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Blog | | TKCalifornia, CSU Los Angeles

TK Expansion in Action: The Early Development of a PK-3 Credential Program at California State University, Los Angeles 

Our TK Expansion in Action blog series covers California’s Transitional Kindergarten (TK) expansion in the 2022-23 school year through interviews with school districts and institutes of higher learning across the state to highlight strategies they have employed to make expansion successful. This is the eighth blog in the series.

California is currently in the process of expanding Transitional Kindergarten (TK) to provide access to all 4-year-olds by the 2025-26 school year. It is projected that California will need approximately 12,000 to 16,000 new TK teachers to support the increased student population driven by expansion. To address the TK workforce pipeline, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has recently established the PK-3 Early Childhood Education Specialist Credential to help prepare educators to teach in those classrooms. 

The PK-3 Credential focuses on developmentally appropriate practices for children in grades PreK through 3rd grade, preparing candidates to design, implement, and facilitate learning activities which engage students at their developmental levels. The purpose of this credential is to ensure each classroom is implementing developmentally appropriate practices that will foster young children’s learning and maximize the opportunities for all children to achieve their full potential. Now that the PK-3 Credential has been approved and is going through the regulations process, institutions of higher education (IHEs) are currently working towards developing the preparation programs to be able to officially offer it to students. While the development of these preparation and credential programs are still in their infancy, great progress is being made at IHEs, such as the California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) where interdepartmental collaboration is key in developing this program.

CSULA’s work first began when it created an interdepartmental task force in August 2022. Members of this task force joined other CSU teams on the UPLIFT CA grant, a collaborative effort focused on elevating the Early Care and Education (ECE) workforce and supporting Dual Language Learners (DLLs). The collaborative brought together the CSU and community college systems, state agencies, and ECE providers together to prepare future Early Learning educators for state required competencies, and to align California’s various teacher preparation programs with state standards and consider pathways to make these programs accessible for students.

UPLIFT CA helped CSULA lay the foundation for what is now the task force working to support the development of a PK-3 credential program at the campus. The collaborative consists of two colleges, Education and Health and Human Services, and the different departments within those colleges, including the Child and Family Studies and Curriculum and Instruction Departments. Each of these colleges and their respective departments meet regularly to work on developing the program elements of the PK-3 credential the campus will ultimately offer.

The PK-3 credential program CSULA is creating will be a 3-semester program totaling 36 units to complete. Existing early childhood education and child development classes are being modified in addition to the creation of new courses for the PK-3 credential, which will be distinct from the Multiple Subject (MS) credential. Special attention is being given to ensuring the courses are developmentally appropriate, with a strong emphasis on critical pedagogy and culturally appropriate practices. The curriculum plans have been submitted to the university for approval. 

“The College of Education is technically the lead in submitting our proposed curriculum for the PK-3 credential, but developing the curriculum is completely an interdepartmental effort,” said Dr. Jessica Michele Dennis, Chair of CSULA’s Child and Family Studies Department in the College of Health and Human Services. Dr. Dennis is a key leader in this initiative, helping guide the direction of the collaborative. “We want TK classroom learning activities to value the cognitive, social, emotional, linguistic, and cultural experiences of all children, and we can only achieve that through the input and feedback from each respective college and their disciplines in developing the curriculum for the PK-3 credential.”

CSULA plans to obtain approval from the CTC next year to move forward on their PK-3 credential program and expects to have its first cohort of students in spring of 2025. The prerequisite for the credential program will be 24 Early Childhood Education and/or Child Development credits. CSULA is planning to work with nearby school districts, including Alhambra Unified, to provide clinical placements for their students, which will require students to gain experience in both Pre-K and K-3 classrooms. CSULA is also engaging local community colleges and child development centers to identify ECE needs and supports, including focus groups and interviews for students. Ultimately, CSULA hopes to offer a fully integrated bachelors degree and credential option that’s obtainable for students within 5 years. 

“If I were to give advice to other institutions engaged in this work, it would be to try and be as collaborative as possible.” said Dr. Dennis, “Invite others who want to join rather than keeping a protected space, because the ultimate goal here is to have an effective program.”

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