Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Maine
Although full-day kindergarten is not mandatory in the state of Maine, there has been a push in recent years to increase the implementation of full-day programs and 80 to 89% of students are currently enrolled in such programs. In addition, Maine’s legislature debated a bill recently that would have required schools to offer full-day kindergarten by 2017–2018, but the bill fell short of the two-thirds majority required for passage. Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of Maine.
Kindergarten Not Mandatory
In the state of Maine, kindergarten attendance is not mandatory. However, districts are required to offer a half-day program to their students at minimum.
Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required
Full-day kindergarten programs are not mandatory according to Maine state law. At minimum, Maine kindergarten classes must be offered 175 days per year and 2.5 hours per day (around 440 hours per year). School administrators are able to increase this number of instructional kindergarten hours in order to “improve student performance.” According to an Education Week study published in 2015, between 80 and 89 percent of Maine’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.
Educational Standards: Common Core
Common Core standards were adopted in Maine in April, 2011, with full implementation in the 2013–2014 school year. Following adoption, Common Core standards were aligned with the Maine Learning Results state standards (in place since 1997). Shared standards was not a new concept to Maine: Since 2009, the state has had standards in common with New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont when all four states began using the NECAP assessment.
Current Age Requirements
Young students in the state of Maine are eligible to enter kindergarten if they have turned age 5 on or before October 15 of that same school year. In Maine, the compulsory school age is set at 7.
Early Entry Rules
In Maine, 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.
Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions
In order to attend school in the state of Maine, students must have proof of all required immunizations (or a valid exemption as discussed below). Required immunizations include DTaP, polio, MMR, and varicella. See the list of required vaccinations here.
Maine allows for exemptions for vaccination laws based on medical, religious, and philosophical grounds. For religious and philosophical exemptions, the parent or guardian must submit a written statement to the school stating a “sincere” religious or philosophical belief that is contrary to the immunization requirement.
Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements
While kindergarten entrance assessments are left to the discretion of local school boards, districts are required by state statute to screen incoming students to identify both exceptional students and those at risk of academic failure.
Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio
In Maine, individual school districts are encouraged to adopt a statewide program to reduce class size in kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade classrooms. The recommended ratio is 1 teacher to 15 students, with a maximum ratio of 1:18.
Early Learning State Standards
Pre-kindergarten standards and expectations have been established on the state level and are aligned with set standards for grades K–4. In addition, the Early Childhood Learning Guidelines aligns teaching practices across early childhood settings and the early grades.
All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the Maine Department of Education website.