- A study from the American Institutes for Research finds California's state-mandated “transitional kindergarten” (TK) program largely successful.
- The program was created by the state's Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, which makes all children whose fifth birthdays fall between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 eligible for a state-funded year of pre-K education.
- Over the last academic year, roughly 83,000 children attended the TK program, which lawmakers may expand to include 4-year-olds with birthdays after Dec. 2.
The major difference between TK and regular preschool, according to Ed Source, is that TK teachers are mandated to have bachelor’s degrees and teaching credentials, while preschools requisites are much more lax, sometimes requiring only a handful of college credits.
Another benefit of the TK program is that students become familiarized with the kindergarten structure, thus transitioning into formal school with greater ease. The study also found that transitional kindergarten students had “greater executive function,” which isn’t surprising given the age and developmental stages of the young participants. The study reportedly found no major differences between the two groups in social and emotional skills.
Moving ahead, California will consider whether or not to expand transitional kindergarten for all children who turn five after Dec. 5.
Nationally, the issue of pre-k education has been a hot topic, with 924 early childhood bills introduced in state legislatures in 2015 alone. Although a general consensus around the efficacy of pre-K exists, lawmakers have struggled to come to grips with best practices for implementation. Most legislative efforts have represented only small moves in expanding access and diversity of public preschool and early childhood education programs.
In New York, the issue has been contentious, with a tripling of available preschool slots in the city as it aims tries to provide early education for every child. In Connecticut, friction also persists, with a lawsuit over whether pre-K is a component of general education.