Following a high-quality early care and education experience, the kindergarten-through-third-grade years set the foundation upon which future learning builds; and strengthening this continuum creates opportunities for later success. Key policy components of a quality experience in K-3 include school readiness and transitions, kindergarten requirements, educator quality, and prevention, intervention and assessments.
Education Commission of the States researched the statutes and regulations that guide these key components in all 50 states to provide this comprehensive resource.
- 17 states and the District of Columbia require that children attend kindergarten.
- 16 states and the District of Columbia require districts to offer full-day kindergarten, and 44 states plus the District of Columbia require districts to offer at least half-day kindergarten.
- 39 states and the District of Columbia require assessments outside of the federally required third-grade assessments, including screeners, diagnostic, summative and formative assessments.
- 45 states have policies related to pre-service training or in-service professional development in reading instruction for K-3 educators.
- 17 states and the District of Columbia specify requirements for districts or schools around reading curricula or instructional materials.
- 16 states and the District of Columbia require grade retention for nonproficient third graders with good cause exemptions, and an additional 10 states allow for grade retention as determined at the local level.
Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons showing how all states approach each policy, or view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profile page.
School Readiness and Transitions
- Does the state include birth-to-age-5 data in their statewide longitudinal data system?
- Are there policies in place to guide the pre-K to kindergarten transition process?
- Does the state define or otherwise address school readiness? If yes, what is included?
- Are kindergarten entrance assessments required? What are states required to do with the results?
- Does the state require children to attend kindergarten? If yes, what attendance exemptions exist?
- What is the state’s kindergarten entrance date cutoff? Are there age exemptions or waivers?
- Does the state require the district to offer kindergarten, and if so, full or half day? What exemptions exist for districts to offer kindergarten?
- How many instructional hours are required for kindergarten? Grades one through three?
- Does the state specify a required student-to-teacher ratio for grades K-3?
- Does the state specify pre-service requirements or in-service professional development in reading instruction for K-3 educators?
Prevention, Intervention and Retention
- Does the state specify requirements for districts or schools around reading curricula?
- Does the state require assessments in K-3 beyond the federally required third-grade summative assessments?
- Are interventions required for students reading below grade level in grades K-3?
- Is there a third-grade retention policy? If so, what exemptions are provided?
- For those states with third-grade retention policies, is parental engagement required?
- Key Issues: Early Care and Education
- A Systems Focus to Improve School Readiness
- State Policies to Enhance Transitions Into Kindergarten
- Research and Policy Implications of STEAM Education for Young Students
PUBLISHED: June 2, 2023
RESOURCE TYPE: 50-State Comparison