Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Arizona
Arizona traditionally ranks in the bottom 10 of the country for education, numbers that are exacerbated the levels of poverty across the state and the lack of access to early education for many families. According to an Annie E. Casey Foundation report released in 2014 (based on data collected in 2012), Arizona ranks 44th in the state for education, with only 34 percent of children attending preschool and 23 percent not graduating from high school in the standard four-year time frame. Not surprisingly, kindergarten has been an area of focus for the state over the last decade, although the “experiment” of state-funded full-day kindergarten has been chalked up to an official failure, with funding permanently revoked in 2010. Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of Arizona.
Kindergarten Not Mandatory
In the state of Arizona, kindergarten attendance is not required. Thus, with parental consent, a child can be excused from compulsory attendance by the school district in which that child resides.
Full-Day Kindergarten No Longer State Funded
Arizona’s bid to offer all of its students access to free full-day kindergarten ended in March 2010 when state lawmakers permanently cut the program’s funding. Currently, state school districts are only required to offer half-day programs, though there are many available that are tuition based.
Educational Standards: Common Core for Now
Common Core standards were adopted by the Arizona State Department of Education on June 28, 2010, and were fully implemented in the 2013–2014 school year. However, there is ongoing opposition to the Common Core curriculum in the state legislature, from parent groups, and from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
Current Age Requirements
According to the Arizona Education Code, any child who is five years of age before September 1 of the current school year is eligible for kindergarten. This means that the child must turn five on or before August 31, not September 1. However, Arizona Revised Statutes gives districts the right to allow students into a kindergarten who were born all the way up to January 1.
Early Entry Rules
In Arizona, early entry into kindergarten is left to the discretion of the individual local school district or charter. According to state law, a given governing board may admit children who have not reached the required age if it is in the best interest of that child: which is usually determined by a special screening process. However, 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.
Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions
In order to attend school in Arizona, students must have proof of all required immunizations (or a valid exemption as discussed below). Homeless students are allotted a 5-day grace period to submit their immunization records. Required immunizations include DTaP, polio, MMR, hepatitis B, and varicella. See the list of require vaccinations here.
The state of Arizona is quite liberal when it comes to its vaccination exemption laws. In fact, exemptions are available for medical reasons (where the vaccine is contraindicative or lab evidence of immunity can be demonstrated) and based on personal belief or philosophical reasons. The parent or guardian of the student must submit a signed statement to the school administration stating that he or she has received information, understands the risks of not choosing to immunize, and why exemption status is being claimed.
Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements
While there is no statewide mandate in place for pre-entrance testing or screening for kindergarteners, some schools do have readiness testing systems in place. In addition, the majority of schools that allow for early entry require kindergarten early entrance testing before a student is admitted.
Open Enrollment Laws
Arizona is not a full “school of choice state.” Basically, this means that if a child lives outside the district that he or she wants to attend, he or she must go through a process called “open enrollment.” Open enrollment policies and processes vary from district to district, but typically start in January, when schools start forecasting enrollment for the following years and evaluating their available space.
In 2006, a new language development law went into effect that set forth a standard whereby all children in K–12 in Arizona public schools be taught English as rapidly as possible. Thus, first-year ELL students entering kindergarten would have 4 hours of ELD instruction per day in a full-time program and ELD two-thirds of the time for kindergarten programs operating on a half-day basis.
Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio
In the state of Arizona, there are no guidelines for teacher to student ratio in kindergarten classrooms in statute.
All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the state of Arizona’s Department of Education website.