Press Release Details
Press Release Message
San Francisco (May 10, 2023) - The San Francisco Board of Education unanimously approved two changes to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD)’s transitional kindergarten (TK) assignment policy at its regular meeting Tuesday night. These changes will make TK more accessible for students and families.
Transitional kindergarten (TK) bridges the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten years. It is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that has been implemented in California for children who are not old enough yet for kindergarten, but want to build their social, developmental and academic skills. For the 2023-24 school year, TK is for students who will be turning age 5 between September 2, 2023 and April 2, 2024. TK classrooms are taught by a multiple-subject credentialed teacher and the TK curriculum is based on the California Preschool Learning Foundations and the Kindergarten Common Core Standards.
TK is offered at select SFUSD early education schools and elementary schools. Currently, students who complete TK in SFUSD are required to apply for kindergarten the following year even if they want to remain in their same school for kindergarten, and will receive a tiebreaker preference if they choose to continue in their existing elementary school and live in the attendance area. The policy changes approved by the Board of Education are as follows:
Starting in school year 2024-25: Add the attendance area tiebreaker to TK, so that TK assignments use the same tiebreakers as K-5.
Starting in school year 2025-26: Remove the application requirement between TK and kindergarten at the same school site, so that TK students can continue automatically into kindergarten at their same school without having to re-apply. This change will phase in after the attendance area tiebreaker to maximize proximity and accessibility for families.
“We’re excited about making this process easier for families, and reducing some of the uncertainty around where students will attend kindergarten if they’ve already been part of the lottery and enrolled in an SFUSD school for TK,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Matt Wayne. “This policy change demonstrates the district’s commitment to being responsive to feedback of the community.”
Results for TK students under the newly approved assignment policy will improve significantly in the following ways:
Predictability: TK applicants will have much better choice outcomes, on average. This school year, only 60% of TK applicants who applied to what would be their attendance area school got into it or a higher-ranked school, compared with 95% of kindergarteners who applied to their attendance area school. Over the past three years, even as TK has expanded to more schools in the district, only around 80% of TK students got into any of their choices, compared with over 90% of kindergarten applicants. By adding the attendance area tiebreaker for TK, results for TK applicants should become more similar to results for kindergarten applicants.
Proximity: TK students will also have shorter trips to school under the new policy. This year, TK students in general education (GE) programs have to travel 75% farther than kindergarten students in GE programs to get to school: an average of 2.1 miles, compared with an average 1.2 miles for kindergarteners. Even as TK significantly expands next year, main round GE TK applicants were still assigned to schools that are 50% further away than GE kindergarten applicants’ assignments, on average. The attendance area tiebreaker will ensure more TK applicants get into schools close to their homes, reducing the distance that students and families have to commute to access TK.
As predictability and proximity improve under the new policy, SFUSD expects TK to become more attractive for families. Currently, kindergarten applicants decline their main round school assignment at roughly half the rate of TK applicants. For this school year, 12% of kindergarten applicants declined their main round assignment, compared 23% of TK applicants. For next year, despite TK expanding to more locations, the trend persists: decline rates are 12% for kindergarten and 20% for TK. Once the TK assignment process mirrors the kindergarten process, TK enrollment rates are expected to rise to match the kindergarten rates.
Eliminating the application requirement for TK students to continue at the same school for kindergarten will also benefit students, families, and schools.
First, many TK families will no longer have to contend with the assignment process two years in a row. Furthermore, school staff can focus fully on their TK students’ social and academic growth instead of having to spend time helping families complete another application only months after arriving at their school for TK. With 1,000 TK students this year — and even more in the years to come — eliminating the application for kindergarten results in a significant amount of regained instructional time.
This year, nearly 75% of families enrolled in TK at an elementary school applied to stay at their current school for kindergarten. 10% of those families ended up without a seat at their current TK site or a higher-ranked choice. The new policy will prevent this disruption for schools and families in future years.
SFUSD conducted community engagement before revising these policies, and community opinions of the changes were very favorable. Based on a trilingual (English, Spanish, and Chinese) online survey for families with young children, four focus groups — including one each in Spanish and Chinese — and a survey for elementary school principals and district administrators, SFUSD staff heard from over 400 community members.
More than 75% of parents and principals agreed with adding the attendance area tiebreaker to the TK process to increase the proximity of assignments, and more than 80% of families and nearly 90% of principals were in favor of removing the required application between TK and kindergarten.
Though these changes will not begin to take effect until next year’s enrollment cycle opens in October, families and community members are encouraged to reach out to SFUSD staff at the Educational Placement Center (EPC) with any questions they have now. The EPC can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-241-6085, or in-person at 555 Franklin Street or 1520 Oakdale Avenue. EPC staff speak English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Samoan. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (the Oakdale office is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays).