The State of Preschool 2015: Please join the conversation

This year at the CEELO Roundtable in New Orleans, Steve Barnett talked about the findings reported in The State of Preschool 2014. He noted that we might be considered to be “on the sunny side of the street,” at the moment: quality is up in some states, Mississippi has a program, more children are enrolled. However: many states don’t have enough money to provide preschool at high standards, and the highest percentage of children are enrolled in states with lowest quality.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 4.28.06 PMThere is still tremendous variation across the states in pre-K—and we don’t see that variation in any other education area. Preschool has shown, however, what states can do in a short period of time. The biggest gain in the decade occurred in Vermont, which was not predicted—and added 82% of children to programs, going from 9% to 91%. Florida went to UPK, from no program. States that are very different can make really tremendous progress over a period of time.

As a national average we’re moving pretty slowly—we need a greater sense of urgency about early education. It would take 75 years to serve 50% of all 4-year-olds. To get to 70%, a figure some use to represent universal access, would take 150 years.

Quality standards are still a big issue, particularly teacher qualifications and pay. We use the examples of Perry and Abecedarian, but we invest on a lower-league scale, which won’t have the same results. Funding differences by state are really extreme; they would not be tolerated in K-12.

Expansion and development grants give us opportunities to build success, measure success. If we put evaluations into place we can have a body of evidence available to build support more quickly for the kind of success we’d like to see.

The State of Preschool is one useful tool to measure progress and improvement. As NIEER gears up to develop the next version and begin gathering data, we are asking for your input. Keep in mind the fact that we gather data from state administrators, who gather it from different sources within states themselves.

  • What kind of changes would you like to see in the Yearbook?
  • Any benchmarks to add? Drop?
  • What additional information would be useful to you?
  • Any variations on what we have?
  • Is there anything about the design and delivery of the Yearbook you would like to change?
  • If we could release the Yearbook any time of year, what would be optimal in terms of informing your state policy or budget processes?
  • We would like to add some special topics from year to year, and report out on findings: any suggestions for what topics would be most helpful to you?

Here are some topics that came up in the Roundtable Presentation discussion. Feel free to build on those or add your own and weigh in using Comments below. (Please note that comments are manually approved, so there may be a delay before your comments show on the site.)

  • More defined enrollment data; reducing duplication; including race, ethnicity, free lunch status, gender, home language
  • Some indicators of actual quality and outcomes
  • More clearly defined hours per day of service
  • Policies related to dual language learners
  • Information about teacher salaries and benefits; comparable to K-12?
  • Teacher retention
  • Evaluation results
    • Do you have an evaluation?
    • Does it show substantial impact?
    • What kind of evaluation? Required legislatively?
  • Child outcome measures and their use
  • QRIS information
  • Context and outcomes, linking to quality benchmarks.
  • Process quality measures (CLASS)
  • OSEP 619; report now, would like to approach that for all students.
  • Engagement of family in pre-K world and K
  • Clarifying funding streams: local schools, counties, Title 1, Head Start.
  • Leadership: Principals, coaching in classrooms
  • Public school pre-K facility licensing/approval
  • Kindergarten assessment
  • Teacher evaluation
  • Early learning standards alignment with K-2

Questions raised. Do you have any to add?

Can we pick one benchmark we should all embrace as states to emphasize or work on to move forward to move things faster?

Can you set a rubric on evaluation? Is the state looking at its results? Is it being used to make changes? How often to visit classrooms? What process measures to use? Which classrooms to visit?

Funding adequacy—is there enough money here to provide a program of sufficient quality and intensity to achieve the goals we want for kids?

Is there a rubric for a continuous improvement process in place: how to structure for reliable scoring for states?

Follow up with early learning challenge grants: measure of how much progress is being made in these grants.

A rubric to assess state agency capacity; organizational model for P-3rd grade?

–Kirsty Clarke Brown


  1. Donald Yarosz on

    You wrote: “Keep in mind the fact that we gather data from state administrators, who gather it from different sources within states themselves.”

    I write:
    What is the capacity of state administrators to answer the above questions?

    Which questions are they able to answer and which ones would be more difficult for them?

    Which questions would require additional resources for them to answer?

    Which questions above might they not be able to answer, but might like to?”

    For example, “Funding adequacy—is there enough money here to provide a program of sufficient quality and intensity to achieve the goals we want for kids?” might be a great question state administrators want to ask/answer, but they may not be in a position to do so. However, it seems to me it would be a very interesting question for NIEER to answer. So, what data does NIEER need to actually answer that question and can state administrators provide that data for an analysis?

    It seems to me that you have questions you can add to the yearbook survey, then questions that could be answered by analyzing yearbook data, then other questions that might require special analyses, such as the question on funding adequacy–that’s a different kind of question. Might it be helpful for readers to think about questions in terms who has the capacity to answer what?

    On the other hand, maybe you are still “brainstorming” here and you will tease out these things somewhere down the road? Anyhow, it is super that you are “taking to the street” these questions and opening up a discussion about it. Best of luck on the new NIEER Yearbook design!


    Donald Yarosz, Ed.D.

  2. Barbara Warash on

    Part day pre-k as an option for parents who arrange to stay home with their children or have other family arrangements

  3. Actual learning outcomes are not predicted by most of the rating systems used for childcare or preschool. An exception to this is the Preschool Essential Skill Inventory, which is used week to week through the year to monitor progress toward crucial outcomes, without being overwhelming to teachers.
    It is past time to expand the discussion of quality beyond “predictors” of success, and actually measure success.

  4. Greetings, wonderful NIEER folks, thank you for this opportunity to think alongside. I was just talking yesterday with someone in NYC who noted a need for a better grasp of the qualifications and PD/TA needs among ECE directors…

  5. Andrianna Smyrniotis on

    Yes, the topics listed are important. I’d also like to see an assessment of higher education teacher education programs (TEPs) and the rigor in these programs. Are grades earned, or given? Higher ed institutions are losing funding, and they need to keep students enrolled to completion. Is there a cost of completion? Are students so powerful that they demand high grades without working for them?

  6. Annie Rooney French on

    It’s wonderful that NIEER has been able to continue publishing the Yearbook. However, please be mindful of the enormous amount of time it takes to compile this information. Perhaps some information could be collected on a cycle such as every 5 years.

  7. The State of Preschool is an invaluable resource for pre-k advocates including the AFT. We applaud NIEER for its focus on assessing quality based on inputs, like workforce training and class size, rather than test scores. We suggest collecting data on workforce compensation, benefits and rates of unionization. Tracking whether or not state law allows for per-pupil educational funding to fund public pre-k students and whether it enable community schools strategies at the prek-12 level would also be beneficial. Thank you for creating such an important resource tool every year.