Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Rhode Island
In January, 2015, Rhode Island made a significant move toward full-day kindergarten when Senator Hanna M. Gallo submitted legislation that would pay school districts to offer full-day kindergarten by accelerating part of the school funding formula, so that kindergartens that have been converted from half- to full-day beginning with the 2015–2016 school year would be fully funded beginning in the fiscal year 2016. As of April, 2015, the bill has stalled, with the Committee recommending that a modified bill be held for further study. Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of Rhode Island.
Kindergarten attendance in mandatory in Rhode Island, with no opt-out option. In fact, a child must complete a state recognized or accredited kindergarten program to be able to attend 1st grade in the state. Likewise, districts are required to offer at minimum a half-day program.
Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required
Rhode Island schools are not required by statute to fund full-day programs for all eligible students. However, full-day kindergarten programs must be run at minimum 180 days per year and 5.5 hours per day excluding lunch and recess (around 990 hours per year total). According to an Education Week study published in 2015, between 60 and 69 percent of Rhode Island’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.
Educational Standards: Common Core
Common Core standards were adopted by the Rhode Island Department of Education in July, 2010, with full implementation in the 2013–2014 school year. In addition, new RI Accountability Revisions have been developed for implementation in the 2015–2016 year.
Current Age Requirements
To be eligible for kindergarten, children in Rhode Island must have turned 5 years old on or before September 1 of that same school year. Compulsory school age in Rhode Island is 6 years of age.
Early Entry Rule
Rhode Island state policy does not permit early entrance to kindergarten.
Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions
In order to attend school in Rhode Island, 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.
Rhode Island allows for vaccination exemptions both on medical and religious grounds. Exemption forms are not available online but rather must be procured from the school itself or from your child’s physician (in the case of a medical exemption).
Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements
In Rhode Island, all school districts that provide kindergarten and elementary education are required to screen all children prior to or early on in the school year to determine their level of educational readiness. These screenings are required to address literacy skills in the areas of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and mathematics.
Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio
In Rhode Island, the recommended or “ideal” teacher to student ratio is 1 teacher to 11 students. There are revenues available from the state to support districts in reducing class sizes to get closer to this recommendation.
Early Learning State Standards
Rhode Island has early learning standards in place designed specifically to help prepare young children as they enter kindergarten, which emphasis in the areas of language development, literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, cognitive development, and social, emotional, and physical development. In addition, districts are required to draft a strategic K–3 plan to improve student performance in math, reading, and writing.
All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the state of Rhode Island’s Department of Education website.