KRS 158.031(1) defines primary school program as the “part of the elementary school program in which children are enrolled from the time they begin school until they are ready to enter the fourth grade.” 704 KAR 3:440(3)(1) specifies that “children who attend the primary school program shall not be described as enrolled in a specific grade level.”
As provided in KRS 158.031(3) and 704 KAR 3:440(2), schools operating a primary program in Kentucky must include the following critical attributes:
Developmentally appropriate educational practices;
Multiage and multiability classrooms;
Qualitative reporting methods;
Professional teamwork; and
Positive parent involvement.
Primary program instruction and curriculum serves to motivate and nurture children of diverse cultures, including the social, emotional, physical, aesthetic and cognitive needs of students, (704 KAR 3:440(4)(2)). Regulation further provides that the “the instructional practices in the primary program shall… be based upon the following principles of how young children learn:
(a) Young children learn at different rates and through different styles.
(b) Young children learn as they develop a sense of self-confidence in a positive learning environment.
(c) Young children learn best with ‘hands on’ experiences where they are encouraged to question, explore and discover.
(d) Young children learn best through an integrated curriculum by engaging in real-life activities and learning centers.
(e) Young children learn best in a social environment where they can converse with others to expand their language and their thinking,” (704 KAR 3:440(4)(2)).
Since young students are unique and learn at different rates, not all students may reach developmental milestones at the same time. Per KRS 158.031(4), each school council determines the organization of its primary program including the extent to which multiage groups are necessary to implement the “critical attributes” (provided above) based on individual student needs.
KRS 158.031(1) requires students to successfully complete the primary program as a prerequisite for a child's entrance into fourth grade.
Eligible Age for Enrollment
Per KRS 158.030(2), “Any child who is five (5) years of age, or who may become five (5) years of age by August 1, may enter a primary school program, as defined in KRS 158.031, and may advance through the primary program without regard to age in accordance with KRS 158.031(6).”
For any child who is six (6) years of age, or who may become six (6) years of age by August 1, KRS 158.030(2) requires the student to attend public school (or qualify for an exemption as provided by KRS 159.030).
Early or Accelerated Placement
Per KRS 158.031(6), “A school district may advance a student through the primary program when it is determined that it is in the best educational interest of the student. It is under the discretion of the local school board to develop policies for determining accelerated or early placement into the primary program.
Petition Process for Early Placement in Kindergarten
KRS 158.030(3) states that “Each local school board shall adopt a policy to permit a parent or guardian to petition the board to allow a student to attend public school who does not meet the age requirement… The policy shall include an evaluation process that will help determine a student's readiness for school.”
Parents or guardians interested in enrolling a student who will not be five (5) years of age on or before August 1 per 704 KAR 7:125(6) should contact their local school district for information on their petition and evaluation process.
Students Eligible for Special Education Services
704 KAR 3:440(3)(2) specifies that “individual placement decisions for children who are eligible for special education and related services shall be determined by the appropriate admissions and release committee.”
Additional Year in the Primary Program
704 KAR 3:440(3)(2) requires local schools and districts to “design the primary program to address the learning needs of all children who meet the entry age for the primary school program and who are not ready to enter the fourth grade.” Schools and districts operating a primary school program, as defined and established in KRS 158.031 and 704 KAR 3:440, may determine that a student is not prepared for entrance into grade four, and an additional year in primary is in the best interest of the student.
Please email Pamela.Wininger@education.ky.gov with questions regarding Kentucky's Primary Program.