10 Differences Between Preschool and Transitional Kindergarten

I am extremely excited to bring you today Virginia "Ginger" Hartnett as my blog's guest writer. She has decades of early childhood experience as program director and coordinator. She is also an engaging professional development presenter and a fighter for the early educators' rights. She is currently the Early Education Program Specialist of the San Diego County Office of Education.

She shares her expertise in regards of Preschool and Transitional Kinder and what's the difference.

How do you explain “school readiness” to a parent? The uniqueness of each child is considered very little by the education system, which focuses on birthdays as a readiness indicator. When the teacher is confused by TK legislation, imagine how hard this is on the parents of the Class of 2030. Most parents don’t get a choice about which program their school district will place their child in, but at least we can help them know the differences between PreK and TK.

Age: turning 5 between September 1st and December 2nd are Transitional Kinder students. Preschool age students are turning 5 after December 2nd.

    Transitional Kinder is the first year of a two-year kindergarten experience. It is not “being held back”.

    The teacher in a TK classroom has a multiple subjects teaching credential, and any units of early childhood education are helpful but not mandated until August, 2020. The preschool teacher has anywhere from 12 units of ECE to a Master’s Degree in Child Development, depending on the preschool’s funding source.

     Both programs are meant to rely on the California Preschool Foundations and Curriculum Frameworks for planning developmentally appropriate instruction, TK will also use Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics.

    Preschools usually have a lower child to teacher ratio, which is determined by a licensing agency that monitors health and safety.

    Expectations for behavior: because TK students are a little older, they are expected to have a longer attention span, be able to regulate their emotional state, and be more independent.
     Language: all children are language learners at this age, still working on pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Preschools usually have a less academic approach, putting more emphasis on auditory, sensory, and visual cues. TKs usually have a more academic approach, focusing on language development through group literacy activities.
     Location: TK classrooms are located on elementary school campuses, typically near the Kindergarten. Preschools can be anywhere, depending on funding, but most publicly-funded programs are linked to school districts. Many preschools are faith-based and offered at religious facilities.

    Schedule: Both TK and PreK can be full- or half-day, it depends on the enrollment and funding. It is more likely though, that TK is about 6 hours and Prek is half-day or 3.5 hours. Both programs may have before- and after-school options.

     Professional development: both PreK and TK teachers have a 21 hour per year requirement to renew their CA credential/ permit. The TK teacher is usually included with the other elementary school staff during prep days, the PreK teacher usually has conference and workshop options targeting education for 3 to 5 year-olds.

After all of this information, I think you'd be ready to explain school readiness to a parent!

You may contact Virginia Hartnett if you have any early childhood questions.

Keep learning!

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