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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Transitional kindergarten: The answer for some

February 8, 2011

February marks the month where most preschools ask families to re-enroll for next year. For parents of 4 year olds with summer or early fall birthdays, the question looms: Should she stay or should she go, to kindergarten? Since writing this post about our family's decision four years ago, many readers have commented in sharing their own questions and concerns. Social skills top the list of many concerns, as well as parents wondering whether they want their child to be the youngest in the grade. Others wrote in to say they worry their child will be bored with another year in preschool.

Transitional kindergarten may be the answer for some families. Transitional kindergarten (TK) classes typically promote socialization skills, hands-on learning, center time and emergent literacy, but do so in a setting where the pacing may be slower and the room for developmental differences is greater. Some experts say it's what kindergarten used to be before it became more academically focused. Depending on the school district, TK children either go on to a year of regular kindergarten or on to first grade, depending on their readiness.

Transitional kindergarten gives kids a leg up from this week's Rocket Blast describes a one-year-long transitional kindergarten program in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for children whose fifth birthday occurs in the fall. While is seems to be working for the young fives in California, the TK program is not without its critics, citing early-education programs failure to deliver long-term educational benefits.

Transition kindergarten isn't offered everywhere; many districts cannot afford the funding to offer this alternative setting. But for parents of kids with summer and fall birthdays, transitional kindergarten may be one option to explore.


My youngest son went through TK and as we were seeing things come home we were seeing everything his brother had done in kindergarten. But although they say there's no pressure to learn - retain information / he retained it all. Now in kindergarten he is extremely bored. If I'd known this I might have left him in regular preschool. But we also had the best teacher ever for TK so standards of what we had are hard to match up to. I think some kids this is appropriate but my son had already had 2 years of preschool. In my mind he was ready for kindergarten. He absorbs everything his older brother does. The one area TK doesn't generally handle is the same amount of reading. Although he knows most everything they are to teach in kindergarten, they don't want to pass them into 1st unless they are at a 2-4th grade reading level. He's at a 1st grade reading level. Just a little frustrated that in class they really do have to spend their time with the kids not familiar with school and so on, he is not overlooked but simultaneously they can not keep him
Interested and engaged enough. He loved school and didn't want to leave. Now he is so bored he hates it and does not want to go. Also, kindergarten is shorter in length of day than TK. It makes no sense. Just my experience. This has repercussions for some kids that they did not think through.

Pretty good post. I just came across your site and wanted to say that I have truly loved reading through your blog posts. Any ways I’m going to be subscribing for your feed and I hope you post again soon.Regards

My comments come from another perspective...both my sons repeated 1st grade, (the younger one did a TK AND repeated, making him 16 years old in 9th grade. NOT a good choice..but if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have done it. I would have used his IEP to force his teachers to accomodate him, instead of him accomodating to them.I am also an early childhood educator, and I hear the "maturity for college" argument frequently. And, in my experience, it holds no weight whatsoever. My other son did do well academically, but always had more in common with the class he was with originally. The same now with my 16 YO...what young parents fail to forsee is the social ramifications. There is no perfect answer, that much is true, and yes, you do have to go with your gut. What gets me going is that the burden for all this readiness haas been placed on the child, rather than the schools being ready for different developmental levels

I saw parents and cute little one registering for Kindergarden here in Davie County,NC two weeks ago at our local public library. We did not have kindergarden here when I was a child. The late Mrs. Adelaide Ellis wanted to start one at the Sceond Presbyterian Church which is an African-American church where she was a very active and positive member but it did not work out. Head Start did come about here in the 1970s and helped a lot of children.I was wondering if you or anyone at this site could assist me with a concern? I took the "Reading Rockets" course and could never get an answer as to where I could get credit,a certificate or recognition. I am trying to renew my teahers certificate here in NC and finnished the course. I need this documentation in order to turn it into the NC Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh,NC. My email address is [email protected]. Anyone with information let me know. Thanks.

Such a timely discussion for us as our daughter's birthday is end of July. I have been thinking of whether or not to hold her back and my gut tells me it would be better for her long term to be one of the older kids throughout school. I am thinking of her when she hits high school and heading off to college. I would much rather her have an extra year of maturity and head off to college at 19 than just turning 18 years old. I think it is so important to listen to your gut - you know your kid best! We have decided to hold her back this year and get her into a good pre-k program and a reading program. There are worse things in life than being bored (though I doubt she will be) in school. An extra year could make a world of difference in their confidence! Thanks for the good post!

Timely post as my husband and I are exploring options for our 4 year old girl. She will be 5 on 11/1/11 - missing the cut-off for kindergarten. Our question is whether to take her out of her current daycare environment (she has been there since 8 weeks) and put her in a formal TK or keep her where she is. Her daycare is great: Hospital based. 4-star. It does have a "learning through play" curriculum and much less structured than the TK program I have researched. I think she would be academically more prepared coming out of the TK program but there are definite disadvantages as well. I want to know: Do children that do a formal TK program do better than ones that attend a good quality daycare. I suspect this hasn't been extensively researched but I would welcome any thoughts.

Thank you Stacey for sharing your personal and professional experience with us! What is your school's cut-off date for kindergarten? I thought most school district were moving to a Sept. 1 deadline. Thanks again for sharing!

As a primary/grade one teacher and a parent, I really wish that I had kept both my children at home another year. Yes they may have been bored doing a third year in preschool, but neither one was really mature enough to start when they had just turned five on Aug. 13th. I should have listened to my own instincts rather than listen to the preschool teachers. With my daughter she cried until Christmas because she was afraid to get off the bus in the wrong place, and she cried until May because she was afraid to go down the other wing of the school to her reading buddy's classroom. She simply was not mature enough to go to school even though she did well academically. With my son, if I had kept him home another year, it would have made the difference between him going to school and being at the top of the class because he knew more, as opposed to him always being at the bottom of his class, as he was sometimes, a full year younger than the rest. He has always hated school, and I blame my decision to send him to school early. At our school, we now take students when they are four, which is a year earlier than my son was allowed to attend. I have several students who just are not ready to learn, and really the only thing that they are getting out of being there are classroom management type activites, like how to line up, etc. While these things are important, some of these students are just not ready for academics because of their age.

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"Reading is not optional." —

Walter Dean Myers