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Age to Start Kindergarten By State

Age to Start Kindergarten By State

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How old does a child need to be to start kindergarten? A total of 32 states in the United States require that a child be 5 years old on or before September 1 in the year he or she starts kindergarten, with 11 states having a cutoff date between September 1 and October 15. Only Connecticut still has its cutoff date set at January 1, with 7 states offering local schools the option set their own required dates.

Here is a list by state of kindergarten entrance age, early entry rules, age a child must start school and other relevant information regarding kindergarten eligibility.

(Click on the state name for complete details on kindergarten requirements in your state.)

  • Alabama: 5 years of age on or before September 1.
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entry to kindergarten is not an option, unless the child has transferred from a public school kindergarten in another state.
    • There are no specified kindergarten assessment protocols listed in the state statute.
  • Alaska: 5 years of age before August 15
    • Kindergarten attendance not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • A child under the eligible age for kindergarten entry may be admitted to the school in his or her school district of residence at the discretion of the school board.
    • No kindergarten entrance assessment is specified.
  • Arizona: 5 years of age before September 1
    • Kindergarten attendance not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entry into kindergarten is left to the discretion of the individual local school district or charter. To be eligible for early entry, the child must reach the required age of five for kindergarten by January 1 of that same school year.
    • There is no statewide mandate in place for pre-entrance testing or screening for kindergarteners.
  • Arkansas: 5 years old on or before August 1
    • Full-day kindergarten is mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 5 years old.
    • State policy does not permit early entrance to kindergarten except if the student had previously been enrolled in a kindergarten program in another state or country for at least 60 days and will turn 5 at some time during the school year.
    • A screening test upon entry into kindergarten is required (call the Qualls Early Learning Inventory).
  • California: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entrance to kindergarten decisions are left to the governing boards of individual school districts and are based on whether the age exemption is in the best interest of the child.
    • There are no kindergarten entrance assessments specified in statute.
  • Colorado: 5 years old on or before October 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is set at age 6 on or before August 1.
    • Colorado law allows for early access to kindergarten for “highly advanced gifted children” under age 4.
    • There are no kindergarten entrance assessments specified in the statute.
  • Connecticut: 5 years old on or before January 1
    • Kindergarten is mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 5 years old.
    • Early entrance decisions (for entering kindergarten before turning 5) are left to the discretion of the local school board.
    • Students entering kindergarten are assessed via a Fall Kindergarten Entrance Inventory.
  • Delaware: 5 years of age on or before August 31
    • Kindergarten attendance is mandatory and full-day kindergarten is required.
    • Compulsory school age is 5 years old.
    • Early entrance to kindergarten (for children under the age of 5) is available but left up to the local school board.
    • Delaware law recently phased in a kindergarten entrance assessment requirement beginning in 2013 with full implementation by fall of 2015.
  • Florida: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entry rules are not specified in state statute.
    • Kindergarten assessment screenings are required within the first 30 days of each school year.
  • Georgia: 5 years old by September 1
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entrance is available if the child will be turning 5 by December 31 and had been a resident of another state for greater than 2 years where he or she was enrolled in a kindergarten program.
    • There are no kindergarten entrance assessment requirements specified in state statute.
  • Hawaii: 5 years old on or before July 31
    • Kindergarten attendance is mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age for children is age 6 by January 1.
    • Early entrance to kindergarten is not allowed, except for those children who attended kindergarten in an accredited school elsewhere or are part of a military family.
  • Idaho: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 by the first official day of school.
    • There are no age exemptions is available.
    • There are no kindergarten entrance assessments or testing specified in statute.
  • Illinois: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old on or before September 1. Children enrolled in kindergarten prior to this are subject to compulsory schooling laws.
    • Early entrance age exemptions are available for children under the age of 5 based on that child’s readiness.
    • There is no kindergarten entrance assessment specified in statute.
  • Indiana: 5 years old on or before August 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old (if younger children are enrolled in school, then they automatically fall under compulsory schooling laws).
    • Early admittance to kindergarten (under the age of 5) is available and is left to the discretion of individual districts.
    • Districts in the state are required to offer entrance tests to students in kindergarten.
  • Iowa: 5 years old on or before September 15
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old by September 15 of that same school year. However, children who are enrolled in preschool programs (meaning they are 4 on or before September 15) are considered to be of compulsory school age.
    • For early entrance, any child ages 5 or 6 who demonstrates sufficient ability may enter 1st grade by December 31.
    • Districts are required to administer a kindergarten entrance screening test to all new kindergarteners by October 1.
  • Kansas: 5 years old on or before August 31
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • For early entry, any underage student who attended kindergarten in another state may enroll in a kindergarten program.
    • Kindergarten entrance assessment or testing is not specified in state statute.
  • Kentucky: 5 years old by October 1 (this will change to August 1 effective in the 2017–2018 school year)
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old by October 1 (this will change to August 1 for the 2017–2018 school year).
    • Early entrance policy is left to local school districts.
    • School districts are required to administer a screening program to new kindergarteners no earlier than 15 days prior to the start of the current academic year and no later than the 30th instructional day of the year.
