As California’s Transitional Kindergarten (TK) efforts expand following new 2021 legislation, district and site leaders are tasked with making TK implementation and expansion a reality within their schools for all four-year-old children by 2025–2026. As many as 250,000 students are estimated to enroll in these expanded kindergarten programs statewide in the next three years as part of the Universal Transitional Kindergarten (UTK) effort. In this process, leaders are coordinating with multiple stakeholders to ensure their school sites, districts, and counties are prepared with structures, spaces, funding, and staffing to support new students. Much has been written in scholarship about the developmental approach to UTK curriculum, effective educational practices for young learners, and high-quality, integrated UTK programs (see 21CSLA Research Brief for a summary of research). However, UTK leaders are still navigating an emerging landscape and new dilemmas, signaling future areas for research and study.
In this practice brief, we underscore four key themes from UTK educational leaders as areas ripe for further research. These findings underscore current pressing challenges and dilemmas facing UTK leaders and speak to the larger context in which UTK expands. We draw from semi-structured interviews with four California UTK leaders to illuminate the challenges, opportunities, and ingenuity of educators and districts in supporting UTK implementation and/or expansion.