NIEER released the State of Preschool 2014 today. State pre-K programs may have turned a corner in 2013-2014, but progress remains slow. If pre-K is to be made available to even all children under 200 percent of the poverty level within the next 20 years, state investments will have to grow at a much faster pace. At the 2013-2014 growth rate it would take about 75 years for states to reach 50 percent enrollment at age 4 and 150 years to reach 70 percent enrollment. Even a return to the average rate of growth since 2001-2002 would leave the nation 25 years away from enrolling 50 percent of 4-year-olds in state funded pre-K.
States should set goals to increase enrollment much more rapidly than has been the case in the past, while raising quality standards and providing funding at the level needed to support those standards. Every state is capable of delivering high quality pre-K to all 4-year-olds within 10 years, if they set high standards and commit adequate resources. Many states could reach this goal in less than 10 years.
Many states need to raise their quality standards for pre-K and implement policies to ensure continuous improvement. Without sufficient quality, programs will not fulfill their promise with respect to children’s learning and development or long-term economic returns. NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for quality standards are a starting place for state policy.
Particularly worrying is the number of states with inadequate requirements for preschool teacher preparation. A new Institute of Medicine and National Research Council report calls for all teachers of young children to have a four-year college degree and specialized training. States should create a timeline to ensure that all teachers in state-funded preschool programs obtain these qualifications and that their compensation is comparable to that for K-12 teachers with similar qualifications.
The federal government should offer financial incentives for states to set and achieve ambitious goals for enrollment, quality standards, and adequate funding.
When states do not adequately support high-quality pre-K, communities should act on their own as cities across the nation from New York to Seattle have already done.
We will never reach the numbers of children who need access to high quality, state-funded pre-K without investing in teachers and leaders working in a mixed delivery system. Unlike schools which are led by principals with graduate degrees and specialized training, child care centers are led by directors with minimal education and training requirements. There are only a handful of states in which directors of child care centers are required to have even a two-year degree. It is important to note that the new Institute of Medicine and National Research Council report calls for all lead teachers of young children and child care center and program directors to have a four-year college degree and specialized training.
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It would be interesting to know the amount of money spent on report s sitting on shelves. It might make sense going forward to include the actual cost for implementing recommendations in evidence-based reports. I believe we have the evidence of the need to create and sustain a high quality early care and education system that includes current and future indicators of quality.
I think we can do a good job in our community child care centers and homes. Programs that are enrolling in their states Quality Rating and Improvement Systems have the potential to grow the staff to the educational levels needed. Let’s remember that many public school principals have no training in early childhood education and developmentally appropriate practices, but we seem to trust them to oversee Pre-k programs. Let’s grow both sides of this workforce! Let’s help our low income children access high quality programs because ready by 5 really does matter and remember that the transition to kindergarten begins at birth!
You make valid points here. I like the fact that you included family childcare homes in your response. There are quality family childcare homes out there. The state of Florida offers QRIS programs to centers who have met the 3.5 out of 7 ECERS score. It is a long and tedious process and it depends on the availability of its funding. The funding is what covers the incentives for being accepted as a QRIS preschool site.
The public schools here are trying to take over out state Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program for four year old children. You make a valid point about the principles and teachers not being trained in early education for young children, yet they are allowed to teach our young children. I own and run an early learning facility in Palmetto, FL. Our school-age students who come to us daily with homework and tales of not understanding or knowing how to do their homework.
I feel our Pre-K children are at risk!
Policymakers need to see the importance of both quality and funding for quality, Our preschool teachers are making minimum wages or slightly more than that, Achieving higher education credentials costs these teachers money. They are barely making enough to pay their monthly bills!
Judi is right on so many points. Let’s work on educating legislators and the public about how we can do a great job educating young children in our quality centers and homes .
I found this report very sad and upsetting because even though my state of Florida has provided free education for four year old children, it falls well below in ensuring that NiEER’s 12 Quality Standards are met. The state of Florida only meets 3 of the 12 listed in the report! Our Florida Department of Education (FL DOE) and Florida Office of Early Learning (FL OEL) need to up the bar so that more of the 12 standards are being met. Instead, they argue the lack of funding, rather than how to increase the quality standards,
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