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NC Pre-K one of only two state preschool programs in the nation that measure teaching quality and meet standards

January 18, 2019
Mandy Ableidinger
NC Early Childhood Foundation

NC Pre-K provides high-quality preschool to eligible four-year-olds in North Carolina. The state’s preschool program scored significantly better than the average state preschool program on a recent nationwide assessment of preschool quality. NC Pre-K scores well on having rigorous, well-articulated early learning policies and using best practices.

Notably, North Carolina is:

  • One of only two state preschool programs in the nation that measure and meet standards for high quality teaching;
  • One of only nine programs judged to have effective curriculum;
  • One of only 14 programs that meet criteria for high quality professional development; and
  • One of only 16 programs judged to make data-driven decisions.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the state still has room for improvement on political will, a strong state vision and leadership for preschool, having an integrated system, compensation of teachers, and supporting students with special needs and dual language learners.

NIEER rated 57 programs (some states have more than one program), based on data from the 2017-18 academic year. NC Pre-K fully met nine of NIEER’s 15 “essential elements” characterizing high-quality preschool programs, and partially met the other six. Only two other preschool programs in the nation either met or partially met all 15 elements—Alabama and the Abbott program in New Jersey. The average state preschool program in the nation fully met six elements.

While some of the elements have strict, easily-measurable criteria (i.e., adult-child ratios), others are more subjective (i.e., compelling vision and strong leadership). NIEER warns that practice in the field may vary and be either better or worse than would be expected from a particular policy or guidance.

See NIEER’s report for descriptions of how they defined and measured the 15 elements.