Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Illinois
Although full-day kindergarten (or kindergarten at all, for that matter) is not legally mandated in Illinois, a majority of kindergartners in the state still attend (between 70 and 79 percent). In addition, state data from the 2013–2014 school year shows that about 90 percent of elementary schools in the state offer full-day programs. Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of Illinois.
Kindergarten Not Mandatory
Students in Illinois are not required by law to attend kindergarten. However, districts are required to offer kindergarten programs for at minimum half-day.
Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required
Full day kindergarten is not a requirement by Illinois law. At minimum, half-day kindergarten programs in Illinois need to be held for 2 hours per day (around 360 hours per year) and full-day programs for 4 hours per day (approximately 720 hours per year). According to an Education Week study published in 2015, between 70 and 79 percent of Illinois’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.
Educational Standards: Common Core / Illinois Learning Standards
The Illinois State Board of Education adopted Common Core standards (Illinois Learning Standards) in June 2010, with full implementation in the 2013–2014 school year. In addition, Illinois developed the Professional Learning Series (PLS), a repository for professional development resources and tools to assist with Common Core implementation across the state.
Current Age Requirements
Illinois’s official kindergarten entrance age is set at age 5 on or before September 1. Effective in the 2014–2015 school year, the compulsory school age established in state statute is age 6 on or before September 1. Once enrolled in kindergarten, a child is subject to compulsory schooling laws.
Early Entry Rules
Early entrance age exemptions are available for children under the age of 5 based on that child’s readiness. By law, age exemptions are a local board decision.
Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions
In order to attend school in Illinois, 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 required vaccinations here.
Vaccine exemptions in the state of Illinois are allowed on medical and religious grounds. For a medical exemption, a licensed physician must state in writing that the vaccination is contraindicated, and for religious exemptions, a written and signed statement stating the objection must be submitted to the local school authority.
Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements
Illinois does not have any required kindergarten entrance assessment specified in statute.
Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio
Illinois does not specify a maximum teacher to pupil ratio by law. There is an optional class size reduction grant program in place that’s limited to grades K–3.
Early Learning Standards
In Illinois, early learning standards are aligned with K–12 standards and include benchmarks in core subjects language arts, mathematics, social science, and science, as well as in physical development and health, fine arts, foreign language, and social/emotional development.
All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the Illinois State Board of Education website.