Admissions and Early Entrance to Four- and Five-Year-Old Kindergarten

New! Five-year-old Kindergarten Attendance and First Grade Admission

2009 WI Act 41 [Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.15(1)(am)] took effect on October 21, 2009. It requires a child who is enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten in a public or private school to regularly attend kindergarten during the school year. Beginning in the 2011-12 school year, with certain exceptions, this new law also requires a child to complete 5-year-old kindergarten as a prerequisite to being admitted to first grade in a public school. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards has issued a statement describing the law. DPI has prepared an overview of Act 41. Its contents are included in the Q & A section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

While Wis. Stat. Sec. 121.02(1)(d), requires all Wisconsin school districts to offer five-year-old kindergarten (5K), school districts have the option of offering four-year-old kindergarten (4K). If they offer 4K, they must make it available to all age-eligible 4-year-olds. The following questions and answers are designed to provide information to parents and school districts about kindergarten admission policies and practices for both 4K and 5K.

Kindergarten Admission and Attendance

 

  1. Q: At what age can a child enter kindergarten?
  2. Q: Are parents required to enroll their 5-year-old children in 5K programs?
  3. Q: If a child turns 4 or 5 after September 1 of the school year; can he or she still enter 4- or 5-year-old kindergarten?
  4. Q: What documentation and health records are required for kindergarten entrance?
  5. Q: Does a child have to be tested in order to enter kindergarten?
  6. Q: Can a district deny entrance to an age eligible child because there is a concern about the child's "readiness"?
  7. Q: If a child is age eligible for kindergarten, can a parent "hold their child out" for one year?
  8. Q: When a district has both 4- and 5-year-old kindergarten, and a child is age-eligible for 5-year-old kindergarten, can the parent place the child in 4-year-old kindergarten?
  9. Q: Can a child who has completed a 4- or 5- year old kindergarten be "held back" or "retained" at that grade for another year prior to moving into the next grade level.
  10. Q: If a child is enrolled in 5K, does the new law require the child to attend all the time?
  11. Q: Does the new law, Act 41, apply to all 5K programs no matter how many hours they operate per day?
  12. Q: Do any special exceptions to compulsory school attendance apply to enrolled 5K students?
  13. Q: May a parent withdraw a 5-year-old enrolled in 5K from school?
  14. Q: Do any national principles exist for kindergarten entry and placement practices?

Kindergarten and Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement and Reporting

  1. Q: Are district truancy notices to parents required for 5-year-old 5K students who do not attend or are withdrawn?
  2. Q: Do compulsory school attendance enforcement steps apply to 5-year-old 5K students?
  3. Q: Are school districts to report 5K students who are habitual truants?

First Grade Admission

  1. Q: At what age may a child enter first grade?
  2. Q: Does the new law require students to complete kindergarten before they may enroll in first grade?
  3. Q: What is the district or independent charter school responsibility when a parent wants to enroll a child in first grade who has not completed 5K?
  4. Q: What happens when a parent has chosen to keep his/her child home from 5-year-old kindergarten and wants to enroll the child in a public school for first grade in the following school year?
  5. Q: What is the final appeal authority for exemptions and exceptions?

Home School and 5K

  1. Q: May a parent home school his/her child for 5-year-old kindergarten instead of enrolling the child in a public or private school?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

While Wis. Stat. Sec. 121.02(1)(d), requires all Wisconsin school districts to offer five-year-old kindergarten (5K), school districts have the option of offering four-year-old kindergarten (4K). If they offer 4K, they must make it available to all age-eligible 4-year-olds. The following questions and answers are designed to provide information to parents and school districts about kindergarten admission policies and practices for both 4K and 5K.

  1. At what age can a child enter kindergarten?

    State law, Wis. Stat. Sec. (118.14(1)(a), specifies that children are eligible for kindergarten based on their age. To be eligible for 4-year-old kindergarten, a child must be 4 by September 1 of the school year. To be eligible for 5-year-old kindergarten, a child must be 5 by September 1 of the school year.

    Go to Top of Page

  2. Are parents required to enroll their 5-year-old children in 5K programs?

    No. The new law, Act 41, does not require parents to enroll their 5-year-old children in 5-year-old kindergarten. However, Act 41 does prohibit a school board from enrolling a child in first grade unless the child has completed 5-year-old kindergarten or has received an exemption.

