http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2012/04/20/planning-for-transitional-kindergarten


Mountain View Voice

News - April 20, 2012

Planning for transitional kindergarten

by Nick Veronin

How should the local school district deal with "young fives," children who don't make the birthday cut-off to enroll in kindergarten?

The Mountain View Whisman School District's board of trustees was set to meet Thursday, April 19, to figure out how best to move forward with its transitional kindergarten program, which will open next year.

Transitional kindergarten aims to help children with late-in-the-year birthdays better adjust to public school by placing them in a class with a curriculum that strikes a balance between preschool and kindergarten.

There are two main options, said Mary Lairon, associate superintendent of MVWSD. The first is to keep the younger, "transitional kindergartners" in an entirely separate class from the older kindergartners. The other option is to mix the two groups.

At the moment, Lairon isn't firmly in favor of one over the other. "I can see advantages and disadvantages to both models," she said.

Grouping the children together is the most efficient option and opens the possibility for the younger students to model the behavior of older boys and girls, who would presumably be more mature. The flip side to that coin is that if the younger students are more restless, they might draw their older peers into mischief.

Separating the groups could make the teachers' jobs a bit more manageable, Lairon said, and ensure that the instructors are able to better concentrate on each child's educational and developmental needs. However, it does eliminate some of the benefits of the mixed model, while also raising the potential that the district would need to hire additional staff and run more classrooms, depending on how many of each group enroll in the fall.

The concept of a transitional course from pre-school to kindergarten has been around for some time, but lately, it has become a buzzword among California educators. In 2010, state legislators passed the Kindergarten Readiness Act, in an effort to address the issue of children entering kindergarten before they were ready for the public school setting.

The act will eventually move the kindergarten enrollment cut off date up from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1, and require all elementary schools in the state to offer transitional kindergarten to all students born between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2.

School districts throughout the state have a few years to fully implement the new cutoff date. MVWSD plans to move the date back by one month incrementally each school year. In the 2012-13 session, the district will begin accepting transitional kindergartners born between Dec. 2 and Nov. 2.

Transitional kindergarten is not a requirement, so, if parents feel a child is not ready for school, they don't have to send them, even if they are eligible. And a district is not required to put a transitional kindergarten class at every school if it doesn't make sense logistically.

If the district were to go with the grouping option, Lairon and other school administrators have proposed putting one transitional kindergarten class at both Castro and Theuerkauf.

Should the trustees find the grouped transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classes to be a better option, administrators have suggested establishing these combination classes at multiple campuses yet to be determined.

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