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Early Childhood: Kindergarten (5K)

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Preserving Early Childhood (PEC) 2019

Developmentally Appropriate Learning: Play is the Way!

March 12-14, 2019

The Madison Concourse Hotel, Madison, WI

Visit the 2019 PEC Conference Webpage for Conference Materials  




Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

Many parents ask how they can best get their child ready for kindergarten. The state law says that children are eligible for kindergarten based on their age and not on their skills. Good kindergarten curriculums are able to address the wide range of development levels that are natural in any kindergarten program. In today's society parents feel pressure to "prepare" their child for school. Sometimes this pressure leads to unrealistic expectations that are heavily focused on learning specific academic skills rather than the a more appropriate focus of play, adult child interactions, and learning opportunities that promote basic child development.

There are several good resources to help parents build a strong foundation for school.


Five-year-old Kindergarten Attendance and First Grade Admission

2009 WI Act 41 [Wis. Stat. Sec. 118.14(1)(am)] took effect on October 21, 2009. It requires a child who is enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten in a public or private school to regularly attend kindergarten during the school year. Beginning in the 2011-12 school year, with certain exceptions, this new law also requires a child to complete 5-year-old kindergarten as a prerequisite to being admitted to first grade in a public school. For more information on this law go to our Kindergarten: Entrance and Admission page.


Kindergarten in Wisconsin Schools

All Wisconsin school districts offer kindergarten programs for 5-year-old children. These programs will vary from district to district with most being full day programs, some being part day, and many districts having the option of both. In the last few years, more districts have begun to offer kindergarten programs to 4-year-old children. Currently a large majority of Wisconsin school districts offer 4-year-old kindergarten to all children in their district.

Click here for a brief history of kindergarten in Wisconsin.

There are a number of hot topics and other issues related to kindergarten that may be of interest. You may access these sites for additional information on each topic. Be sure to look at the guiding principles for more on frame works for learning.


  • Benefits and Impact of 4K Community Approach Website: The Office of Early Learning is pleased to announce our new website that helps tell the story of what makes 4-year-old kindergarten community approaches (4KCA) so good for children, families, child care, school districts, Head Start, community programs, and the general public. We invite you to read and view the great stories from communities throughout Wisconsin as they share their perceptions of 54 benefits communities commonly realized after implementing 4KCA. In addition to the stories of the benefits, you can find Wisconsin Storyteller Bob Kann’s Storytelling Techniques and other strategies to help frame your own community’s story.


  • 4-Year-Old Kindergarten: The education of 4-year-old children in our public schools has gone through many changes. Wisconsin is a leading state in the provision of universally available 4-year-old kindergarten programs as more and more districts begin these programs. Yet there are still strong opinions on both sides: some favor universal 4 year old kindergarten, others think no 4 year old should be in the traditional public school system, and others think schools can lead quality services for 4 year olds through partnerships with community early childhood programs. Any school district considering operating 4-year-old programs should be fully aware of these issues before moving ahead with the program.

    This site will show you how one Wisconsin city, La Crosse, has begun community partnerships which place 4K programs in child care settings as well as in schools. It will give you information to consider on the advantages and disadvantages of publicschool 4-year-old kindergarten and who "educates" 4-year-olds in Wisconsin, as well as resources to look further into the issue. As your district moves ahead with 4-year-old kindergarten programs, you should read the law related to how 4-year-olds are counted for kindergarten aid and examples of outreach activities. There is a question and answer slide show that will answer all of your specific questions on 4-year-old kindergarten. Then be sure to look to the Guiding Principles section for guidance on program implementation and developmentally appropriate practices.

    View the DPI 4-year-old kindergarten Policy Bulletin here as well as the Clarification of the Licensing and Transportation Requirement.


  • Start-up grants for 4-year-old kindergarten.
  • Early Childhood: Five-Year-Old Kindergarten: Watertown, Wisconsin is proud to be the home to the first kindergarten in this county. In 1856, Margarethe Meyer Schurz started this German speaking program for children 2 through 5 years of age. In 1873 the first public school kindergarten open in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It provided a program for the city's 4- and 5-year old children. More and more school districts began providing kindergarten and then in 1973 the Wisconsin legislature required school districts to provide 5 year old kindergarten. In the late 1990's kindergartens began to expand to offer full day programs.
  • Guiding Principles: Additional information on early childhood programming can be accessed on non-grade and mixed age grouping, early learning centers, developmentally appropriate and other curriculum topics.


  • Updated!Slide Show on Kindergarten: View this Slide show to learn more about the history, rules, and frequently asked questions


  • Sandbox Synergy: This article from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards Association News describes efforts in LaCrosse to develop a community wide approach to 4-year-old kindergarten and how child care and the district became partners in 4k.


  • Updated!Kindergarten: Entrance and Admission: Wisconsin children are considered eligible for 4- or 5-year-old kindergarten based on their age. Procedures for admission are established by school boards. This web page will answer many questions, including: age of eligibility, early entrance, delayed entrance, kindergarten screening, and placement.


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For questions about this information, contact Sherry Kimball (608) 267-9625