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Early Childhood: 5-Year-Old Kindergarten (5K)



Approaches to Learning/Guiding Principles

  • Children learn through meaningful engagement with others and their environments and through the implementation of Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP).

  • DAP is woven into the values and practices that are core to how DPI believes educators should approach learning for young children, from an asset-based lens, and it is foundational to the WI Model Early Learning Standards and its guiding principles.

  • Play is the key way that children learn: Play is the Way!


  • State law, Wis. Stat. Sec. (118.14(1)(a), specifies that children are eligible for kindergarten based on their age. To be eligible for 5-year-old kindergarten, a child must be 5 on or by September 1 of the school year.

Programming/ Hours of Duration

  • 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.

Wisconsin Act 41 (Attendance and First Grade Admission) 

  •  WI Act 41 requires a child to:
    • Who is enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten in a public or private school to regularly attend kindergarten during the school year.
    • Complete 5-year-old kindergarten as a prerequisite to being admitted to first grade in a public school.
    • Overview of WI Act 41

History of 5K in Wisconsin

  • In 1856, Margarethe Meyer Schurz started this the first kindergarten in the nation in Watertown Wisconsin. 
  • In 1873 the first public school kindergarten opened in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It provided a program for the city's 4- and 5-year old children.
  •  In 1973 the Wisconsin legislature required school districts to provide 5 year old with expansion to full day in the late 1990's kindergarten.
  • Abbreviated History of 4K & 5K in Wisconsin

Additional Information


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