New law raises mandatory age of kindergarteners to 5

DOWNEY - A new legislation, The Kindergarten Readiness Act (SB1381), that was long sought by many enlightened education advocates for really advancing the cause of children's early education in the state, was signed by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last September, prompting observers to hail it as a true landmark in the annals of California education.The new law pushes back the entry date of California's kindergarten from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1. (The change will be phased in one month at a time over three years starting in the fall of 2012). This insures that children entering kindergarten will be five years old. Heretofore, with the cutoff date at Dec. 2, children entering kindergarten were considered to be "too young" and at a disadvantage. Studies purportedly show that children who started kindergarten at a younger age (than 5) struggled academically in comparison with their older counterparts, were likely to be held back a grade or eventually need special ed services to catch up. According to the Downey Unified School District's Educational Services, SB1381 also provides that children whose enrollment in kindergarten is delayed due to this new law shall be admitted to "transitional kindergarten," the first year in effect of a modified two-year kindergarten program. Specifically, it says, districts will be required to enroll the following children in transitional kindergarten: in 2012-13, children who have their fifth birthdays between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2; in 2013-2014, children who have their fifth birthdays between Oct. 2 and Dec. 2; and in 2014-15 and subsequent school years, children who have their fifth birthdays between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2. These pupils who participate in the transitional kindergarten program will be included in computing a school district's average daily attendance. This new configuration is all to the benefit of the kids, say supporters of the new law, as they will have the advantage of an additional year of getting really ready for kindergarten. This will mean, they say, more solid preparation (which by the way is practiced by those whose parents can afford to send their kids to pre-K schools), less dropouts, more academic success in later years and thus higher graduation rates, etc. Educational Services has meanwhile announced that it will be working on a roll out for a transitional kindergarten program for next school year (2012-13). It is anticipated that these transitional classrooms ("Probably not more than two at this point," says Jerilyn King-Brown, assistant superintendent of educational services) will be placed strategically in the district, as projected enrollments preclude enrollment for all eleven sites that have kindergartens to have such programs, based on current enrollment figures and the 30:1 kindergarten student to teacher ratio limit. With this new legislation, only three states (Connecticut, Michigan and Vermont) have clung to a Dec. 2 cutoff date for kindergarten admission. Promotion at City Hall Shannon DeLong's 'regular' functions as the new assistant to the city manager include such tasks as grant writing, taking care of public information matters, and meetings with regional/state agencies and other officials to assist in the work of coordination of various projects of mutual benefit (e.g., Gateway Cities), etc. Then there is 'everything else', she says, that the city manager assigns her to do. This could mean anything of significant import, of actual and potential benefit to the city, while not infringing on the work of the different departments. The assignments may range from a review of cable TV operations to reviews of new legislation impacting Downey. She started in the position last month. The position stood vacant as former occupant Scott Pomrehn has gone on to run the Columbia Memorial Space Center as executive director. DeLong, who obtained a BS in biology at UCLA and used logistical advantages for her MBA at Cal State Dominguez Hills, began her career in Downey three years ago as special projects coordinator/management analyst. She is a product of OLPH (K-8) and finished her high school at Cornelia Connelly in Anaheim. Her family moved here to Downey from Huntington Beach when she was 6. She has also earned a California Ryan Adult Teaching credential from UCLA. Her first work experience was a one-year stint as a laboratory assistant at the Biophysical Chemistry Laboratory at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute, followed by four years as an environmental health & safety (R&D) associate with The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo. She and husband Philip Parker were married six years ago. He is a science teacher and dean at Animo South Los Angeles Charter High School. A younger brother goes to UCLA. Her parents are retired.

********** Published: February 24, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 45