I am receiving many inquiries from parents and educators about the specifics of kindergarten and transitional early
entry kindergarten programs in California. It can be confusing because each California public school district and each individual private school may develop and implement their own kindergarten plans. Following are some basic facts and how these changes may affect young children, their parents, teachers, ECE school administrators, and child development certificate and degree programs over the next few years.
Eligibility For California Kindergarten:
California has begun phasing in the new eligibility entry requirements for kindergarten. By 2014 children must be five years of age by September 1 for kindergarten eligibility. The 2012-2013 school year requires kindergarten students to be five years of age by November 1, 2012. For the 2013-2014 school year, students must be five by October 1, 2013.
Transitional Early Entry Kindergarten Unlikely in Public Schools:
California planned to offer statewide optional two-year transitional early entry kindergarten programs in public schools this coming year. It now appears highly unlikely due to budget cuts and recent “possible” layoff notices being distributed to many teachers in San Diego County schools. Children previously eligible for kindergarten (five by December 2), would have been eligible to enroll in the optional two-year program in all school districts.
The purpose of transitional early entry kindergarten is to provide students with social skills and an academic foundation necessary for success in kindergarten.
Importance of Transitional Early Entry Kindergarten:
The proposed transitional public school kindergarten program is particularly important for children not attending prekindergarten programs and those attending pre-kindergarten programs without engaging hands-on early literacy and academic components weaved throughout their daily curriculum.
Preparing For an Emerging Group of Older Pre-Kindergarten Students:
Teachers and administrators of early childhood programs must be prepared for an increasingly older group of prekindergarten students over the next few years. Programs may wish to consider implementing their own Transitional Early Entry Kindergarten program component to best serve this emerging older group of pre-kindergarteners. Providing a balanced comprehensive early literacy based curriculum with engaging activities full of fun, imagination and adventure will enhance developing social skills and provide students with the academic foundation necessary for success in kindergarten.
Parents of four- and five-year-old children are faced with important decisions in the coming months with understanding kindergarten eligibility dates and the likely lack of transitional early entry programs in public school districts. In our profession, early childhood educators must be prepared now to assist parents and provide program options and curriculum that will meet the needs of their young children. We must also ensure that our College and University programs adequately prepare ECE teachers by ensuring that curriculum and practicum components fully address the social and academic needs of this unique emerging group of older pre-kindergarteners.
About The Author:
Cindy Cesena is founder and executive director of nationally accredited La Costa Valley Preschool and Kindergarten in La Costa, CA. The school has successfully offered transitional early entry kindergarten and kindergarten programs since 1991. Cindy is the SDAEYC committee chair of Administrators and Directors.