Early-Education Research: Transitional-Kindergarten Evaluation in San Francisco

March 27, 2017

By Chris Doss

The Stanford-San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) research-practice partnership is a unique program that brings together researchers and practitioners to collaborate, exchange ideas, and leverage each other's expertise. As a researcher within that partnership, my goal is to contribute to fielding timely studies that provide useable knowledge to teachers and administrators as well as interesting information to the broader field. I have worked on a number of studies with SFUSD, together with my advisor Susanna Loeb, Barnett Family Professor of Education at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. In this post, I'd like to share recent findings from an evaluation study of a new prekindergarten program in San Francisco called Transitional Kindergarten (TK).

The Kindergarten Readiness Act, signed into law by then Governor Schwarzenegger in 2010, required all districts in California to offer TK beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. The state provided little guidance on the implementation of the program: only that it was meant to be the first year in a two-year kindergarten sequence for young 5-year-olds. Between 2010 and 2012, SFUSD built this new grade level from scratch. Administrators worked to create a homegrown curriculum that was the middle ground between their prekindergarten and kindergarten programs.

Through the Stanford-SFUSD partnership I had the opportunity to use the district's data to evaluate the TK program. I leveraged the age eligibility requirements to compare the outcomes of students who attended TK to students who attended San Francisco's universal prekindergarten program. TK differs from the universal prekindergarten program in that it is folded into the larger K-12 system, employs teachers that are more highly educated and compensated, and offers a more academically focused curriculum established by SFUSD.

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