Early Education in the News

Education News
May 17, 2016

In 2014-2015, the number of students in state-funded preschools in the US rose to almost 1.4 million – an increase of 37,167 students from the previous year. Overall, 29% of 3, 4, and 5-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded preschool programs.

A report released from the National Institute for Early Education Research found a wide range of per-pupil spending programs. For example, New Jersey spends $12,149 for each child enrolled in pre-K compared with $2,304 in Florida and $1,981 in South Carolina.

State funding for pre-K rose by $553 million overall in the 2014-15 year. Spending in New York, which implemented universal pre-K education in New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio, accounted for two-thirds of that increase.

The authors of the report say New York City “provides an example of a city that successfully worked with its state to move an entire state forward, though it remains to be seen how much and how fast progress is extended to the rest of New York state.”

Karen Matthews of the The Big Story writes that the Institute, which advocates early childhood education, is under contract with the National Center for Education Statistics. The report tracks the quality of measures such as class sizes and teacher-training requirements.

May 17, 2016

Tday the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its 2015 State of Preschool yearbook. This annual report presents helpful data on the state of pre-K programs nationally as well as breakdowns of each state’s progress in providing high-quality pre-K services to three- and four-year-olds.

The report details modest gains in pre-K access, quality, and funding across the nation. Average state spending per child enrolled in pre-K increased by $287 in 2015 to a national average of $4,489 per child. This is the third straight year in which average spending has increased, though average spending levels are still lower than they were in 2002 and 2004 (as depicted below). Nationwide, state spending on pre-K rose by about $553 million in 2015, an increase of 10 percent. It’s important to note however, that two-thirds of this funding increase is the result of New York City’s rapid expansion of full-day pre-K under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The number of students enrolled in state-funded pre-K grew modestly in 2015, with an increase of about 37,000 children bringing the total of all children nationwide enrolled in state-funded pre-K to almost 1.4 million. Most of the enrollment gains produced as a result of the New York City pre-K expansion were canceled out by enrollment cuts in other states. Most of the enrollment growth came from three-year-olds, with only about 7,000 more four-year-olds served in 2015 compared to the previous year.

As shown in the graph below, the percentage of the national population of three-year-olds enrolled in state-funded pre-K modestly increased from 4 to 5 percent, while the percentage of four-year-olds remained flat at 29 percent. Steve Barnett, the Director of NIEER, expressed exasperation at the slow pace of government support for pre-K, writing that at the current rate of growth “it will be another 50 years before states can reach all low-income children at age four, and it will take 150 years to reach 75 percent of all four-year-olds.”

Michigan Radio
May 17, 2016

The Flint public school district is expanding early childhood education programs. The three-, four- and five-year-olds at the Great Expectations Early Childhood Program at Holmes STEM Academy are the lucky ones. The waiting list to get into this program is hundreds of names long. But Superintendent Bilal Tawwab says the University of Michigan-Flint is working to expand the program, which he says is critical.

“It always had been, but given the lead in our community is even more critical to activate children’s minds and bodies to combat the effects of lead exposure,” says Tawwab. 

Studies have shown early education and nutrition programs help counter the effects of lead in the body.

“We offer learning opportunities through every chance we get in the classroom,” says teacher Shauna Philips.   

Ashley Smith’s four-year-old daughter Tionna is part of the Great Expectations program. Smith says her daughter is developmentally delayed, and this program is very important for her.

“Having this available is amazing,” Smith says. “I have to bribe her to come home at the end of the day.”

But until now, it’s been very difficult to get their pre-school age children into the program. The waiting list is about 300 names long.

West Hawaii Today
May 16, 2016

State funded pre-kindergarten education still has a long way to go in Hawaii despite significant progress in 2014-15, according to a report by the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research located at Rutgers University and made available by a press release from the Hawaii Children’s Action Network. Hawaii’s Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL) launched a pre-K program in 2014-15, allowing the state’s inclusion in The State of Preschool Report for the first time this year. In its initial year, the EOEL’s program served 365 students in 20 classrooms across 18 schools. Those numbers rose in 2015-16, when the program served 420 4-year-old students in 21 classrooms across 19 schools.