    Go to Top of Page

  3. If a child turns 4 or 5 after September 1 of the school year; can he or she still enter 4- or 5-year-old kindergarten?

    That depends on local district policy and practice because Wis. Stat. Sec. 120.12(25), allows school districts to develop policies and procedures to allow early admission to kindergarten and first grade. As long as children are admitted through a district's early admission policy, they can be counted for equalization aid.

    If a district does have early entrance procedures, the following procedures are suggested best practices for districts to observe:

    1. A personal meeting with the parents to determine their reasons for requesting entrance prior to the legal age.
    2. An assessment of the child's potential to benefit from early admission and to successfully participate in the grade level, including consideration of emotional stability, social and mental maturity, and physical health.
    3. A process for appeals to the school board.
    Go to Top of Page

  4. What documentation and health records are required for kindergarten entrance?

    Parents need to provide verification of the child's age. This can be through a birth certificate, passport, baptismal record, or other document that the school district has indicated as acceptable.

    Requirements for health records are guided by statutory language.

    • Wis. Stat. Sec. (120.12(16)(a)(b), requires schools to develop and implement a plan to encourage compliance with state immunizations laws and requires parents to present written evidence that their child has received specific vaccinations. Parents may claim waivers based on personal conviction or religious belief, or a physician may sign a health waiver if the immunization is harmful to the health of the student
    • Neither physical nor dental examinations are required by state statute or code; however, school districts may require or provide physicals.
    • Wis. Stat. Sec. (118.135), requires that schools encourage parents to obtain an eye exam for their child from a licensed practitioner prior to kindergarten entrance.
    Typically, the school will provide health and vision report forms that can be completed by the child's physician to indicate that a child is up-to-date with immunizations and vision and hearing screenings. The form may also be used to indicate any special health care needs of the child.

    Parents and legal guardians may look up their child's immunization record in the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR) by logging on to registry at http://dhfsWIR.org.

    Districts with both 4K and 5K should assure that these policies are consistent and not duplicative.

    Go to Top of Page

  5. Does a child have to be tested in order to enter kindergarten?

    No, entrance to kindergarten is based on age and not on a child's ability.

    Some school districts screen incoming student to assess the skills of the children so they are better able to determine needed support services as well as develop an educational program that meets the needs of the children.

    Some districts use child development days in collaboration with other child-service agencies. This voluntary service helps profession staff to better serve families and children by

    1. Identifying young children who are in need of further assessment.
    2. Educating families about normal child growth and development
    3. Developing community awareness of resources available.
    Go to Top of Page

  6. Can a district deny entrance to an age eligible child because there is a concern about the child's "readiness"?

    No. State statues clearly define that age is the only criteria required for entrance into kindergarten and first grade. The district is responsible for providing a welcoming environment for all age-eligible children and their families through curriculum adaptation, teacher placement options, consultation with school specialists, and referrals for further evaluations.

    Go to Top of Page

  7. If a child is age eligible for kindergarten, can a parent "hold their child out" for one year?

    Compulsory school age in Wisconsin is 6 years (Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.15), so legally, parents may wait until their child is 6 before sending him or her to school. However, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction encourages parents to send their children to kindergarten when they are age-eligible. If parents have concerns about their child being among the youngest in the class or not socially mature enough for kindergarten, the parent should talk with the staff to learn more about the program and how they can work together for a quality experience for their child.

    There are several reasons why a child should attend kindergarten with children in their own age range:

    • All school districts are responsible for meeting the needs of all kindergarten students, regardless of their age or state of development. Kindergarten curriculum is designed to meet the wide variation in development levels of all children.
    • Children arrive in kindergarten with a wide variety of abilities, and that is perfectly normal. There will always be a child who is the youngest - or the oldest.
    • If a child is an English Language Learner, he or she receives support in kindergarten programs to learn English at an early age.
    • Staff are trained to identify problems that may affect a child's ability to learn and provide appropriate services. The earlier the problem is identified, the sooner the child can receive special services that may help overcome the problem and improve his or her ability to achieve throughout the school years.
    • Research indicates that keeping an age-eligible child out of kindergarten does not always result in any long-term benefits.
    • Kindergarten is an important part of a school's educational program and is part of the overall developmental curriculum.
    • Kindergarten instruction promotes learning of many skills that are the foundation of the curriculum through Grade 12. For example, early reading instruction is especially important to all learners.

