January 12, 2023

Transitional Kindergarten: The connective tissue between preschool and kindergarten

By Deborah Stipek | January | February 2023

Elementary schools in California are now serving younger children. As Transitional Kindergarten expands, most children will come to school at the age of 4 years. And preschools serving children as young as 3 years old are increasingly connected to elementary schools, often under the principal’s leadership.

Integrating Early Childhood Education into elementary schools offers the opportunity to create a coherent educational experience for young children. Heretofore, 5-year-olds came to kindergarten from various early childhood programs (e.g., Head Start, state preschool, community programs) or without preschool experience at all. District leadership typically had very little decision-making power related to the quality or nature of education children received before entering kindergarten.

School districts’ new power over ECE raises new questions as well as new opportunities. As district and school leaders make decisions about TK curriculum, assessment, instruction and teacher professional development, they are asking whether TK is more like preschool or kindergarten. Or is TK a completely new grade level that needs to be treated differently from both preschool and kindergarten?

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