already older than half of the kids, and she will have a year of "kindergarten" via the transitional kindergarten, while some of hte children are younger AND have no school experience under their belt. I feel like transitional kindergarten would be much more effective and logical if the "young 5 year olds" were placed into the program the year before kindergarten (so they would attend while they were 3 turning 4) so that they can start Kindergarten with the readiness but not be older than the rest of the class. This whole thing makes no sense to me. If anyone has found a way to start children in Kindergarten at 4 without TK--I would more than appreciate it!

California does not require

California does not require kids to be enrolled in public schools until they are 6. If you don't like the whole K or TK option, then opt out! As a TK teacher, I have had 4 year olds that could read anything put in front of them, understand multiplication and fractions; but in a social situation, they were a mess! It's not just about who they are as a 4 year old... Think about them in Middle school or High school when they are the most immature ones in the crowd. Do you really want to send a 17 year old off to college when they can't even vote? All my parents come back to me every year after TK and say that it was the best decision they ever made. In my mind, there is no question about where to place a Fall birthday child.

With all do respect, This is

With all do respect, This is all about money.
Teaching begins at home, The schools look at our kids as dollars signs the more kids that attend the more money they collect. In my opinion we will not see higher test scores but we will see private day cares / preschools going out of business. Now think about this 67% of school teachers are alcoholic's and 2.5% abuse drugs.

Respect, huh? It's hard for

Respect, huh? It's hard for me to find respect in your post when you accuse 67% of teachers of being alcoholics and 2.5% drug abusers. What relaiable source did you get this information from? I am a teacher and so are my 2 brothers. None of us do what you are accusing nor do we work with anyone who is doing what you are accusing. In fact, the majority of the teachers I know work their tails off to do the very best job they can educating children because it's their passion. Not because they get paid the BIG bucks or earn praise and honor from parents, community members or administrators. Your post is disrespectful and offensive. You are right about one thing, teaching DOES begin at home but unfortunately for many reasons it doesn't always happen. Transitional K is a OPTION for children who need a little more time. Not every child develops at the same pace so TK is an opportunity for kids to have a solid foundation of early literacy, math skills and social skills before moving on to a more rigorous set of standards in K.

Wow, Elaine I'm not a teacher


Elaine I'm not a teacher but have respect for you and what you do and I actually feel like apologizing FOR "willow". How insulting, rude and off the wall!!!!!!!! A total joke! I am a parent and my daughter's bday is Nov. 4 and I'm trying to learn the pros and cons of the whole TK situation. My daughter is in private school and while she is wise and sharp and more of an old soul, I feel like she could use a bit more socialization time before entering K. I'm trying to make the best choice FOR MY KID and honestly, I loved that you said "Wait to put your child in school" if you don't like the TK option!  I think I like that we have this choice now, and am looking into possibly getting her moved up into the K class once she is 5 IF she is on level with the other students. If not, the extra year of TK will probably be just fine! One little perk-She'll be one of the first kids to get her driver's  license eventually and I'm guessing she'll be excited about that! Anyway, thank you for what you do and your opinion and I'd actually love to hear more from you!

His point was that TK only

His point was that TK only seeks to give government funded school to the oldest 1/4th of kids of the school grade. The "young 5s" of this year are the "old 5s" of next year. When research shows it's the oldest kids that need the least amount of help, it seems like using government $ to educate the ones that research shows need it the least doesn't make sense. Our son born in May will be in the same grade as the childten born the previous September through December 2nd. Those older children will have had a whole year of government sponsored school vs our son essentially 5-6 month "behind. Once the date is finally caught up to September 1st and we're out of this transition period, TK in my prediction will eithet 1) fall out of fashion; or 2) be opened up to government sponsored preschool/TK to all children of the younger yesr born Sept 1st - Aug 30th.

My doughter is going to turn

My doughter is going to turn five yrs in october 23 she was born in ' it an obligation for her to go to the t-k program...i dnt want her to go there i just want her to go to kinder

Rosa, It is not necessary or

Rosa, It is not necessary or even mandatory for your daughter to attend a TK program. TK is an option that you have if you don't want your child to attend pre-school for the year that she previously would have been eligible for kindergarten. If your daughter does not attend TK, she will not be eligible to start kindergarten until September 2014, just so you know. The choice is totally yours.

Well my daughter has taken 2

Well my daughter has taken 2 yearsof preschool her b day is sept 14 09 so 14 days after the cut off so now shell once again have to be in the same class with the dsame teacher for another 2 years so shell be going for 4 years before 1st grade that is lame and not understandable what can i do there are no other schools within 30 miles

I'm having a little issue at

I'm having a little issue at my son school he was born in late August of '08 nd he started kindergarden everything was going fine until his teacher started telling me about some few problems she was having with him. 1st off ahe started that he's a great student listens to instructions but when it comes to her teaching the class he isn't listening he gets distracted easily she asks him a question and he starts talking about something else. I found out later that her nd the teacher next door switch kids every other day for an hour and she was telling me that he is immature and its best if i switch him to the tk program if I'm not going to give him 2 hours of my time to work with him then I should switch him into another class that way they can work with him instead. We do homework nd he does everything good I have no complaints but at the same time he is not allowed to watch any television unless his homework is done. Maybe he's not as motivated in class then he is at home? I'm a bit confused and in a certain way I do feel as if these teachers aren't trying to really help him out like they just wanna pass him on to somebody else.

I have a child that us born

I have a child that us born on Dec 11, 2008 who is in her last year at pre-school because she just missed the TK window. Someone told me they spoke to someone in our district, LAUSD, and were told once a child that missed the TK window turns 5, they can start TK at their home school if there is space. There is space but no one in our administration seems to understand the code fully. Can my child start in TK in January once she is 5? Thank you.

Yes, your child should have

Yes, your child should have been able to have an assessment when she turned 5 and placed in TK.  There is a procedure. It''s in the ED CODE 48000. My twins turned 5 on Dec. 27th and they were able to enroll in kindergarten in January. Our school is magnet and did not have a TK so that's where they went.

I'm the parent of a four-year

I'm the parent of a four-year old (as of 10/24). By California law, my daughter will have to enter TK next year because she will not be five by Sept 1, 2014. We are moving from New York, where our daughter has been in a private Spanish immersion school for both nursery and PK. If we stayed in NY, she would enter K for the 2014-2015 school year. We are now stuck with having to consider private schools again or go down this path of TK which I'm not convinced is worth our time based on where our daughter is from an emotional, psychological and physical perspective.   Are there any Spanish immersion schools in West LA that have the option to make a local/individual decision and enroll a four-year old in K? or Is TK our only option for public schools?