Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, by law kindergarten attendance is not mandatory, and individual school districts are not required to offer half-day programs, much less full-day programs. Yet district interest in expanding to offer full-day kindergarten has grown in recent years, with programs opening in major districts like Bethlehem, Allentown, and Lehigh Valley. Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of Pennsylvania.
Kindergarten Not Mandatory
Kindergarten is not mandatory in the state of Pennsylvania. In addition, school districts are not required by law to offer kindergarten programs, half or full day.
Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required
Pennsylvania currently does not have a full-day kindergarten program in place. Half-day programs run by local districts are required by statute to operate 180 days per year, 2.5 hours per day, which comes out to around 450 hours per year. According to an Education Week study published in 2015, between 60 and 69 percent of Pennsylvania’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.
Educational Standards: Common Core
Common Core standards were adopted in the state of Pennsylvania in English/language arts and mathematics in July, 2010, with full implementation in the 2013–2014 school year. Pennsylvania has implemented these standards in a way that is “robust and relevant to the real world” and reflect the knowledge and skills that children need to be successful adults, according to the state Department of Education.
Current Age Requirements
In Pennsylvania, kindergarten entrance age is set at the local level rather than the state level but in general stands at not less than 4 or 5, depending on the district. Compulsory school age in Pennsylvania is age 8.
Early Entry Rules
Since there is no specified state age requirement, early entrance exemptions are up to local school districts as well.
Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions
In order to attend school in Pennsylvania, 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 are available for Pennsylvania students based on medical or religious grounds. For medical exemptions, the physician simply needs to provide a written statement that immunization may be detrimental to the health of the child. For religious exemptions, the parent or guardian needs to object in writing to the immunization on religious grounds.
Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements
There are no kindergarten entrance assessments mandated in Pennsylvania statute.
Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio
In kindergarten classrooms in Pennsylvania, the maximum number of students who can be in a classroom with a single teacher is 22. If there is an aide present, then the classroom size can increase to 27 maximum, and to 30 maximum with an assistant teacher. There can also be a maximum or 30 students if there are 2 aides present.
Learning Standards for Early Childhood
According to Pennsylvania law, Early Learning State Standards cover children from birth through kindergarten and include all core subjects as well as various developmental areas. In addition, there are pre-K standards in place for all core subjects that are aligned with K–12 curriculum.
All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education website.