Good Schools for All: When Kindergarten Slaps You in the Face - Voice of San Diego

Education UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Good Schools for All: When Kindergarten Slaps You in the Face

Making the leap from preschool to kindergarten can be jarring — for kids and parents.

The move from play-based preschools to increasingly rigorous kindergarten classrooms is rough, for both kids and parents.

A Good Schools for All listener, Sally Cox, called in to share her story about a particularly jarring transition from preschool to kindergarten. She said she thought her son was well-prepared, but kids in his kindergarten class were expected to be reading by October, and her son quickly fell behind.

“I think the alignment issues between expectations in kindergarten and how children are prepared in preschool really need to be dealt with,” Cox said.

Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn dig into the big transition problem, which is worsening thanks to a ratcheting up of academic expectations for kindergarteners. Transitional kindergarten, or TK, a public-school program offered to kids born between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 as the first step of a two-year kindergarten class, has been one attempt at closing the early education achievement gap.

TK is great for the small number of kids who happen to be born at the right time, Kohn said, but as a public policy it’s pretty terrible.

“It’s this privilege, this entitlement that’s only available if you happen to get pregnant and give birth in a certain little window,” she said. “What we’re giving away is a free, extra year of public schooling to the oldest incoming kindergarteners.”

Kohn’s not the only one with a TK pet peeve. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed combining three state-funded programs: preschool, transitional kindergarten and a rating system. He wants to strip away existing requirements and give local school districts more control over how they use the money as long as they prioritize providing early education services to low-income and at-risk kids.

One big problem with the proposal is the lack of any additional funding, said Matt Doyle.

Doyle’s the executive director of innovation at Vista Unified School District. He came on the podcast this week to talk about Brown’s proposal and share some of the things his district has been doing to help ease the transition between preschool and kindergarten.

“We have actually identified the transition from preschool into kindergarten as probably the single greatest transition the child can make as they develop their cognitive academic abilities for college and career,” he said. “So for us this is the No. 1 issue.”

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

6,846: That’s the number of transitional kindergarteners we have in the San Diego region. The program just launched three years ago and it’s seen a big increase since its inception. There was a 67 percent increase in TK enrollment from the 2013-2014 to last year, and this year’s numbers are expected to see an even bigger jump.

What’s Working

The Quality Preschool Initiative: The program rates the quality of state-funded preschools and head start programs in San Diego County. It’s working because the San Diego County Office of Education is implementing the program effectively. The results of the program aren’t publicly available yet, but they will be soon.

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