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Transitional Kindergarten FAQS from the California Department of Education



Children’s Books About the Transition to School

man reading with young boyOne way to help young children prepare for the transition to kindergarten is to read them books about starting school. There is great variety of books available for this purpose.

The Solano County Library is a wonderful resource for children's books.

Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) and Transitional Kindergarten (TK)

kindergarten friends laughing

What are Universal Pre-Kindergarten and Transitional Kindergarten (TK)?

Transitional kindergarten, often referred to as TK, is a free public school program for 4-year-olds who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Feb. 2. Click here for specific age eligibility and school start dates  It is essentially designed to be a bridge between preschool and kindergarten. Transitional Kindergarten is intended to help build a strong learning foundation and prepare children for kindergarten with literacy skills, such as identifying letters sounds, and more advanced math skills, such as counting objects and completing word problems.  TK also helps develop skills like remembering the rules and controlling impulses.

cone with UTK, Head start , CSPP and private inside

Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) will bring together programs across early learning and K-12, relying heavily on the transitional kindergarten programs already in place, California State Preschool Programs (CSPP), as well as Head Start, community-based organizations, and private preschools to ensure that every four-year-old has access to a quality learning experience the year before kindergarten, regardless of race, zip code, income or background.

Benefits of TK

A substantial body of research supports the long-term benefits of two years of quality learning environments, especially for dual language learners and children experiencing poverty and adverse life experiences.  Research also demonstrates that inclusive programs benefit both children with disabilities and their typically developing peers.  High-quality preschool programs can increase levels of school readiness at kindergarten entry and can improve long-term school performance.

The most successful preschool programs all have a socioeconomic mix; they are "universal" programs in that they are available to all children who meet the age requirements, at least within the "targeted" geographical areas where they exist.  Children especially those from low-income households, who attend two years of high-quality learning programs fare better than those who attend only one.

The American Institutes for Research released a report that examines the impact of California’s transitional kindergarten program, which was created through the California Kindergarten Readiness Act in 2010.

When they started kindergarten, children who attended transitional kindergarten were academically as much as five months ahead of their peers, who were a similar age, the report shows. Researchers found that transitional kindergarten students had higher literacy skills, such as identifying letters and sounds, and more advanced math skills, such as counting objects and completing word problems, than those who did not go to transitional kindergarten.

The study also found that transitional kindergarten students had “greater executive function” – skills, such as remembering the rules and controlling impulses. However, the study found no major differences between the two groups in social and emotional skills.

Does my child have to attend UPK/TK?

California Education Code (EC) Section 48000(k) provides that eligibility for transitional kindergarten (TK) does not impact eligibility for another program including the California State Preschool Program, Head Start, as well as other subsidized programs administered by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).  This means that families whose children are eligible for TK and are also eligible for subsidized early learning and care programs will still be able to choose to send their children to those programs.  Families may also continue to enroll their children in private preschool programs or keep their children at home.

Transitional Kindergarten Laws

A transitional kindergarten is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate. Pursuant to law [(SB 1381), (EC 48000[c])], a child is eligible for transitional kindergarten if a child will have his or her fifth birthday between September 2 and December 2.

Current law mandates that school districts offer at least one transitional kindergarten program for children whose birthdays fall after the kindergarten start date. School districts can claim average daily attendance (ADA) funding for these children for this additional year of instruction prior to kindergarten.

Each elementary or unified school district must offer transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classes for all children eligible to attend. Children eligible to enroll in transitional kindergarten do not need a signed parental permission form to continue in kindergarten. However, if a district is implementing a pilot transitional kindergarten program or enrolls a child who is age-eligible to attend kindergarten but enrolled in transitional kindergarten, the district will need a signed parental permission form to continue in kindergarten for one additional year.

Kindergarten Laws

Parents/guardians are not required to enroll children in kindergarten. In addition, compulsory education does not begin until a child turns 6-years of age. However, each school district is required to offer kindergarten to children who are of legal age (ED Section 48000 (a)). To be admitted to kindergarten a child must turn 5-years of age by December 2 for 2011-12, November 1 for 2012-13, October 1 for 2013-14 and September 1 for 2014-15 and each year afterwards. Current law allows school districts to admit children to kindergarten after the kindergarten start date but only after the child has turned 5 years old. These children (i.e. early admission kindergartners) may not begin school at the beginning of the school year, but they must wait until their fifth birth date occurs (EC Section 48000[b]). The decision to admit children to kindergarten is on a case by case decision between the school district and the parents. The school district is required to provide information to the parent/guardian about the advantages and disadvantages of early admittance. 

As a parent, what do I need to know?

Transitional kindergarten is taught by credentialed teachers from the K-12 system, which now includes transitional kindergarten.

Transitional kindergarten is part of the public school system and is free for families.

To sign up your child for transitional kindergarten, call your local school district office or visit the school district website for more information.


Learn more: What is TK? | What are the benefits of TK? | What is a high-quality TK experience?