  • Louisiana: 5 years old on or before September 30
    • Full-day kindergarten attendance is mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old. Children enrolled before 7 are subject to compulsory age laws.
    • For early entry, there is an opt-in waiver for children under the age of 5 if they are determined to be gifted following a state evaluation.
    • Districts are required to administer an entrance assessment to every kindergarten student at the beginning of the school year.
  • Maine: 5 on or before October 15
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • Students below the kindergarten eligibility age who were already enrolled in kindergarten in another state are able to obtain an age waiver and enroll in kindergarten.
    • Kindergarten entrance assessments are left to the discretion of local school boards.
  • Maryland: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten is mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 5 years old.
    • Children can enter kindergarten early (at age 4) contingent on a local school board decision that the child demonstrates capabilities warranting admission to kindergarten.
    • Local school districts are required to measure the school readiness of entering kindergarteners via an approved assessment system.
  • Massachusetts: Local option
    • Kindergarten mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entrance eligibility determination is left to local education agencies.
    • The Board of Early Education and Care is required to develop a kindergarten entrance assessment for all preschool children getting ready to make the transition to kindergarten.
  • Michigan: 5 years old by September 1 (starting with the 2015–2016 school year)
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is age 6 by December 1.
    • If the student will turn 5 between December 1 and September 1, then the parent can sign a waiver to have the child attend kindergarten early.
    • The state of Michigan is in the process of implementing standard kindergarten entrance assessments.
  • Minnesota: 5 years of age by September 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • Any school board has the right to establish a policy for the admission of selected pupils at an earlier age.
    • Each child entering kindergarten must participate in an early childhood screening program as designated by the particular school district.
  • Mississippi: 5 on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old by September 1.
    • If a child who is turning 5 after September 1 was a resident of another state where he or she attended at least 4 weeks of kindergarten, then he or she may attend kindergarten in Mississippi.
    • Kindergarten entrance assessments are required on a statewide level.
  • Missouri: 5 years old before August 1
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • Missouri allows school districts serving metropolitan areas to establish their own minimum age requirement, allowing early entry for those children who will be turning 5 before October 1. In addition, if a child begins kindergarten in a district with early entry rules in place and then moves, he or she can enroll in that new district without meeting the age requirement.
    • There are no kindergarten entrance assessment requirements specified in statute.
  • Montana: 5 on or before September 10
    • Kindergarten attendance is not required.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • Early kindergarten entry decisions are left to individual school districts and local boards of trustees on a case-by-case basis.
    • There are no kindergarten entrance assessments specified in state statute.
  • Nebraska: 5 years old on or before July 31
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is set at age 6 by January 1.
    • Schools are required to admit students who turn 5 years old between August 1 and October 15 of a given school year if the parent or guardian provides an affidavit stating that the child has demonstrated readiness via a school board approved assessment or has attended kindergarten in another jurisdiction in the current year.
    • Kindergarten entrance assessments are left to local school boards.
  • Nevada: 5 years old on or before September 30
    • Kindergarten attendance is mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • There is no early entry option for kindergarten.
    • There is no pre-entrance kindergarten testing program currently in place.
  • New Hampshire: Local option
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entrance is left to the decision of individual school boards.
    • No kindergarten assessment is required.
  • New Jersey: Local option (October 1 or later)
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory (except in those school districts with a high concentration of lower-income families).
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • While 4 year olds may be eligible for early entrance, they are not guaranteed admittance, and that decision lies in the hands of the local school district.
    • There is no mandated pre-entrance kindergarten testing or screening.
  • New Mexico: 5 years old prior to September 1
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 5 years old by September 1.
    • Local districts can choose to admit younger students based on their own policies, but that student cannot be counted for funding purposes.
    • All public schools in the state must conduct age-appropriate kindergarten assessment to determine the placement of students at the instructional level.
  • New York: Local option (must be between the ages of 4 and 6)
    • Kindergarten not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entrance decisions are made by local administrators.
    • Kindergarten pre-entrance screening and testing is not a requirement.
  • North Carolina: 5 years old on or before August 31
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • Children who don’t meet the age requirement are allowed to “opt in” in North Carolina if they have already been enrolled in kindergarten in another state. In addition, students who are age 4 by April 16 can be granted an age waiver for early entrance to kindergarten if they are deemed gifted and talented, and approved by the school principal.
    • Beginning in the 2014–2015 school year, all students entering kindergarten must in the first 30 days of school undergo a developmental screening.
  • North Dakota: 5 years old before August 1
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 7 years old.
    • Early entrance available for children who are turning age 5 by December 1 and have either been enrolled previously in an approved kindergarten or passed a district-approved developmental and readiness screening.
    • Kindergarten entrance assessments are optional and determined at the local level.
  • Ohio: Local option (usually 5 years old by August 1 or September 30)
    • Kindergarten attendance is mandatory.
    • The compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Students may begin kindergarten before turning 5 if they are favorably evaluated for early admittance following a referral from a parent or educator and/or if they have been enrolled in kindergarten in another district and transfer
