Did you know TK eligibility in California is changing?
Although some may feel apprehensive about their child entering the school system a year early, for many parents it’s a sigh of relief to have an additional year of schooling at no cost. Universal Preschool or Pre-Kindergarten are now also synonymous with Transitional Kindergarten (TK) in California. Thanks to the “TK for All” bill passed in 2020, TK eligibility in California is making it so that ALL children will be eligible to enroll starting in the 2025-2026 school year.
Currently, California is in the rollout process of offering TK for all 4 year olds no matter their birthday. In order for schools to prepare their facilities and staff for this additional grade level, the eligibility date for TK enrollment will be extended by two months each year starting in the 2022-2023 school year, until 2025-2026.
What is TK?
Transitional Kindergarten (TK) was a product of the Kindergarten Readiness Act in 2010 that provided TK to children turning 5 during the grey area of September 2 – December 2. Up until then, 4 year olds were able to enroll in Kindergarten if they turned 5 as late as December 2. When I was getting my Masters degree in Education, I was teaching in a Kindergarten class in 2009. We had a handful of 4 year olds at the beginning of the year, which exposed a big development gap between the students who were already 5. Some Kindergarteners were a whole year younger than others. We ended up holding back at least 1 or 2 of those 4 year olds to repeat an additional year of Kindergarten. The Kindergarten Readiness Act was a great placeholder solution for this issue.
Is my child eligible for TK?
Now, you might be wondering if or when your child will be eligible for TK, this is what you’ll find on the California Department of Education website:
- In 2022–23, TK students are eligible if they turn 5 years old between September 2 and February 2
- In 2023–24, TK students are eligible if they turn 5 between September 2 and April 2
- In 2024–25, TK students are eligible if they turn 5 between September 2 and June 2
- In 2025–26, LEAs are required to make TK available to all children who will have their fourth birthday by September 1 of the school year.
…if you’re staring into space, imagining a school year calendar, trying to figure out when your child turns 4, or is it 5?, by a certain date or within a certain window… you’re not alone. After sharing these four bullets with other parents, I had to write it down myself in a more comprehensible way. Below is a chart showing eligibility for TK and Kindergarten, based on your child’s date of birth.
TK & Kindergarten Eligibility Chart by DOB for California
|Date of Birth||TK-Eligible School Year||Kindergarten-Eligible School Year|
|September 2, 2016 – September 1, 2017||not eligible for TK||2022-2023|
|September 2, 2017 – February 2, 2018||2022-2023||2023-2024|
|February 3, 2018 – September 1, 2018||not eligible for TK||2023-2024|
|September 2, 2018 – April 2, 2019||2023-2024||2024-2025|
|April 3, 2019 – September 1, 2019||not eligible for TK||2024-2025|
|September 2, 2019 – June 2, 2020||2024-2025||2025-2026|
|June 3, 2020 – September 1, 2020||not eligible for TK||2025-2026|
|September 2, 2020 – September 1, 2021||2025-2026||2026-2027|
|September 2, 2021 – September 1, 2022||2026-2027||2027-2028|
|September 2, 2022 – September 1, 2023||2027-2028||2028-2029|
|September 2, 2023 – September 1, 2024||2028-2029||2029-2039|
Should I enroll my child in TK?
Being in the education world, when I found out our due date was in December, I immediately thought, “YES! The baby will be able to do TK!” This meant, a year of “free preschool”. But, our baby #2 ended up being born on December 31, 2017, missing the former eligibility cutoff by 29 days. Four years later, I started talking to our school district about assessing my son and allowing him to enroll early. Saving money didn’t end up being the driving factor, he was just ready. He knew his alphabet, letter sounds, letter recognition, could spell and write his name, count, and do simple addition. He was also mature and had an insane ability to focus. Turns out, I didn’t even need to start the process of enrolling him in with an exception. Because of TK for All, the extended rollout dates made him eligible for enrollment.
Some parents might prefer keeping their child in a preschool program for a multitude of reasons. Although publicly funded, TK and even Kindergarten are all OPTIONAL in California. If your child is eligible or will become eligible in the few years, consider touring your assigned school’s TK classroom and ask about their curriculum and daily routines.
Prepping for TK
Some parents might be stressed about their children entering the school system, wondering if their child is ready, or if they are ready themselves. The best thing to do to help prepare your child for TK is to continue to provide consistency in their lives, read books out loud to them, and ensure they are having enough adult interaction throughout their day. Remember that children are resilient, curious, and so much stronger than we sometimes give them credit for. Below are some books and activities we recommend incorporating into your child’s play or story time to help with the transition:
- Interlocking unit cubes for sorting, building, and strengthening fine motor muscles
- Letter BINGO to promote letter recognition, taking turns, and listening to instructions
- Guess in 10 for critical thinking skills, providing a space for children to practice asking questions
- Preschool workbook to guide parents and children in talking about topics they will learn in TK
California Department of Education: Universal Prekindergarten FAQs