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Building a bridge to early learning success

By Staff | Feb 24, 2021

Parents of children set to start kindergarten this fall have a new option for their little ones — Young Five.

It’s a VPK-to-kindergarten “bridge program” for children whose birthdays make them eligible to start kindergarten — but just barely.

Known as transitional kindergarten, the School District of Lee County’s Young Five program is designed to give children who need it the extra time to develop the readiness behaviors and skills many of their older peers have grown into simply from the benefit of having extra months to mature.

As many parents — and all educators know — there can be a world of difference in the maturity level of a child just-turned-5 and an almost-6.

That may be the same child at the different points on their individual growth line — and that is key. Some kids are ready for kindergarten within the birthday start window regardless of when their birthday falls, while others just need a little more time to be, well, a little kid.

In its “Is Young Five Right for My Child?” explanation to parents, the District explains:

“Young Five serves as a bridge to Kindergarten by providing students time and support to develop core academic and social skills under the care and guidance of professional educators.

“Young Five is designed for students who:

–Will turn 5 years old between May 1st and Sept. 1st

–Are developmentally young

–Will benefit from an extra year of school prior to Kindergarten”

They get in-school instruction, exposure to the kindergarten curriculum and “A learning environment tailored to meet developing academic and/or social needs.”

They also get an opportunity to start school with same-age children, the District states.

While not as commonly offered as transitional first grade programs, transitional K is not a new concept.

California has offered transitional kindergarten statewide since 2010 when its state legislature passed its Kindergarten Readiness Act.

Known as TK, the transitional kindergarten program has provided an additional year of early education to thousands of children whose parents thought their child could benefit.

And it has worked for many of those kids.

Washington, D.C.,-based American Institutes for Research, “an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research,” spent five years — from 2012-2017 — analyzing California’s program “To determine whether California’s TK program is effective at improving school readiness and learning outcomes for students.”

AIR’s final 125-page research report, issued in June 2017, details a number of positive findings.

AIR’s Karen Manship, principal researcher and project director, then summed those finding succinctly in a Q&A published by the institute in April 2018.

“The study found that children who participated in California’s TK program had a three- to six-month learning advantage in literacy and math skills when they entered kindergarten, compared to their peers who were not eligible for the program but were very similar in age. We also found, through a survey of their teachers, that students who attended TK were more engaged in learning in kindergarten,” she said.

While an extra year is probably is not needed for most students — including those with “late” birthdays — providing the option so that parents might decide whether their little one is really ready for today’s much-more rigorous, test-and-benchmark driven kindergarten curriculum is to be commended.

We look forward to the district’s successful implementation of the program.

Lee Schools will accept 18 students at each of the following schools for enrollment at the start of the new school year in August:

• Cape Elementary

• Edgewood Academy

• J. Colin English Elementary

• Lehigh Elementary

• Manatee Elementary

• Orangewood Elementary

• River Hall Elementary

• San Carlos Elementary

• Spring Creek Elementary

• Sunshine Elementary

The district hopes to expand the program next year.

Admission will be based on the school enrollment process, meaning parents of eligible children should indicate that their first choice for their kindergarten-eligible child is the Young Five Program.

“First batch” enrollment submission closes Feb. 26.

For more information on how to register your child, the school district website suggests contacting the school of choice offering the program or emailing questions to Young5@leeschools.net.

More information may be found on the district website at leeschools.net.

— Eagle editorial