    • Kindergarten assessment testing in Ohio that’s administered at the beginning of the school year is mandatory.
  • Oklahoma: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Full day kindergarten is mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 5 (there is a parent opt-out available).
    • Early kindergarten entrance is left to local education authorities.
    • Every kindergarten student must be assessed at the beginning of the school year using a State Board of Education–approved screening instrument
  • Oregon: 5 on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • The compulsory school age is 7 years old. However, that number drops to ages 5 to 6 once the child is enrolled in public school.
    • Students can “opt-in” to kindergarten prior to the age of 5 based on the decision of the local school board, which is based on the determination of that particular child’s cognitive, social, and physical development needs.
    • Kindergarten entrance assessments are required statewide.
  • Pennsylvania: Local option (not less than 4 for K–4 and not less than 5 for K–5)
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age in Pennsylvania is age 8.
    • Early entrance exemptions are up to local school districts.
    • There are no kindergarten entrance assessments mandated in statute.
  • Rhode Island: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten is mandatory to attend 1st grade.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • No early entrance is available.
    • Early school year readiness screening required.
  • South Carolina: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 5 years old.
    • Districts have the option of admitting children to kindergarten prior to the state entrance age.
    • All students entering a public kindergarten classroom are administered a readiness assessment by the 45th day of the school year.
  • South Dakota: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is mandatory by age 7.
    • The compulsory school age in South Dakota is age 6.
    • Early entrance available if the child has already been enrolled in a recognized kindergarten in another state.
    • No kindergarten assessment required.
  • Tennessee: 5 years old on or before August 15
    • Kindergarten is mandatory to attend 1st grade.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entrance to kindergarten in Tennessee is permitted if the school offers a semiannual promotion and the child will turn 5 within 60 days following the opening of the semester or if the director of schools finds the child sufficiently mature for kindergarten both emotionally and academically.
    • Districts must develop a comprehensive developmental assessment program for kindergarten children.
  • Texas: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 (although children who attend at 5 are subject to attendance laws).
    • Early kindergarten entrance available for those who demonstrate readiness on statewide assessment.
    • TEKS standards are in place for kindergarten and districts are required to use a reading instrument to track student progress.
  • Utah: 5 years old before September 2
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • Early entrance eligibility determination is left to local education agencies.
    • Kindergarten entrance assessments in Utah are left to local districts, who are required by law to choose an assessment tool to assess every kindergarten student at the beginning of the school year.
  • Vermont: Local option (any cutoff date between August 31 and January 1)
    • Kindergarten is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old.
    • There are no early entry age exemptions or waivers for kindergarten.
    • There are no required kindergarten entrance assessment.
  • Virginia: 5 years old on or before September 30
    • Kindergarten is mandatory (an opt-out is available).
    • Compulsory school age is 5 years old.
    • Early entrance option available for children who will turn 5 by December 31. This is only available in districts offering pre-K, junior K, or a transitional first grade program and when the child has passed an appropriate readiness evaluation.
    • Kindergarten assessments are administered statewide.
  • Washington: 5 years old before midnight August 31
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is not until 8 years old.
    • Early entrance regulations are left to the discretion of individual school districts.
    • The state does not require an assessment of kindergarten readiness but has a program in place intended to welcome students and their families to the school, assess students’ strengths, and determine the characteristics of children’s development and learning that will help to promote success.
  • West Virginia: 5 years of age by September 1
    • Full-day kindergarten is required.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old (through if a younger child enrolls in kindergarten, that child is then subject to compulsory attendance laws).
    • Early kindergarten entrance is left to the discretion of school boards as long as the child has demonstrated sufficient mental and physical proficiency.
    • There are no kindergarten entrance assessments specified in statute.
  • Wisconsin: 5 years old on or before September 1
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age is 6 years old (through if a younger child enrolls in kindergarten, that child is then subject to compulsory attendance laws).
    • Age exemptions are available for children under the age of 5.
    • Districts must administer a reading readiness assessment each year to all students in kindergarten.
  • Wyoming: 5 years old on or before September 15
    • Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory.
    • Compulsory school age in is age 7.
    • Early kindergarten entrance decisions are left to local school boards.
    • Districts are required to implement a reading assessment program for all students in kindergarten.
  • District of Columbia: 5 years old on or before September 30
    • Full-day kindergarten attendance is required.
    • Compulsory school age is 5 years old.
    • Early entrance rules are not specified.
    • District-wide entrance evaluations for all children entering kindergarten are currently in place.

Of course, although this list suggests the eligible age to start kindergarten by state, this doesn’t mean you have to start your child if he or she is the appropriate age by the date in question. Even in those states where kindergarten attendance is mandatory, there is usually an opt-out available or the option to enter a transitional kindergarten class or a program like Head Start. (Transitional kindergarten program are run over 2 years for those kids who were not really ready. The curriculum is at a slower pace and there is a lot less pressure in this type of setting.) Likewise, many states offer early entrance programs for those children who are ready to start school but don’t meet age requirements.

If you are unsure about whether or not your child is ready, see if your state offers a kindergarten assessment or pre-entrance testing. Usually, these tests not only assess academic readiness but social and emotional readiness as well.

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