Wednesday, May 31, 2017

NIEER State of Preschool Yearbooks Shows Washington State Among Leading States in Resources, Quality

Each year the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) produces a national report, The State of Preschool Yearbookon state-funded preschool programs with detailed information on enrollment, funding, teacher qualifications, and other policies related to quality. Decades of research shows that early childhood education can prepare children for greater success in elementary school and beyond, with benefits largest for the most disadvantaged-- but only if quality is high. 

Some highlights specific to Washington State include:
  • Washington boosted funding by 26 percent for its Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and improved its relatively low enrollment of both 3- and 4-year-olds, according to the 2016 State of Preschool Yearbook released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
  • Washington’s funding for ECEAP exceeded $97 million while enrollment totaled 11,691 children, about 6.5 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in the state. 

“Early childhood education is a great investment,” said NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. “We see Washington making progress on enrollment and spending but more work is needed to expand access to the high-quality pre-K that helps children get the best possible start in life.”

In Washington: 
  • Total funding for ECEAP was $97 million, up 26 percent or almost $20.3 million, adjusted for inflation from 2014-2015. 
  • Enrollment increased 16 percent, or 1,600 additional 3- and 4-year-olds compared to 2014-2015. 
  • Washington served almost 9 percent of 4-year-olds, ranking 32nd out of 44 states, the same as last year. The state also served more than 4 percent of 3-year-olds, ranking 17th out of the 29 states that serve 3-year-olds. 
  • Funding per child was $8,305, up $693 from 2014-2015. Washington ranked 4th on state resources per child, up from 8th last year. 
  • ECEAP meets nine of NIEER’s current quality standards benchmarks; the program does not require lead teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. 
  • Washington’s Department of Early Learning identified a new strategic goal to ensure 90 percent of the state's children are kindergarten-ready by 2020.

Current benchmarks were designed to help states build programs, focusing on resources and policies related to the structural aspects of public pre-K—elements needed for a high-quality program but not fully defining one. This year, NIEER is introduced major revisions to the policy benchmarks raise the bar by focusing on policies that more directly support continuous improvement of classroom quality. State profiles in the 2016 Yearbook include both current and new benchmark scores.

Washington met seven of NIEER’s new quality standards benchmarks, including the new requirement for supports for curriculum implementation. They also meet the new requirement for early learning and development standards that are culturally sensitive, supports, and aligned with other state standards and child assessments. However, current policies fell short on requiring 15 hours of ongoing professional development per year for assistant teachers and professional development plans for all lead and assistant teachers. Washington is engaged in work to bolster state-pre-K quality as they work to serve all eligible children.

Read the full report on the State of Preschool 2016 or the Executive Summary.

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