What is the BUSD TK curriculum really like?

My kid will be eligible for TK next year, and we’re trying to figure out our options. If she stayed in preschool, she would be much older than the other kids and I’m not sure she would benefit from a 4th year of preschool. However, my husband and I both had traumatic experiences in school, and are nervous about sending her to school at just 4. It seems so developmentally inappropriate to be inside so much, and work on academics, and have to sit still a lot.

How much of the time do kids get free play? How much time is spent on academic skills? How are academic skills taught?

What is the reading curriculum like? (Do they use Teacher’s College Units of Study like the big kids, or something else?)

Do they really only get one short recess and one short lunch time of outside time all day long? Is there other active play time? I can’t imagine my kid sitting still all day long with just two short recesses, at 4.

None of my friends’ kids qualified for TK, though many with kindergarten students say that they noticed the TK kids are better adjusted in K.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with TK, good and bad.

- an unsure Berkeley parent

Parent Replies

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My son was in Berkeley TK. I did extensive research when I was in your shoes. Basically, there is no stringent curriculum. The main benefit of TK: it is free, child learn elementary school routine/rules. There is not much academic expectations. They are not expected to learn letters or learn to read or anything like that. Berkeley Public preschools have much higher expectations/more elaborate curriculum. The idea of TK is to prepare children for the kindergarten. That's it. The kids get to "sitting still all day long with just two short recesses" at about 3 or 4th grade not in TK. Young children get "choice time"-basically a play time in classroom, where each child gets to choose his/her activity. All BUSD TKs get a teacher and an assistant. We went to Cragmont TK. The teacher was very warm and kind. Every week, the kids would be asked what would they like to learn about. The teacher would read to them and organize activities around the chosen subject: Solar System (teacher chose this one first as an example), Moon, penguins, bats.

You can find out what the curriculum is like at each school by reviewing the school site plan. Each one is available here (https://www.berkeleyschools.net/committee-training/) at the bottom of the page. Search for the phrase "Availability of standards-based instructional materials appropriate to all student groups (ESEA)" for an overview of what is used. Or if that's section is unhelpful, search for "ELA" (English language arts) or "TCRWP" or "Units of Study" "LLI" "Reading Recovery" (for balanced literacy influence). The TK experience across school sites is highly variable from what I've found, largely dependent on the teacher.

We are only a month in but our kid is really loving TK. It seems like they play most of the day - a little more indoors than at our preschool, but they do have 3 recesses plus he's outside playing for most of the time at afterschool. There are some sitting-still times, like daily circle time, art class, and there's quiet time after lunch - our kid reports learning "belly breathing" during quiet time, which I think is great. His classroom looks like a preschool classroom, full of toys and games and books. It's pretty light on the formal academics - by the end of the year they are supposed to learn that letters make sounds and that letters make words which make stories, that kind of thing.