Kindergarten can be a big adjustment for children and families, requiring them to adjust rapidly to new routines and expectations. Research and experience shows that making that transition as smooth as possible builds the foundation for children’s academic and social-emotional skills as well as positive family-school connections. The OUSD Early Learning Department has been intentionally building strong transition practices to support children entering kindergarten and transitional kindergarten (TK). This past summer, the Summer Kinder TK Bridge program was successfully scaled to 14 OUSD elementary school sites, where early childhood educators provided a four-week foundational program for children.
Through support from First 5 Alameda County, along with OUSD Title I funding, this program has grown over the years, and in 2023 served 186 students with a 1:8 teacher student ratio. The program, led by Kindergarten Readiness Director Maria Sujo and Manager Aleja Rambonga, prioritizes children with no prior preschool experience, newcomer and refugee children, children with special needs and children who are unhoused. The majority of children served are multilingual learners and speak Spanish, Mam, Arabic, Farsi, or Vietnamese. This summer, 61% of participating students had no former preschool experience.
The goals of the program are that: 1) Kids are ready for school; 2) Families have what they need to support their child’s growth and well being; and 3) Teachers are better able to support families and young children. Summer Kinder TK Bridge is play-based, with a balanced ratio of child and teacher selected activities, including substantial periods of uninterrupted play with sensory toys and child led play and intentional blocks of outside play time.
The program provides individualized support for children and their families from the time of enrollment throughout the program, including home visits and an end of the program check-out. Families reported that the most important skills their child developed during the program were learning how to write their name, letters and letter sounds, make friends and develop independence skills (buttoning their clothes, opening their lunch, etc).
Family members also shared feedback about the Summer Kinder TK Bridge teachers:
“My daughter’s teachers were very kind, understanding and genuinely cared for the students."
OUSD’s Summer Kinder TK Bridge is a key program that can help bridge the gap and ease the transition for children entering kindergarten and TK.
Contact Aleja Rambonga for more information: Aleja.Rambonga@ousd.org