    Advice for Parents Considering Delaying their Child's Entrance: A variety of suggestions for advising parents can be found including:

    • Be clear about the characteristics that cause concern about readiness for kindergarten. Don't delay entrance just because the child is likely to be the youngest in class.
    • Find out what the school expects and check the school's kindergarten screening procedures to help prepare your child before school entry.
    • Find out about the nature of the kindergarten program. Lower class size and "learning center" organization can accommodate greater developmental ranges among children in the class.
    • Consider what the child would be doing if not in kindergarten. Are other quality, affordable preschool opportunities available?
    Note: The practice of delaying entrance to kindergarten is controversial. You can find more information on the research and practices related to delaying entrance to kindergarten, at "Voices from the Field" Wisconsin Early Childhood Education and Care Stakeholders Consider Delayed Entrance to Kindergarten.

    Go to Top of Page

  8. When a district has both 4- and 5-year-old kindergarten, and a child is age-eligible for 5-year-old kindergarten, can the parent place the child in 4-year-old kindergarten?

    State statutes do not clearly define this situation. The statutes define eligibility for 4K and 5K in terms of agen by September 1 of the school year. The statutes also define a district's ability to determine grade level placement. Districts offering 4-year-old kindergarten should establish a policy to address this situation.

    If the district allows delayed entrance based on parent request, the district should assure that the parent consider the issues about delaying entrance discussed in question 7.

    Go to Top of Page

  9. Can a child who has completed a 4- or 5-year-old kindergarten be "held back" or "retained" at that grade for another year prior to moving into the next grade level?

    School districts have the ability to "retain" a pupil who has not made progress in a prescribed program, based on established school board policy and/or promotion criteria. Because all school districts are required to offer 5K, districts are required to report 5K retention data on the School Performance Report. Since 4K is an optional program, the district is not required to report 4K retention data.

    Go to Top of Page

  10. If a child is enrolled in 5K, does the new law require the child to attend all the time?

    Yes. This law requires a child who is enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten in a public or private school to regularly attend kindergarten during the school year.

    Go to Top of Page

  11. Does the new law, Act 41, apply to all 5K programs no matter how many hours they operate per day?

    Yes. The law does not make a distinction in the type of 5K program. Districts may still offer full-day, part-day, or both full and part-day 5K programs. Attendance is mandatory for whatever program the child is enrolled in.

    Go to Top of Page

  12. Do any special exceptions to compulsory school attendance apply to enrolled 5K students?

    The same exceptions to compulsory school attendance under Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.15(3) which apply to older students now also apply to 5K students. More information is available in the DPI Publication Answers to Frequently Asked Compulsory School Attendance Questions at /files/sspw/pdf/schlattendqa.pdf. The exemptions under Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.15(3) can be seen on line at: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/stats.html. Enter the statute number in the search box to review that section.

    Go to Top of Page

  13. May a parent withdraw a 5-year-old enrolled in 5K from school?

    The statute does not specifically address whether a parent may withdraw the student and/or whether truancy procedures would then apply. Districts may attempt to enforce truancy provisions and the courts would determine whether those provisions apply. Local Truancy Committees (Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.162) may make recommendations on truancy enforcement for 5-year-olds.

    Go to Top of Page

  14. Do any national practices or principles exist for kindergarten entry and placement?

    Two national associations, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists/State Departments of Education, have been alarmed at continuing attitudes and practices which erode children's legal rights to enter public school and participate in a beneficial educational program.

    These associations believe that a number of highly questionable practices have resulted from the trend to demand more from kindergarten children; including: inappropriate use of screening and readiness testing, denial or discouragement of entrance for eligible children, the development of segregated transitional classes for children deemed unready for the next traditional level of school, and an increasing use of retention.

