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Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Wisconsin

Kindergarten Requirements for the State of Wisconsin

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The First Kindergarten located in Watertown, Wisconsin, in the mid-19th century was the original kindergarten of the United States. Still today, Wisconsin is a pioneer in the kindergarten world with its four-year-old kindergarten program. Here are the top laws and requirements for students entering kindergarten in the state of Wisconsin.

Kindergarten Not Mandatory

Kindergarten is not mandatory in the state of Wisconsin. However, every school district is required to offer a half-day kindergarten program. In addition, statute requires a child to complete 5-year-old kindergarten as a prerequisite to being admitted to 1st grade in a public school.

Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required

The state of Wisconsin does not require full-day kindergarten. Half-day programs in the state are required to run 180 days per year or 437 hours per year (around 2.5 hours per day). Where full-day kindergarten is offered, it must be the same amount of hours as 1st grade. According to an Education Week study published in 2015, between 70 and 79 percent of Wisconsin’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.

Educational Standards: Common Core Plus Standards for Literacy

Common Core standards were adapted by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in June, 2010, with full implementation in the 2014–2015 school year. At the same time, Wisconsin adopted Standards for Literacy in All Subjects, which provide the framework for a Wisconsin Student Assessment System (also implemented in 2014–2015).

Current Age Requirements

Students must have turned 5 on or before September 1 of that school year to be eligible for kindergarten entrance (age 4 on or before September 1 for 4-year-old kindergarten). The compulsory school age in Wisconsin is 6, although once a child under 6 enrolls in a kindergarten program, that child is then subject to the compulsory attendance laws.

Early Entry Rules

Wisconsin allows for age exemptions for children under the age of 5, although each district is required to establish procedures, conditions, and standards for early kindergarten admission.

Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions

In order to attend school in Wisconsin, 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.

Wisconsin allows for medical, religious, and philosophical immunization exemptions. The immunization requirement is waived if the parent or guardian submits a written statement to the school stating their objection on the basis on health, religion, or personal conviction.

Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements

In Wisconsin, districts must administer a reading readiness assessment each year to all students in kindergarten (and through 2nd grade).

Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio

In the state of Wisconsin, there is no set student to teacher ratio. Instead, this is locally determined by district. The exception for this is if a particular school is receiving a reading achievement grant; schools receiving these grants must maintain a class size of 18 in kindergarten.

Early Learning Standards

Wisconsin’s Department of Education has Model Early Learning Standards in place, with a focus in the areas of literacy, mathematical and scientific thinking, health and physical development, and social and emotional development. These early learning standards are aligned with elementary and secondary standards.


All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction website.

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