Transitional Kindergarten (TK) is a program primarily for four year-old resident students who demonstrate a need or otherwise do not have access to high-quality early learning experiences prior to kindergarten. Eligible students must be 4 years-old by August 31 to participate.
A screening process is used to help identify students who demonstrate a need of additional preparation to be successful in kindergarten the following year. Additionally, students who otherwise may not demonstrate a need or lack access, but whose families wish to participate, may do so through a space-available, tuition-based process.
In alignment with Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the following details describe the foundational elements of Walla Walla’s Transitional Kindergarten Program.
- Per Washington State Law, the program mirrors the traditional 5 year-old kindergarten program.
- 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.
- 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