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Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Tennessee

Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Tennessee

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In 2013, the Tennessee changed its kindergarten age law to move the cutoff birth date for turning 5 from September 30 to August 31 for the 2013–2014 school year to August 15 in the 2014–2015 and beyond. This bill was aimed at addressing a lack of readiness for the youngest children who enter kindergarten. Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of Tennessee.

Kindergarten Mandatory

In Tennessee, children are required by law to attend kindergarten, and no child will be eligible to enter first grade without having first attended an approved kindergarten program. While children do not have to enroll at 5 years of age, enrollment must occur no longer than the child’s 6th birthday. In addition, all school districts must offer kindergarten programs to their residents.

Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required

Tennessee does not require school districts to offer universal, funded all-day kindergarten. By law, kindergarten programs in Tennessee must be 180 day per year, 4 hours per day. According to an Education Week study published in 2015, between 70 and 79 percent of Tennessee’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.

Educational Standards: Common Core

Common Core standards were adopted by the Tennessee State Board of Education in July, 2010, in English/language arts and mathematics, with full implementation effective in the 2013 to 2014 school year.

Current Age Requirements

Effective in the 2014–2015 school year in Tennessee, to be eligible for kindergarten students must have turned 5 on or before August 15 of that school year. Previously, the cutoff date had been August 31.

Early Entry Rules

Early entrance to kindergarten in Tennessee is permitted in two cases: if the school offers a semiannual promotion and the child will turn 5 within 60 days following the opening of the semester, and age 5 by September 30 per parental request. In the second instance, the director of schools must find the child sufficiently mature for kindergarten both emotionally and academically.

Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions

In order to attend school in Tennessee, students must have proof of all required immunizations (or a valid exemption as discussed below). Required immunizations include DTaP, polio, MMR, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, and varicella. See the list of required vaccinations here.

Tennessee allows for students to be exempted from required immunizations based on medical and religious reasons. Medical exemptions must be signed by a physician or public health nurse indicating that the vaccine(s) are contraindicative. Religious exemptions require a signed statement by the parent or guardian that vaccination conflicts with their religious tenets or practices.

Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements

In Tennessee, kindergarten entrance testing is required to be handled at the local level. Districts must develop a comprehensive developmental assessment program for kindergarten children, which in turn are to be used in the development of instructional programs.

Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio

In Tennessee, class sizes are limited to 1 teacher to 25 students.

Pre-K Standards

In Tennessee, there are Pre-K State Standards in place that cover all core subjects as well as social emotional development, creative arts, and physical development and health. The curriculum and program structure for children in pre-K is aligned with that of kindergarten through grade 3 to support developmentally appropriate classroom practices.


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

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