Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, children in California will have to be 5 years old by November 1 to enroll in Kindergarten. By the 2014-2015 school year, children will have to be 5 by September 1 to enroll.
As a long time Kindergarten teacher (24 years when I retired), the shift to children being a full 5 years old at the start of Kindergarten simply makes sense. As the Eduskeptic has reflected on many times, developmental processes cannot be made to happen sooner than is natural. There is no amount of anything that will make it happen.
The problem with children who are a few months shy of their 5th birthday when they enter Kindergarten isn’t necessarily how they will do in Kindergarten, or maybe even first grade. The problems, for the most part, show up later. Starting school on a relatively equal basis with the other children is a good idea.
California has established a “transitional kindergarten” to accommodate those children who are not 5 by the time school starts.
An article in the Sacramento Bee, on November 14, provided some information regarding transitional kindergarten. This new “grade level” accomplishes a couple of things that probably aren’t part of the up front reasoning behind the move.
Districts will be able to keep teachers in the classroom. Districts budgets are based on the number of enrolled children. If all of the not yet 5 year olds weren’t enrolled somewhere in the district, revenues would drop. By the time September 2014 rolls around, it could be a significant drop, as the full impact of the 5 year old requirement hits home. Transitional kindergarten eliminates this issue.
Another thing it does is provide what one hopes is a very high level of day care for all of those not quite 5’s. It’s a gift to the parents who were counting on having there little one in school as soon as possible. The goals are currently unclear, but rest assured that there will be goals aplenty, which brings up the question of whether a child could fail to “pass” transitional kindergarten.
It will be a challenge for districts to come up with the appropriate people and method of caring for these very young children. Teachers of young children, being the caring and professional people they are, will undoubtedly do their very best for these young ones.
The issue of age appropriate starts in Kindergarten has been discussed by Kindergarten teachers since the first Kindergartners stepped into classrooms. The state legislators have been batting the idea around for 25 years, according to Sen. Joe Simitian, who was quoted in the Bee article.
He authored the legislation that created transitional kindergarten. His take on it is that it will be a “game changer” (Sac. Bee). While it is unclear in the article, authored by Diana Lambert of the Bee, who said that it will “ultimately lead to better test scores, fewer children placed inappropriately into special education classes and fewer held back in school”, there is no supporting link or evidence related to the statement. How such a “grade level” would do such a thing is at this point a mystery.
Here is another quote from the article: “TK will focus on improving motor and social skills to prepare children for the academic rigors of kindergarten.”
It’s a pretty simple statement, except for the last four words: “academic rigors of kindergarten.” Academic rigors should, in the Eduskeptics opinion, never ever be used in conjunction with Kindergarten. Ever. Never.
That kind of statement reflects a very disturbing direction in our schools. The only rigors children in Kindergarten should encounter is who will be line leader, what’s for lunch, what’s going on in their world, how many A/B patterns can you make, and what stories will we hear today.
More to come on this issue as the days flow by. As always, assume nothing, verify everything.