High-quality, early elementary years offer a critical opportunity for development and academic learning for all children. Key components of a quality experience in kindergarten through third grade include qualified teachers, seamless transitions, appropriate assessments and interventions, family engagement, social and emotional supports, and academic supports.
Education Commission of the States has researched the policies that guide these key components in all 50 states to provide this comprehensive resource. Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons, showing how all states approach specific policies, or view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.
- Seventeen states, plus the District of Columbia, require children to attend kindergarten, although the length of day varies across states.
- Thirteen states, plus the District of Columbia, require the district to offer full-day kindergarten.
- Eighteen states, plus the District of Columbia, have policies in place to guide the transition from pre-K to kindergarten. This guidance often includes written transition plans, family engagement, teacher/provider meetings and assessment data linkages.
- Forty-two states, plus the District of Columbia, detail the interventions available to K-3 students, often including extended instructional time, parental engagement, evidence-based instruction, summer reading opportunities and small group instruction.
- Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have retention policies in place, which are designed to support students who are not on grade level by the end of third grade.
- Forty states, plus the District of Columbia, emphasize social-emotional learning in K-3 in statute, rules or regulations. Usually, social-emotional learning is emphasized in kindergarten entrance assessments, school readiness definitions and/or teacher training requirements.
- What is the compulsory school age?
- What is the state’s kindergarten entrance age?
- What age exemptions or waivers exist for kindergarten entrance?
- Does the state require children to attend kindergarten?
- Does the state require the district to offer kindergarten and if so, full or half day? What exemptions exist for districts?
- How many hours are required for grades K-3?
- What are the teacher-to-student ratio requirements for grade K-3?
- What are the requirements for teacher training and professional development in reading?
- What are the requirements for teacher training and professional development in math?
- Does the state have an early learning endorsement or license specific to K-3?
School Readiness and Transitions
- Are kindergarten entrance assessments required?
- What are states required to do with the results of the KEA?
- Are there programs in place to guide the pre-kindergarten to kindergarten transition process?
- Does the state have a statutory definition of school readiness? What do states use their definition of school readiness to inform?
Assessment, Intervention and Retention
- Are assessments required in grades K-3?
- What do the results of K-3 assessments inform?
- Are there interventions available beginning in kindergarten? What are the interventions available for students in grades K-3?
- Is there a third grade retention policy?
- For those states with pre-kindergarten to kindergarten transition guidance, is family engagement a requirement?
- For those states with third grade retention policies, is parental input required?
- Recent enacted/vetoed legislation: State Education Policy Tracking (Early Learning issue)
- How States Fund Pre-K: A Primer for Policymakers
- Initiatives From Preschool to Third Grade: A Policymaker’s Guide
PUBLISHED: June 4, 2018
RESOURCE TYPE: 50-State Comparison