Kindergarten Requirements for the State of California
Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory by statute in California, and full-day attendance by kindergarten students is under 60 percent. Every school district is required to offer “transitional kindergarten,” a program that uses modified age and developmentally appropriate curriculum for all eligible children. This is aligned with the great deal of attention that has been placed of late in the state on early childhood education; in 2014, the legislature approved a bill to make graduating kindergarten a requirement to enter first grade but the governor vetoed it. Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of California.
Kindergarten Not Mandatory
In California, children are not required to attend kindergarten. However, all school districts must offer a half-day kindergarten program for interested students.
Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required
The state of California does not require its school districts by statute to offer full-day kindergarten programs. Half-day programs are required to run a minimum of 3 hours per day (inclusive of recess), which averages to around 540 hours per year. According to an Education Week study published in 2015, less than 60 percent of California’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.
Educational Standards: Common Core
The California State Board of Education adopted Common Core for English/language arts and mathematics in August, 2010, with full implementation in the 2014–2015 school year. In addition, in California there are K–12 state standards in place in the areas of science, social studies, English language development, foreign language, health and physical education, and visual and performing arts.
Current Age Requirements
Effective for the 2014–2015 school year, the kindergarten entrance age in California is set at age 5 (on or before September 1). Compulsory school age in California is age 6.
Early Entry Rules
In California, 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. However, any child with a birthday falling between the previous December 2 cutoff data and the new cutoff of September 1 can be admitted to a transitional kindergarten program.
Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions
In order to attend school in California, students must have proof of all required immunizations (or a valid exemption as discussed below). Required immunizations include DTaP, polio, MMR, hepatitis B, and varicella. See the list of require vaccinations here.
Beginning with the 2016 school year, only medical exemptions are permitted for those entering day care and kindergarten, according to a California law signed by Governor Jerry Brown on June 30, 2015, to go into effect July 1, 2016. Exemptions based on personal beliefs are no longer accepted under the new law. Medical exemptions can be obtained by submitting written documentation signed by a licensed physician. The new vaccination law came about in response to the late 2014 Disneyland measles outbreak, the worst in California in 24 years.
Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements
There are no kindergarten entrance assessments specified in California statute. However, some school districts base early entrance to kindergarten decisions on screening/testing results.
Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio
In California, maximum student to teacher ratios are not specified in statute.
Pre-K State Standards
California requires its districts to provide education continuity from preschool all the way through 3rd grade, and therefore there are state standards for pre-K programs in place. Pre-Kindergarten Learning and Development Guidelines include all core subjects, social-emotional development, the arts, health, and physical development.
All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the state of California’s Department of Education website.