Transitional Kindergarten, also known as TK, is an early learning program, primarily for four-year-olds, designed to help close the opportunity gap that we see among students entering kindergarten. TK provides children who demonstrate a need, or their family cannot access a community program, the chance to engage in a high quality early learning experience. Eligible students must be four-years-old by August 31 to participate.
Transitional Kindergarten offers an approach grounded in three main pillars: family engagement, developmentally appropriate practice, and social-emotional development.
- Family Engagement WWPS believes in honoring families as the child's first and most important teacher. We are committed to building strong home-school partnerships as a key strategy to ensure success in school. Therefore, the TK program intentionally offers many opportunities to build a strong school-family connection. Prior to the start of the first day, teachers will schedule a Family Connection meeting and throughout the year Family Nights will be offered.
- Developmentally Appropriate Practice Transitional Kindergarten is a place for children to learn and grow. TK provides time for children to explore, make sense of the world around them, and begin to find their place within it, in an environment that is developmentally appropriate (Washington State FDK Guide, 2017). The beginning of the TK year focuses on slowly transitioning students into school in a developmentally appropriate way. Teachers respond to student needs and teach students how to be at school through play-based learning.
- Social-Emotional Development Because school is a social experience, TK focuses on the social and emotional development of the child. Prior to teaching academic skills, we teach students how to manage feelings, follow limits and expectations, take care of their own needs appropriately, and how to interact with peers through problem solving, empathy, and kindness.
In alignment with the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the following details describe the foundational elements of Walla Walla Public School’s Transitional Kindergarten Program.
- Transitional Kindergarten mirrors the components of traditional kindergarten which are outlined in RCW 28A.150.315.
- Classrooms are staffed by certificated teachers and paraeducators who provide a curriculum that offers a rich, varied set of experiences in learning environments that are developmentally appropriate and address the whole child.
- The program is inclusive, socioeconomically diverse and responsive to the needs of children.
- Students are fully integrated into the school setting with access to transportation, specialists, recess and breakfast/lunch programs. Attention is given to the developmental capabilities and needs specific to young children in these settings.
- The program works in collaboration with and does not adversely impact enrollment in Walla Walla’s community-based preschool programs including Head Start, ECEAP (Early Childhood Education Assistance Program) and those operating in licensed child care centers/homes. As such, the Walla Walla Transitional Kindergarten Program is committed to participate in coordinated outreach, referral and placement to assure best fit and appropriateness of services based on each child’s and family’s need.
Why Offer Transitional Kindergarten?
In Walla Walla, less than one in four students who enter kindergarten are deemed kindergarten ready according the state-wide WaKIDS assessment that measures social and academic preparedness among other attributes. That number has continued to recede over recent years. This is an alarming statistic that not only impacts our school system but the future success of our youth and greater community.
While we maintain excellent private, non-profit and public early learning options for families, years of study¹ have identified that access, affordability, limited providers and state licensing requirements continue to hamper valley access to early learning opportunities for many families - even those not impacted by economic hardship.
With less than 25% of incoming kindergarten students prepared in Walla Walla, nearly half the state-wide average, tremendous resources and attention continue to be focused to remediate and shore up lacking skillsets. In order to reverse the bleak readiness statistic, many districts have turned to Transitional Kindergarten (TK) offerings as a way to bridge the path to kindergarten for many students who lack access or otherwise demonstrate a need. It provides opportunity and experiences that will help students build a strong foundation for future school success. TK blends social and emotional learning with academic exposure 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.
Transitional Kindergarten is a win-win-win for children, families and schools.
- Children are better prepared to succeed.
- 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 identified for remediation, special education or language services.
Research shows 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.”
¹ 2009 Community Council Study: Enhancing the Educational Attainment of Our Valley’s Children; 2015 Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition Study: Mobilization Taskforce & Early Learning Agenda Setting; 2016 Community Council Study: Education as a Path to Economic Growth; 2016 Sherwood Trust Study: Early Years Taskforce; 2016 Collaborative Study: Community Conversations