“Hawaii’s economic future depends on early investment in its youngest citizens,” said Deborah Zysman, Executive Director for Hawaii Children’s Action Network. Hawaii ranked seventh in the country in the area of state spending and ninth in all reported spending, but those numbers are per capita figures, not total spending. Each state-sponsored classroom is located within a public school, as Hawaii state law prohibits public funding of privately run preschool programs.

Albuquerque Journal
May 16, 2016

 New Mexico has made strides on pre-kindergarten education, climbing from 28th to 18th in the nation for spending on pre-K programs. The new 2015 State Preschool Yearbook, released last week by Rutgers University’s National Institute of Early Education Research, complimented the state’s “significant progress through a concerted effort to increase enrollment and funding and improve quality.”

A total of 8,397 4-year-olds participated in New Mexico pre-K during the 2014-2015 school year at a cost of $39.6 million, according to the report – a boost from the 7,674 enrolled the year before at a budget of $27.2 million. State spending was $4,722 per child, slightly above the $4,489 national average. In addition, New Mexico met NIEER’s standard on eight of 10 pre-K quality measures, falling short only on degree requirements for teachers and assistant teachers.

Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera said the results reflect her administration’s commitment to early learning. “It shows that we have been responsible in our scaling, but aggressive,” Skandera told the Journal . “We are investing where it matters most and seeing more and more students have the opportunity to participate in pre-K and keeping the quality high, while still increasing the number of students participating and increasing our investments every year.”

Pensacola News Journal
May 16, 2016

The man who is at the top of the state’s heap when it comes to early learning acknowledges the limitations when it comes to talking about what quality should look like. And how a parent can get guidance about how to make a good choice. “Quite candidly, it’s just as challenging as a state administrator,” says Rodney MacKinnon, executive director of the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning. “It’s a complicated issue that has a lot of underlying conflicts in it.” MacKinnon’s office offers a “quality checklist” they encourage parents to use when evaluating a child care center. It recommends visiting at least three centers before choosing one.

“A lot of the things are hard to quantify,” MacKinnon says. “If you walk into a center and the staff are happy, organized, they’re friendly with the parents, who along with the children, are the customer, they have an intentional lesson plan, these things speak to a passion for caring about the kids in a deliberative and intentional manner.

May 16, 2016

Recently the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its annual State of Preschool 2015 report, which ranked Oklahoma fourth in the nation in preschool access for 4-year-olds. While Oklahoma maintained its ranking from the previous school year, the state fell from 26th to 28th in state funding. Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, highlighted the importance of pre-k to Oklahoma’s schoolchildren.

“Oklahoma continues to distinguish itself as a national leader in early childhood education, even while doing more with less. But we have more work to do,” she said. “A parent is a child’s first, and most important, teacher. While we recognize that a nurturing home is every child’s first classroom, in a state with high poverty, access to early childhood education is crucial to shaping the future trajectory of all learners. We are committed to building on our established foundations in order to further positive outcomes for our youngest generation.”

Wisconsin Public Radio
May 16, 2016

Wisconsin ranks sixth in the country for access to free preschool programs for 4-year-olds, according to the annual State of Preschool report from the National Institute of Early Education Research. The institute found 64 percent of Wisconsin 4-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded preschool in 2015, down from 66 percent in 2014 but still more than double the national average of 29 percent. An additional 7 percent of 4-year-olds were enrolled in Head Start, a free, federally funded preschool program for children from low-income households. . .

Part of the reason for Wisconsin’s high rate of preschool attendance is the state’s 4-year-old kindergarten, or 4K,  program. Free, voluntary schooling for 4-year-olds was written into the state’s constitution in 1848. In 2015 95 percent of the state’s eligible school districts offered 4K. School districts that opt to offer the part-time program receive state funds equal to about half the support they receive for older students. Despite the high participation numbers however, the 4K program hit only five of the institute's 10 quality benchmarks, like class sizes of 20 students or fewer.

The Washington Post
May 13, 2016

Universal quality pre-kindergarten has been gaining support around the country for years now, with solid research showing that it has real and lasting benefits for children — despite what critics argue. But, according to a new report, there is a real problem  — while states are making real progress, others are moving at a snail’s pace.

