NIEER Benchmarks Inform CityHealth Report Listing Best Big Cities for Pre-K

New Brunswick, NJ – A new national report assessing how the largest U.S. cities address health and well-being issues awarded “gold medals” for high-quality preschool programs to Boston, Charlotte, Nashville, New York City and San Antonio, using National Institute for Early Education Research quality standards benchmarks.

CityHealth, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, offers a close look at whether the nation’s 40 largest cities have nine key policies in place that experts say help residents lead healthier lives and make communities thrive. CityHealth awarded each city a gold, silver, bronze, or no medal, according to their performance in the assessment. The group also awarded nine policy-specific medals to each city, according to the quality and strength of the laws in place, which address affordable housing, safe streets, and food safety, among other issues.

Nationwide, 33 out of 40 cities received a medal for high-quality Pre-K, which are two more cities (Albuquerque and Seattle) than in 2017. Medals for preschool were based on policy analysis by NIEER Assistant Research Professor GG Weisenfeld and Senior Co-Director Ellen Frede, using 10 benchmarks of pre-K quality standards used to assess policies supporting quality in the annual State of Preschool report as well as the percentage of children served as of October 2017.

Municipal preschool programs are a sound investment building upon a long tradition of local control on education issues, said W. Steven Barnett, NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director. Cities have often led the way in expanding access to education, establishing the first comprehensive high schools and community colleges.

“Today, the innovative frontier for a better education is in the early years,” Dr. Barnett said. “Cities have far more of the children and families who suffer from inequality of opportunity and its long-term consequences–and cities will benefit most from correcting the problem.”

Access to high-quality pre-K benefits children and their communities throughout the course of their entire lives – it helps raise children’s lifetime wages, high-school graduation rates and years of education completed, reduce crime and teen pregnancy, and improve health outcomes.

Cities earning a silver medal include Albuquerque, Chicago, Detroit, KC, Louisville, Philadelphia, Seattle, Virginia Beach.

Bronze medals were awarded to Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, El Paso, Fresno, Fort Worth, Houston, Jacksonville, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Memphis, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington, D.C.

Several cities failed to qualify for a medal for preschool, including Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Mesa, Phoenix, Portland, Tucson and Columbus OH.

For more information about the CityHealth Initiative, contact Liz Voyles at 202-297-9641

The National Institute for Early Education Research ( at the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy and practice through independent, objective research. For more information, contact: Michelle Ruess 848-932-4350 or