Early Childhood Education

Milwaukee Public Schools offers many early childhood options to provide our youngest learners with a solid foundation for lifelong learning. These programs include Head Start, state-licensed early childhood centers, K3/K4 kindergarten, and HighScope in K5 and first grade. In addition, many K5–3 classrooms offer small class sizes thanks to SAGE funding.

Head Start

Head Start is a federal program that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. The program’s services and resources are designed to foster stable family relationships, enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills.

Head Start seats are limited. Parents and/or guardians of Head Start participants must meet certain income requirements. Call the MPS Head Start office to see if your family qualifies: (414) 777-7850. Applications must be filled out with a Head Start staff member.

MPS schools that offer Head Start.

Licensed Early Childcare Programs

MPS offers state-licensed early childhood programs that provide developmentally appropriate programming for two- and three-year-old children. The programs are designed to prepare young children for the transition to kindergarten. The programs foster the development of social, emotional, physical, language, communications and cognitive skills.

This is a fee-based program. Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy authorizations are accepted. MPS state-licensed early childhood programs do not provide transportation.

Enrollment is limited. To register, call the Early Childhood Programming manager at (414) 475-8244.

MPS schools that offer state-licensed early childhood programs



HighScope is an early childhood program for five-year-old kindergarten and first graders in select MPS schools that helps students learn through active involvement with people, materials, events, and ideas. Students are provided with experiences to help them become independent, responsible, and confident- ready for school and ready for life. HighScope helps children learn how to learn, thereby establishing a foundation for lifetime learning.

MPS schools that offer HighScope


Mandatory Kindergarten Law and Age Requirements

Beginning in September 2011, the State of Wisconsin requires students to complete kindergarten before entering first grade. No school, including charter schools, may enroll a child in first grade unless that child has completed 5-year-old kindergarten.

Children may also attend 3-year-old and 4-year-old kindergarten, although K3 and K4 are not required. To enter K3, a child must turn 3 on or before September 1. Children must turn 4 and 5 on or before September 1 for K4 and K5, respectively.

Children born between September 2 and October 1 can be tested for early admission to K5 only. You may obtain an early admission testing form at any MPS elementary or K-8 school.

For more information on enrollment in MPS kindergarten or the Mandatory Kindergarten Law, call (414) 475-8448.