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What You Need to Know About Transitional Kindergarten

What You Need to Know About Transitional Kindergarten

The 2023-24 school year brings another shift to transitional kindergarten in California. Beginning next school year, transitional kindergarten (TK) will expand to include students who have their fifth birthday between Sept. 2, 2023, and April 2, 2024. 

Many districts have opened TK enrollment for the 2023-24 school year, so now is the time to learn more and consider enrolling your student in a free, high-quality early education program. Don’t know your school district? Enter your address into Great Schools to find your district

Transitional kindergarten refers to the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is developmentally and age-appropriate. TK is expected to be fully phased in for all 4-year-old children by 2025-26 statewide at no cost to families.


Families Future Teachers Current Teachers

Transitional kindergarten teacher works with two young students in class


For Families

Why should I enroll my child in TK?

Transitional kindergarten supports your child with age-appropriate learning with a multiple-subject credentialed teacher at no-cost. 

A year of transitional kindergarten has shown some big benefits in student learning and success in school. 

  • TK helps students get familiarized with the elementary school setting, learning procedures that help them feel more comfortable in kindergarten.
  • It provides students with a stronger foundation for continued success in math and reading in elementary school. 
  • Students grow their skills such as working as a team, sharing, being part of a community.
  • Students get free access to high-quality teaching and learning.

What can I expect in the classroom?

Young students learn best through play, and when they’re ages 4 and 5, they’re building skills through hands-on learning. Expect songs and dancing, learning centers (counting, coloring, building), and getting comfortable with how to be a member of their school community with recess, snacks, lunch, bathrooms, and visits to the library. 

SDCOE worked with community partners to create the Guide for Selecting Quality Child Care. It includes information about transitional kindergarten as well as national standards of quality for programs that serve young children. 

How does playing help my child succeed in school?

Active learning through purposeful play is important to the development of a child’s brain. One area that develops over time is the cerebral cortex, which controls and regulates executive functions such as language, cognitive reasoning, and decision making. Developmentally, young children struggle with abstract ideas, so when they can touch, feel, move, and work with others, it helps them better understand. This sets the stage for the abstract, logical thinking they’ll use when they’re older. 

Did you know:

  • Playing with playdough helps little fingers get strong enough to hold a pencil or pen. 
  • Listening to rhyming books helps students recognize patterns in speech and decode letter sounds. 
  • Building a train set with classmates creates learning opportunities to work as a team and solve challenges as they achieve different goals. 
  • Counting beans, rocks, or cars helps students with early math concepts. 

Who teaches TK?

In 2023-24, there is a requirement for one teacher for every 10 students in a TK classroom. That includes one credentialed teacher, who also has met specific early education learning requirements, and an assistant teacher (or paraprofessional or instructional aides). The 1:10 ratio in 2023-24 is contingent on additional funding from the state legislature. 

Do I have to enroll my child in TK?

TK is not mandatory in California. Attending school only becomes mandatory when a child turns 6 years old. 

Does my neighborhood public school have to provide TK?

According to the California Department of Education, upon apportionment, all school districts (with the exception of charter schools) are required to provide TK to age-eligible children, which for 2023-24 are all children who will have their fifth birthday between Sept. 2 and April 2. In 2022-23, the TK requirement is for children who had their fifth birthday between Sept. 2 and Feb. 2.  

Some important things to note:

  • The district is required to offer TK, but that may not include every school site in the district. 
  • No age-eligible child may be denied access to TK by being placed on a waiting list.
  • TK programs may be for the full day or partial day.

While no age-eligible child may be denied access to TK, districts may need time to identify an available TK classroom. They must provide the name of available schools that have a TK classroom. Parents and guardians may discuss their options with school district officials. 

Some basic aid districts (districts that get most of their funding from local property taxes rather than from the state) have taken the position that they cannot provide TK. Contact your school district to learn if this applies to your school; the San Diego County Office of Education does not have the authority to require districts offer TK. 

Where can I find more information?

The California Department of Education list of frequently asked questions on TK that is regularly updated. 


Transitional kindergarten student works independently in class


Future TK Teachers

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) has partnered with community colleges across San Diego County to offer funding to cover costs associated with tuition, technology, books, advisement, and other resources necessary for early childhood education workforce members to complete coursework leading to permit and/or degree attainment.

Eligibility to qualify for this program requires early learning and care workforce to be employed at a participating San Diego Quality Preschool Initiative site, or at an early learning and care program that receives state subsidies. Find details about this program and other pathways to becoming a TK teacher on the Transitional Kindergarten and Early Learning webpage. This chart explains different options for meeting the TK teaching requirements.  

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing requires evidence of basic skills and subject-area competencies. One option for demonstrating these competencies is by successfully passing the California Subject Examination for Teachers and California Basic Educational Skills Test. There are free tools available to prepare you for these exams

Learn more about the requirements to become a teacher based on the credential you are interested in by exploring the SDCOE Educator Pathways webpage

Current TK Teachers

  • TK-California has a library of TK resources designed to help teachers and schools in planning, instruction, and administration efforts, including videos, templates, presentations, websites, and more.
  • California Early Childhood Online provides free access to learning modules based on state-of-the-art information and best practices to meet the ever-changing needs of the early childhood field.


Two transitional kindergarten students work together in class.


Dive Deeper into TK 

California Assembly Bill 130 (2021-22) established an early-learning initiative to expand access to classroom-based prekindergarten programs offered by school districts, county offices of education, or charter schools. The TK-12 education trailer bill outlines funding for a universal preschool program that would be available to every 4-year-old regardless of income. Universal transitional kindergarten started for many local educational agencies in fall 2022. Learn more about this Preschool to 3rd Grade Alignment effort on our SDCOE webpage

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