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Preschool Matters Today

Finding Hidden Data Treasure


July 20, 2018
Katherine Hodges and Karin Garver

The State of Preschool 2017 report makes it easy to figure out how many children in your state attend public pre-K. Or whether your state, or others, permits bilingual instruction in pre-K classrooms. And if  someone with only a high school diploma is allowed to teach pre-K in your state.

But if you want to know how old a child has to be to enter kindergarten, what does “full-day pre-K” mean in your state, or whether more children attend pre-K in public schools or community-based centers, the yearbook won’t tell you. But the yearbook’s Appendix A will.

Think of recently published Appendices A through D as one massive footnote to The State of Preschool yearbook—a treasure trove of detailed data on publicly funded preschool programs throughout the US—including Guam!

Celebrating 15 years of publication, The State of Preschool yearbook this year highlights data about 60 state-funded programs in 43 states plus District of Columbia and Guam and measures state pre-K policies against a rigorous set of 10 Quality Standards Benchmarks. Newly released appendices hold all the information state education agencies provide to an annual survey informing each benchmark determination, as well as the answers to many other pre-K policy data points in the yearbook—from state spending per child to policies supporting young Dual Language Learners.

Appendix B includes Head Start data; Appendix C provides census data, and Appendix D shares preschool special education enrollment data. But Appendix A is the motherlode.

More than 100 pages of program-by-program details, Appendix A reveals valuable and crucial details about specific aspects of every state-funded preschool program in the country. Major topic areas include access, eligibility requirements, program standards, early learning standards and curriculum, supports for dual language learners, personnel, funding and finance and accountability and assessment policies. Each topic area encompasses detailed information of specific policies. Don’t be surprised if  you dive in looking for the answer to one question, only to find that you’re compelled to find the answers to many more.

For example, you may wind up asking questions such as:

Which state programs have the largest and smallest administrative staff to support pre-K? (p. 192)
Answer: Guam’s Department of Education Pilot Prekindergarten Program, California’s preschool program, and a few others report just one staff member, while others report many more.

Does my state permit bilingual instruction? (p. 229)
Answer: It may surprise you to see how many states responded that this question was “not  applicable.”

What percentage of teachers have more than and less than a BA degree? (p. 252)

Answer: In some programs no teacher has less than a BA and many have an MA.  In others, a substantial percentage of teachers have no more than a high school diploma. Ten programs could not report this information (check out p. 256 and individual program footnotes for more detailed information).

Which states have a formal evaluation of their pre-K program? Where can I find them? (p. 285-86)
Answer: Forty-four programs reported an evaluation was completed, in process, or being planned, and 24 were able to provide a link to the report.

Do all states require that preschool curricula align with Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS)? (p. 246)
Answer: 14 programs do not require alignment between curricula and ELDs.

Are all districts in my state required to offer pre-K? (p. 193)
Answer: Not every state requires all districts to offer pre-K. In fact, only 7 of 61 programs have this requirement.

How many children enrolled in preschool in my state speak a language other than English at home? (p. 199)
Answer: The data, or lack there of, may surprise you. Fewer than half of all state programs are able to report preschool enrollment by home language.

The State of Preschool yearbook highlights both successes and shortcomings of state-funded preschool programs. But  the yearbook is much more than the executive summary and state profile pages. Thanks to the incredible work of early childhood specialists in state agencies across the US who make time to share their knowledge through NIEER’s annual yearbook survey, we have this invaluable one-stop-shop for all public preschool data needs.

See our new series of Pre-K Data Snapshots

Katherine Hodges is a

Kate is a Research Associate at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) working on NIEER’s State of Preschool yearbook team, helping to develop the yearbook survey, clean survey data and disseminate research. Karin Garver is an Early Childhood Education Policy Specialist at NIEER, where she focuses on national policy trends related to state-funded preschool programs, with particular interest in data systems, systems integration, and preschool finance. Before coming to NIEER, Karin spent almost 16 years with the NJ Department of Education.