The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University just released its “The State of Preschool 2015,” which details national and state-level data on preschool access and other issues. (You can read it in full here or below.) In this post, W. Steven Barnett, a Board of Governors professor and director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, writes about the report’s findings. You can also see key findings at the bottom of the post.

May 13, 2016

The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least that's my takeaway from the National Institute for Early Education Research's annual Pre-K Yearbook, released today. For over a decade, NIEER's Yearbook has offered the most comprehensive national picture of state-funded pre-K policies, funding and access nationally. If you want to know how many states fund education for 3- and 4-year-olds, how many kids they serve, how much they spend or what kinds of entities can offer pre-K – this is the place to look.

This year's edition, which covers data from the 2014-15 school year, finds little change in national pre-K access from the previous year. A few states – most significantly New York – expanded access to pre-K in 2014-15, but cuts in other states largely counterbalanced this growth. This is becoming a pattern. After growing rapidly in the 2000s, state pre-K programs consistently served about 29 percent of 4-year-olds nationally from 2010-2015. The apparent stability in pre-K access reflects underlying instability at the state level, however. Each year some states cut funds and enrollment while others increase them, and year-to-year pre-K funding often fluctuates significantly within individual states.

May 13, 2016

An annual study shows Arkansas dropped from a ranking of 13 to 22 among states in the nation devoting resources to pre-kindergarten education. The National Institute for Early Education Research found that spending increased for pre-K nationwide in 2015 compared to the previous year, but Arkansas saw about a $1,255 decrease in spending per child despite having about 3,400 more kids enrolled in a pre-K program.

Steve Barnett, director of the NIEER, says the per-child funding decrease hasn’t always been the case. “Historically, Arkansas has been a leader [in offering pre-K]. Arkansas has had greater access for four-year olds and especially three-year olds. But what’s happened since 2008, really, is that the program hasn’t had substantial real increase in funding,” he says. According to the NIEER, last year the state spent $4,372 for every child enrolled in a pre-K program. That was down from a high of $6,165 in 2006.

May 13, 2016

For the tenth year in a row, Alabama’s state-funded, high-quality and voluntary First Class Pre-K program was named the nation’s highest quality pre-kindergarten program. Today’s announcement was made by the National Institute for Early Childhood Education, which annually ranks state pre-k programs for quality based on ten measures. Alabama’s voluntary pre-k program is one of only ten states in the nation to meet or exceed all ten NIEER benchmarks, and only the second state to do so in ten consecutive years. Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance and its Pre-K Task Force, which advocates for the expansion of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program, applauded today’s announcement while pointing out that too many families who want to enroll their four-year-old in the program still lack access to a classroom in their community. “We congratulate state leaders and Alabama First Class Pre-K teachers for building and maintaining the nation's highest quality pre-k program," said Bob Powers, president of The Eufaula Agency and the co-chair of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. "It takes a strong commitment from everyone involved to reach this milestone for ten consecutive years."

Huffington Post
May 13, 2016

Slowly but steadily, states are making progress in the number of students they serve in high-quality, state-funded pre-kindergarten programs. However, this progress is uneven, and leaves out droves of impressionable learners. On Thursday, the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University released its annual report on the state of preschool across America. The group has been tracking the number of children served by public preschool programs since the 2001-2002 school year. The latest report looks at the 2014 -2015 school year and presents an uneven picture of how the country is doing when it comes to serving little learners, although there are some bright spots. . . 

“State pre-K is still far from where it needs to be to ensure that all children receive a high quality education during the year (or two) before kindergarten,” says the report. “If young children are to receive the high quality education that leaves a sustained impact, state policies will have to change. Standards must be raised. Funding should be increased and stabilized. This will happen only if policy makers recognize that high quality pre-K is a necessity, not a luxury that can be passed over when the budget gets tight.”

May 13, 2016

 A study conducted by Rutgers University's National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Rhode Island 41st out of 43 states for the number of 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-kindergarten. The New Jersey university's "State of Preschool Report" judged state-funded preschool programs on class size, student-to-teacher ratio, length of instruction and other standards. Rhode Island was one of seven states to meet all of the institute's standards.

