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Transitional kindergarten expansion needs more focus on quality, research suggests

As California ramps up its expansion of universal transitional kindergarten, new research suggests it must focus more on high-quality teaching.

“High-quality preschool instruction can make a difference for students,” said Alix Gallagher, the lead researcher of the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) brief. “But only high-quality preschool instruction results in persistent positive gains.  California has taken important steps to address facilities and staffing but needs to shift its focus to ensure high quality, developmentally appropriate instruction for its youngest learners if it is to meet its goals for improving student learning and achievement.”

Based on dozens of interviews with district leaders and national experts on early childhood education, the research brief, “California’s Major Investment in Universal Transitional Kindergarten: What Districts Need to Fulfill Its Promise,” suggests that districts have focused their rollout of universal transitional kindergarten on the things the state has mandated, such as finding classrooms that meet facilities guidelines and hiring enough staff. But it says greater emphasis must be placed on the need for quality, not just access, when it comes to early childhood education. Developmentally appropriate play-based instruction, family engagement and transparency to the public are among the cornerstones outlined.