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Laying a solid floor: What’s important to know about the NIEER pre-K benchmarks

February 15, 2016
OutcomesQuality and CurriculumState & Local
Steve Barnett
Ed Central

From the very first State of Preschool Yearbook, NIEER tried to be quite clear about what the benchmarks do and do not mean: “These benchmarks do not represent a high standard of excellence, but are viewed as important minimums for an educationally effective preschool program…”. We added: “This checklist should not be interpreted as implying that these are the only aspects of a program that are important for quality.” NIEER also has emphasized that the 10 are not all equal so that simply adding them up does not provide a strong basis for comparing states even on these aspects of quality.

As we continue to survey states and publish the State of Preschool we will change the benchmarks to reflect new research and the evolution of state pre-K (though it will still be possible to calculate the old benchmarks to track change over time). We are the process of considering major changes for the 2015-16 survey and report. In addition, we are examining the feasibility of introducing a fourth major element in the report: a more direct indicator of teacher-child interactions. This will not obviate the need for the benchmarks for standards–even if we had such measures for every state they also are less than perfect–but it will help focus attention on quality beyond the benchmarks. Stay tuned.