Times Argus
May 13, 2016

Vermont is No. 2 in the country for access to pre-kindergarten, according to a new Rutgers University report — and quality standards, though lagging last year, are expected to improve with the implementation of Act 166 this fall. Access to high-quality preschool is growing modestly nationwide, according to the annual State of Preschool report published by Rutgers National Institute for Early Education Research. But in Vermont, enrollment is shooting up rapidly.

“What stands out for me is the very rapid progress the Vermont has made in moving from a program that a decade ago enrolled only about a third of the kids and today is nearly universal,” NIEER director and Rutgers professor Steve Barnett said Wednesday. “The challenge now is for Vermont to make sure that every child gets a high-quality education.”

Public News Service
May 13, 2016

Virginia isn't doing a good job on early education, according to a new report that says the state continues to lose ground, both in terms of access and funding. Steve Barnett, director for the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, is one of the authors of "The State of Preschool 2015." He says Virginia's early ed funding was cut starting in the recession and is still falling. As a result, Barnett says fewer than one in five state preschoolers can get into a program.

"There's a wall - the kindergarten door," says Barnett. "On one side of it, every child's entitled. On the other - well, it's entirely discretionary. And unfortunately, that's where the biggest inequalities are." In a time of tight budgets, many state lawmakers say they have to make tough choices. Barnett agrees it can be hard to find the resources for good preschool. But he says Virginia already ranks in the lower half of states, and its ranking continues to erode. In the last budget, Gov. Terry McAuliffe increased school funding, but that was largely for public K-through-12 education. 

89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio
May 13, 2016

Even though California spent $45 million more on early education last year than it did the year before, the state only managed to enroll 298 more kids in preschool. That's one of the findings that led the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University to rate the state 28th for early education in its latest annual report.

The annual report is a national snapshot of how states are doing with preschool access and quality. For California it examined the state preschool program, which is available only to low-income children. (The California Department of Education does not count any four-year-old enrolled in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) in its preschool category, as it sees this as the first of a two-year kindergarten program, so TK students were not included in this report.)

California does best when it comes to the number of 3-year-olds in early education, ranking ninth in the nation. But it’s downhill from there.

Chalkbeat Colorado
May 13, 2016

Colorado has sunk closer to the bottom of the pack for state preschool funding, according to an annual report card released Thursday. The state, which spends a paltry amount on preschool per pupil compared to top-scorers like Washington, DC, dropped from 35 to 41 in 2015. Only South Carolina and Mississippi spent less per child than Colorado. Eight other states with no publicly funded preschool programs weren’t ranked. On a measure of 4-year-old preschool access, Colorado’s ranking stayed exactly the same: No. 22. That’s even with a small increase in 2015 in the number of 4-year-olds participating in the Colorado Preschool Program.

The state-by-state comparisons, put out by the National Institute for Early Education Research, also revealed that Colorado meets six of 10 benchmarks designed to judge preschool quality. That number—the same as neighboring Kansas and lower than Nebraska and New Mexico —is unchanged from the previous year.

WCPO Cincinnati
May 13, 2016

A new national report says thousands of three- and four-year-olds are missing out on a valuable pre-K education. The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University says the country's preschools are in dire need of funding. But, at the Educare Denver School and Clayton Early Learning, students are bucking the trend.

"You may hear children using language you'd expect to hear in a science lab," said Charlotte Brantley, President and CEO of Clayton Early Learning. "Things like I'm going to do a study. I'm going to investigate something." The NIEER report includes state-by-state rankings for 2014-2015. New York made notable progress to increase enrollment and funding.

My Statesman
May 13, 2016

After seeing minimal academic improvement among its youngest learners, the Manor school district is pumping an additional $1.2 million into its prekindergarten program.

Beginning in August, the 4-year-olds enrolled in prekindergarten will get a full day of class, as the district does away with half-day pre-K programs and adds more one-on-one time, more science and more math. The district will end its half-day program for 3-year-olds, hoping that more class time and resources spent on the older children will pay off. A new national study published Thursday concludes that smaller class sizes, high teacher quality, analysis of results and fine-tuning of prekindergarten programs to make them work better — such as the steps Manor is taking — is the kind of quality control that’s not happening nearly enough in Texas.

As school districts across Texas look to prekindergarten as a way to help children from low-income families more quickly catch up to their more affluent peers, the study by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University has found the state is missing the mark.