Setting Students Up For Success: Expanded Transitional Kindergarten A local option for schools to provide early learning to four-year-olds.
Early care and education programs prepare our children for success in the K-12 system, support working families, and help close the achievement gap as it first begins to form. Yet far too many young children lack access to the early learning opportunities that have proven to make a difference. Providing this foundation is especially crucial for the success of our low-income children, students of color, Dual Language Learners (or English Learners) and foster youth.
Transitional kindergarten (TK) has been shown to help students make important gains, and some districts are now expanding these opportunities to younger four-year olds who do not qualify for TK (as they turn five after December 2), through what is known as Expanded Transitional Kindergarten or “Expanded TK.”
Expanded TK is an innovative and cost-effective approach for public schools to provide early learning opportunities to four-year-olds who may not otherwise be served by TK or other early learning programs, in order to set them up for academic success. More districts are now exploring Expanded TK after 2015 state legislation clarified that students can enter the state’s public schools before they turn five years old, using local school district funding as needed.
Advancement Project California’s report, Setting Students Up for Success: Expanded Transitional Kindergarten – A local option for schools to provide early learning to four-year olds, profiles implementation approaches by districts in Los Angeles, Pasadena and San Jose. The report also provides an overview of the key elements and considerations that early adopters of the program have explored in the areas of access, quality, and affordability. These early adopters serve as pioneers who demonstrate innovative ways to ensure more students have an opportunity to access an early learning program that builds a strong foundation for school readiness.
Highlights of Key Findings
Districts have implemented Expanded TK across the state and are at different stages of implementation with a number of successes to build on as well as challenges to address. The report explores key elements and considerations that early adopters of the program have explored in the areas of access, quality, and affordability.
Expanded TK Population:
- The Expanded TK population is defined as “students who turn five after December 2.”
- Some districts have elected to include students who turn five as late as June for maximum access, while others have elected a narrower timeframe with birthday cut-off dates from January 31 to March 31, in order to generate maximum ADA funding.
Basic Program Models:
- Most students are served by Expanded TK programs that fall into three main categories: 1) stand-alone, full-year programs; 2) integration of Expanded TK students into full-year TK classrooms; or 3) mid-year programs.
- Some of programs have been small, such as one to two classrooms and others have larger programs across their district.
Expanded TK Teachers:
- Expanded TK is generally staffed by credentialed TK teachers who meet, or are on the path to meeting, the state TK teacher requirements.
- Districts report that they strive to place teachers with a strong background in child development or ECE and/or those who have experience with preschool-aged children.
Professional Development and Supervision:
- Curriculum for Expanded TK is generally determined by the district’s central office, and professional development (PD) is often led by (or supported by) the central office.
- Teachers also participate in school site PD and are often engaged in lesson planning with TK teachers. Expanded TK teachers are generally supervised by the school principal.
- Districts report that one of the most powerful and effective supportive method is to have teachers working with teachers – through professional learning communities, peer observations, and teacher-led professional development when appropriate – to ensure that teachers are guiding the focus of their learning.
Class Size and Ratios: Districts work to have smaller classes sizes and lower teacher-student ratios to create the conditions for young students to have quality interactions with their teachers that facilitate learning and developmentally appropriate instruction.
Reduction of TK/K Combination Classes: Some districts have enrolled Expanded TK students into TK classrooms to reduce the need for TK/K combination classrooms.
- Expanded TK students begin to generate ADA funding when they turn five years old and this continues while they remain within the school system for their K-12 years.
- Students with earlier birthdays (e.g. December and January) will generate more ADA than students with later birthdays.
- If the program model requires additional funding above what the Expanded TK population generates, schools can use other local dollars, such as the General Fund dollars, LCFF base funding, Title I, and Title II. The level of funds needed for Expanded TK varies.
Cost Varies by Model:
- There is no one standard cost for an Expanded TK program. Rather, the extent of the revenue and program costs is determined based on the program design and student population.
- A number of programs have designed and implemented Expanded TK programs with very minimal costs.
Reduction of Downstream Costs: Districts shared that they value the opportunity to reduce future costs achieved by addressing learning and achievement gaps at the onset of a student’s K-12 trajectory through early education programs.
- Maximizing resources is not simply about funding, but also ensuring that the maximum number of students are served across all early childhood education programs.
- Building strong communication and partnerships with ECE providers can be helpful in the needs assessment and in identifying approaches that maximize student impact.
Revenue Projections: Estimating revenue can be helpful to program planning. School Services of California developed an Expanded TK Cost-Benefit Calculator that school districts and charter schools can use at no cost. Other tools and resources for TK and Expanded TK can be found at TKCalifornia.org.