Students introduced to new TK grade in California


It's the first day of school in the Oak Grove District in San Jose and a classroom at George Miner Elementary is full of four year olds.

"He was in preschool previously, a couple days a week and of course that definitely helped, but it's a financial burden to have to put him in preschool," said mother Belle Hightower.

Belle and Chris Hightower's son is one of 25 students in this first of its kind transitional kindergarten class -- a concept many educators have been craving. It's a two year program for students who don't turn five until after September 1. 11th District Senator Joe Simitian was a driving force behind the new grade. He says it benefits the children and the entire educational community.

"Over all the years we have had too many kids who have been held back over the years unnecessarily, too many kids who need remedial help, too many kids who were placed in special education unnecessarily and not only has that been a struggle for them and their families, but it has been a cost to the schools and the public at large," said Simitian.

Parents agree, noting how much harder kindergarten is these days.

"You've got all the reading; you've got the writing that we have done in the past. Our daughter just went through it a couple years ago and the arithmetic and all the language arts that is going on, it's a lot more advanced then when we were kids," said Chris Hightower.

Transitional kindergarten, or TK as they call it, involved some numbers and letters, but more so, school skills.

"We really focus on the socio, emotional needs of the children -- so getting along with children, sharing, learning how to use the supplies -- just giving them more time just to learn how school works," said TK teacher Jenny Spiteri.

"It's is historic. I love the fact that they have this program. I think it was a wonderful idea and I'm glad they implemented it," said Belle Hightower.

Simitian's office said 40,000 students will benefit this year and 125,000 will benefit when the program is fully implemented in three years.

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