    These associations have developed principles for kindergarten entry and placement including:

    • enrollment in kindergarten is based on the legal right to enter;
    • retention is rejected as a viable option for young children;
    • tests used at kindergarten entrance are not used to create barriers to school entry or to sort children into homogeneous groups; and
    • children are welcomed, as they are, into kindergarten settings.
    Go to Top of Page

Kindergarten and Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement and Reporting

 

  1. Are district truancy notices to parents required for 5-year-old 5K students who do not attend or are withdrawn?

    Districts are required to notify parents or legal guardians if their 5-year old 5K student is absent without an acceptable or legal excuse following the same procedures as other students for truancy and habitual truancy. Beyond notice, truancy enforcement steps are controlled by local board polices. [Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.15(1)(am)]

    Go to Top of Page

  2. Do compulsory school attendance enforcement steps apply to 5-year-old 5K students?

    The statute does not specifically address whether truancy enforcement procedures would apply. Districts may attempt to enforce truancy provisions, and the courts would determine whether those provisions apply. Local Truancy Committees (Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.162) may make recommendations on truancy enforcement for 5-year-olds.

    Go to Top of Page

  3. Are school districts to report 5K students who are habitual truants?

    Yes. A student enrolled in 5K who is a habitual truant should be reported to the DPI as any other habitual truant would be.

    Go to Top of Page

First Grade Admission

  1. At what age may a child enter first grade?

    State law, Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.14(1)(c), states no child may be admitted to the first grade unless he or she is 6 years old, on or before September 1 of the year he or she proposes to enter school. However, school board policy may permit exceptions. Under Wis. Stat. Sec. 120.12(25) school boards must prescribe procedures, conditions and standards for early admission to first grade.

    Go to Top of Page

  2. Does the new law require students to complete kindergarten before they may enroll in first grade?

    Yes. With certain exceptions, this new law requires a child to complete 5-year-old kindergarten as a prerequisite to being admitted to first grade in a public school.

    Go to Top of Page

  3. What is the district or independent charter school responsibility when a parent wants to enroll a child in first grade who has not completed 5K?

    Each school board and independent charter school that operates a 5-year-old kindergarten must establish procedures, conditions and standards for exempting a child from the requirement that the child complete kindergarten as a prerequisite to enrollment in the first grade and for reviewing a denial of an exemption upon the request of the pupil's parent or guardian. These local policies may include exemptions in addition to the mandatory exemptions related to a move discussed below. Additionally, each school board and independent charter school that operates a 5-year-old kindergarten must adopt a written policy specifying the criteria for promoting a pupil from 5K to the first grade. Further, if a child is age eligible to enroll in first grade, has not completed kindergarten and has moved from another state, country or territory where completion of kindergarten is not a prerequisite to enrolling in first grade or has received an exemption from the requirement to complete kindergarten in the state, country or territory from which he/she moved, the school board or independent charter school must enroll the child in first grade.

    Go to Top of Page

  4. What happens when a parent has chosen to keep his/her child home from 5-year-old kindergarten and wants to enroll the child in a public school for first grade in the following school year?

    At the time the parent wishes to enroll the child in first grade, the parent would need to submit a request to the school district for an exemption from the requirement that the child complete a kindergarten program prior to entering first grade. Act 41 requires each school board to establish procedures, conditions, and standards for exempting a child from the requirement that the child complete kindergarten as a prerequisite to enrollment in the first grade.

    Go to Top of Page

  5. What is the final appeal authority for exemptions and exceptions?

    Local school boards are required to establish procedures, conditions, and standards for exempting a child from completing kindergarten as a prerequisite to enrollment in the first grade and for reviewing the denial of an exemption upon the request of the pupil's parent or guardian. (Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.33(6)1)

    Go to Top of Page

Home School and 5K

  1. May a parent home school his/her child for 5-year-old kindergarten instead of enrolling the child in a public or private school?

    A home-based private educational program, commonly referred to as home schooling, is an alternative to attendance at a public or private school under the compulsory school attendance law. Because the compulsory school attendance law is applicable only to children between the ages of 6 and 18, parents are not required to register their children in a home-based program if they are under age six. If a parent does not want his/her child to attend a kindergarten program in a public or private school, and the child will not reach age 6 before September 1, the parent may choose to keep the child at home. This would not be considered home schooling and there is no form or application for the parent to file. Local policy would determine whether the child could be enrolled in first grade in public school the following year without having completed 5K.

    Go to Top of Page

     

Act 41 Overview go to:

For questions about this information, contact Jill Haglund (608) 267-9625