Report Gives First Look at Transitional Kindergarten Implementation in California

San Mateo, Calif. – About 39,000 students enrolled this year in California’s Transitional Kindergarten program, according to a study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) that looks at the program’s first year of implementation. The report, Transitional Kindergarten in California, also found that 89 percent of the state’s school districts offered transitional kindergarten in the 2012-2013 school year. Seven percent of districts reported they had no students eligible to enroll in the program.

The 89 percent of districts offering Transitional Kindergarten serve 96 percent of California’s kindergarten population, which, the authors note, meant that only a small percentage of eligible students are in districts that do not offer the program. Among those districts, reasons for not implementing transitional kindergarten included lack of resources or not having enough eligible students to enroll.

The new grade was established under the Kindergarten Readiness Act, which changed the kindergarten entry age so that children must turn 5 by Sept. 1, instead of Dec. 2, in order to enter kindergarten. This move is being phased in over three years. In 2012-2013, children had to turn 5 by Nov. 1 to enter kindergarten, and for the 2013-14 year the deadline is Oct. 1. From 2014-2015 onward, the cutoff date will be Sept. 1.

Transitional Kindergarten was created for children affected by the new law. For this year, this includes children who turned 5 between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2. This eligibility window will shift to Sept. 2 – Dec. 2 over the next two years.

Other findings from the study include:

  • 72 percent of school districts used the required Nov. 2 - Dec. 2 range to determine eligibility.
  • 19 percent of districts accelerated implementation by using the Sept. 2 - Dec. 2 range, which increased the number of students eligible.
  • While 85 percent of districts who offered the program first implemented it in 2012-2013, 15 percent of districts already had the program or a similar one in place.
  • Among participating districts, 57 percent offered Transitional Kindergarten only in classrooms combined with a kindergarten class, while 35 percent implemented only single-grade Transitional Kindergarten classrooms.

This brief, written by authors based out of AIR’s San Mateo, Calif. office, is the first of a series highlighting findings from the study, which is supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


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