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Transitional kindergarten victim of state budget crisis
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It is known as the TyK program, the stenographic name for the Two-year Kindergarten, also known as transitional kindergarten, program.

It’s the latest educational trend born out of the Kindergarten Readiness Act which is the result of California’s SB 1381.

Some school districts in California such as Los Angeles launched TyK as a pilot program last year, with others such as Manteca Unified planning to get it going at the start of the 2112-13 school year in the fall.

But it was “dead in the water,” as Superintendent Jason Messer described it at the Board of Education’s regular meeting on Tuesday, before it even had a chance to be officially launched. There was no money to get it started as planned because the state, which is drowning in a $25 billion-plus budget deficit, does not have the money to get it funded.

The school district, in its web site, gives the following explanation as to what the TyK program is all about:

“Students with fall birthdays are often not developmentally ready (academically, emotionally and socially) for the rigors of today’s Kindergarten. With the demands of California’s Content Standards, our students may need additional time to adjust to what is expected in Kindergarten. The Two-year Kindergarten program gives these students ‘the gift of time’ to develop the social, emotional, and academic skills necessary to build self-confidence and achieve success in school and in the future.”

Under the program instituted by Manteca Unified, TyK will be taught by credentialed teachers “using modified curriculum that exposes children to the Kindergarten core standards.” The children in TyK will then continue on to Kindergarten for the second year.

As soon as a child is registered for kindergarten, anyone who is born between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 are automatically enrolled in the district’s TyK program.

The web site goes on to explain that “other children with summer and fall birthdates may also be eligible to enroll” and that “an entry level assessment will be used for these children to assist in determining appropriate placement.”

While the TyK program may be dead in the water for now due to budget constraints, a steering committee made up of school district officials decided on a combo-class as an alternative. That decision involves having combination classes of transitional and regular kindergarten students at all schools in the school district beginning with the 2012-13 school year.

Kindergarten teachers such as Andrew Anderson of Stella Brockman School and many parents were critical of the steering committee’s decision to have combo-classes. They were also highly critical of the way the district established the steering committee with only school district officials as members who made the decision without any participation and input from the teachers who will be directly impacted by that curriculum change. About 35 concerned parents and teachers were present at the district meeting on Tuesday, several of whom including Anderson addressed the board.

Some of the parents and teachers also attended the steering committee’s meeting on Thursday. Members of the committee used that opportunity to explain to the teachers and parents how they arrived at their decision to institute the combo-classes. It was also agreed at that meeting that should the state funding for the transitional kindergarten program be returned, the steering committee will include the teachers in the discussions, said Anderson who was among those who were at the meeting.

“Everything is put on hold at this point. There will be no more (steering) committee meeting” until there is a development in the funding issue for the program, Anderson said.

An online survey of kindergarten teachers outlined the reasons why they don’t think the kindergarten combo-classes will not work. They said they believe that the classes will be “very hard to teach,” that the “quality of the program offered to the transitional kindergarten children will suffer and not be effective or appropriate as a straight transitional kindergarten class,” and that “having the youngest, most immature students concentrated in this combo-class will make it more difficult to teach the regular kindergarten students to read.”