Transitional Kindergarten 101

What is TK | Benefits of TK | Funding for TK | About the Project

What is TK?

Created by the 2010 California law called the Kindergarten Readiness Act, and offered across the state, transitional kindergarten (TK) is an exciting educational opportunity to prepare children for kindergarten. Under the 2010 law, TK offers children with birthdays between September and December a developmentally appropriate curriculum taught by credentialed teachers from K-12.

The 2015-16 state budget further clarified the law to allow school districts to enroll 4 year olds even if they turn 5 after the December cutoff date, providing another local option to get more children ready for kindergarten. The Expanded TK approach gives districts an option to use a combination of local and Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding to offer school readiness opportunities to children who might not otherwise have access.

The Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger, changed the kindergarten entry date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1 so that children enter kindergarten at age 5. The law phased in the new age requirement by moving the cutoff date one month a year for three years, and is now fully implemented.

The entry date change and the creation of TK address a longstanding need in California, as our children have historically started kindergarten at a younger age than kids in almost any other state – often without the maturity, social skills and early academic skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. At the same time, kindergarten standards and curriculum have changed over the years, and many of the skills children were once taught in first grade are now expected in kindergarten.

The youngest kids in a kindergarten class risk struggling academically, emotionally and/or socially. At their young age, some may have limited experience interacting with peers and teachers, while others may not yet know how to listen or follow a structured class schedule. Likewise, many 4 year olds in California still do not have access to high quality preschool that also provides these learning opportunities for our children. TK ensures that children have these pivotal skills, which are foundations to successful learning, when they begin kindergarten

What are the benefits of TK?

Transitional kindergarten bridges the path between preschool and kindergarten and gives students the gift of time that will help them build a strong foundation for future school success. It blends social and emotional experience with academic learning, so that students not only learn essential pre-literacy, pre-math, and other cognitive skills, but also develop social and self-regulation skills needed to succeed in school and life. One out of every four kindergarten students in California can benefit from transitional kindergarten.

TK is a win-win-win for children, families and schools.

  • Children are better prepared to succeed.
  • Families have an additional option to ensure their children enter kindergarten with the maturity, confidence and skills they need to excel.
  • Schools benefit because children will be better prepared to succeed academically and less likely to be placed in special education or held back in later grades.

Research shows that the return on early investments in education is substantial. According to Deborah Stipek, professor at the Stanford University School of Education, “the cost is paid back many times over in reduced grade retentions, special education services and in lower expenditures for incarceration. Returns also come in the form of the increased productivity that results from higher levels of academic achievement and high school completion rates.”

Funding for TK

Transitional kindergarten is fully funded by Average Daily Attendance (ADA) dollars. Your district will receive the same full ADA funding rate for TK students that you receive for all kindergarten students. In addition to core ADA funding, you also have other funding sources that can support your TK classrooms. Depending on how you structure the TK classrooms across your district (e.g. TK classes in select schools, TK/K combo classes, etc.), your funding approaches may vary.

Districts that choose to offer Expanded TK (ETK) to children born after the original December 2nd birthday cutoff will use a combination of local and ADA dollars. Statutory changes made in the 2015-16 state budget clarify that school districts and charter schools may draw down ADA to support TK programs for any child as soon as he or she turns 5. They can use local general fund, federal Title I, or Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) supplement and concentration dollars (as appropriate) to pay for ETK for the part of the school year before children turn 5.

For more information about TK funding, please see the Funding section in our Roadmap for administrators.

About the Project

Early Edge California (formerly Preschool California) and a panel of experts worked together to develop TKCalifornia to serve the needs of teachers and administrators as they implement transitional kindergarten. TKCalifornia is the result of a content creation and a review process led by 20 experts from across the state, including local school districts, county offices of education, researchers and state-level decision makers. Their expertise spans the areas of language and literacy development, early math, social emotional development and executive function, culturally responsive education and dual language acquisition.

The content and materials on this site are based upon the following key agreements and recommendations identified by our experts as critical to TK students’ learning:

  • reflecting  the continuum of development of all children, recognizing the breadth of their experience, and meeting them where they are to help them advance;
  • fostering warm, responsive relationships;
  • supporting family involvement;
  • offering examples of good teaching;
  • providing concrete guidance for teachers by showing how to sequence instruction and presenting easy-to-use resources;
  • helping teachers understand the use of formative assessment;
  • supporting teachers in differentiating instruction;
  • articulating with preschool and kindergarten;
  • focusing on the essential strands for teachers to build the foundation for kindergarten success; and
  • providing integrated learning and instruction.

Members of our expert planning and advisory committees, and other leaders who contributed, include:

  1. Barbara Blakely, retired transitional kindergarten teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District
  2. Shirley Esau, Principal, Washington Elementary, Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District
  3. Dr. Linda Espinosa, retired Early Childhood Education Professor and Dual Language Learner Researcher and Consultant
  4. Elia Garcia, Santa Clara County Office of Education, Early Learning Services
  5. Sylvia Gonzalez, Director of Early Childhood Education, San Diego Unified School District 
  6. Dave Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools
  7. Wilma Hashimoto, Associate Director Early Care and Education/Local Planning Council, Fresno County Office of Education
  8. Whit Hayslip, Early Childhood Education Consultant and former Assistant Superintendent of Early Childhood Education, Los Angeles Unified School District
  9. Dr. Lisa Kaufman, Director of Early Learning Services, Santa Clara County Office of Education
  10. Camille Maben, Division Director, California Department of Education, Child Development Division
  11. Elizabeth Magruder, Early Childhood Education consultant and teacher
  12. Peter Mangione, Co-Director, Center for Child & Family Studies, WestEd
  13. Dr. Carola Matera, Assistant Professor, California State University Channel Islands
  14. Dr. Linda Platas, Program Officer, Heising-Simons Foundation
  15. Cheri Reaves, Consultant, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
  16. Janis Shinmei, Program Coordinator, Early Childhood Education, Los Angeles Unified School District
  17. Christopher Steinhauser, Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent of Schools
  18. Dr. Deborah Stipek, Professor, School of Education, Stanford University
  19. Gary Waddell, Deputy Superintendent, Instructional Services, San Mateo County Office of Education
  20. Joyce Wright, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Support Services, Sacramento County Office of Education

The process and meetings were facilitated by Vickie Ramos, Deputy Field Director, Preschool California; Hedy Andersson, Field Coordinator, Preschool California; and Susan True, Executive Director, First 5 Santa Cruz.

TKCalifornia is operated and maintained by Early Edge California, a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization that is working to increase access to early learning opportunities for all of California’s children, starting with those who need it most. Early Edge California is proud to have sponsored Senate Bill 1381 by Senator Joe Simitian, which changed the kindergarten entry date and created transitional kindergarten, giving our youngest kindergarteners a head start that will yield significant payoffs in future academic success.

This project was created in 2012 and continues to expand and grow. For more information about the expert planning and advisory committees, leaders who contributed, and facilitators involved with Early Edge California (formerly Preschool California), please contact Hedy Andersson at TKCalifornia will continue to be developed over time, and Early Edge California looks forward to connecting with educators and implementers in the field to provide updated, high-quality resources to support TK implementation. 

The development of this website was supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to sustainable, research-based solutions in education, science, and policy.