Calif. Schools Start 'Transitional Kindergarten'

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California public school systems plan to add "transitional kindergarten" as a new grade to help younger children prepare for school.

Transition kindergarten, or TK, is designed to prevent 4-year-olds from enrolling in kindergarten, which some experts say is too early.

A new state law will require kids be 5 years old by September, rather than December, in order to enter kindergarten.

Parents say TK helps children learn basic skills they can use the next year when they enter regular grade school.

"TK has been proven to be valuable to the school districts in lowering retention, special ed placement, and we predict dropout rates will go down," Orange County Department of Education administrator Cathy Wietstock said.

"They did a lot of arts and crafts that enabled him to work on making shapes that were precursors to letters," Garry Green said of his son who's in TK. "I think that in particular was a great aspect of the curriculum."

Some school districts worry the new program won't gain much support. For now, participation is voluntary and the state only gives schools money for each child that attends.

Transitional kindergarten is the first new grade added to schools since 1891.

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