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Through most of American history, all early childhood education was provided at home since school systems did not assume any responsibility to educate children prior to first grade. The situation began to change during the second half of the 19th century, as a variety of kindergarten programs emerged to prepare preschool-aged children for socialization and the beginning of elementary school learning and as federal legislation addressed the needs of children with disabilities. This entry describes the scope of legislative and agency efforts in these areas.

Until recent years, most states did not require kindergarten programs. However, some states have enacted laws that require children to attend kindergarten prior to entering standard elementary education. At the same time, legislative efforts have been initiated at both the federal ...

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