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Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Iowa

Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Iowa

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Full-day kindergarten is not required by law in Iowa. However, the majority of districts offer full-day programs, which accounts for the high full-day program attendance rate in the state (over 90 percent). Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of Iowa.

Kindergarten Not Mandatory

In the state of Iowa, children are not required to attend kindergarten. However, it’s mandatory that districts offer kindergarten programs on a half-day basis at minimum.

Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required

In Iowa, districts are not required by statute to fund full-day kindergarten for all eligible students. In addition, the minimum required days and hours for a kindergarten program is not determined by state statute and rather left to local school boards. According to an Education Week study published in 2015, 90 percent or above of Iowa’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.

Educational Standards: Common Core / Iowa Core

Common Core standards (called the Iowa Core) were adopted in Iowa in July, 2010, with full implementation in the 2012–2013 school year. For kindergarten, standards are established in the core subjects of literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, and 21st century skills.

Current Age Requirements

To be eligible to attend kindergarten in the state of Iowa, children must have turned 5 on or before September 15. In Iowa, the 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 attendance age.

Early Entry Rules

In Iowa, age exemptions for kindergarten are not established per se. However, any child ages 5 or 6 who demonstrates sufficient ability may enter 1st grade by December 31.

Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions

In order to attend school in Iowa, 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.

Vaccination exemptions in Iowa are available for medical and religious reasons. For religious exemptions, the parent or guardian must attest that there is a “genuine and sincere” religious belief present and that it’s not merely based on philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to immunization. This statement is only valid when signed and notarized.

Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements

In Iowa, districts are required to administer a kindergarten entrance screening test (as determined by the state Board of Education) to all new kindergarteners by October 1.  Districts are also required to annually assess reading levels or reading readiness of students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Early childhood assessments must also be given to 4-year-old students both at the beginning and the end of preschool

Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio

The recommended teacher to pupil ratio in Iowa is 1 teacher to 17 students. Districts have been instructed to expend funds to reduce class sizes and meet this state goal.

Early Learning Standards

Iowa has early learning standards in place for children from birth through pre-K in the areas of literacy, math, and science, as well as social, physical/motor, and emotional development. These standards are aligned with national and state K–12 standards.


All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the Iowa Department of Education website.

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