New Report Gives Pre-K Policymakers the Building Blocks for School Success

New Report Gives Pre-K Policymakers the Building Blocks for School Success

NIEER analysis outlines deficits, successes and steps to high-quality state preschool programs

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A new NIERR report, Implementing 15 Essential Elements for High-Quality Pre-K: An Updated Scan of State Policies, is designed to help newly elected decision-makers map out agendas to fulfill essential elements for high-quality preschool programming.

A child’s success in school and later in life can depend on high-quality preschool programs – but a recent National Institute for Early Education Research (NIERR) evaluation of 59 state-funded preschool programs in the United States found that many of them failed to meet half of the 15 essential elements used to measure high-quality programming. The essential elements, defined by a 2014 Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation early education study, include smaller class size and increased learning time and can be satisfied or partially met through policy or legislation.

“If our goal is to enhance children’s learning and development in ways that increase later success, then substantial change is required,” said GG Weisenfeld, assistant professor at the Graduate School of Education.

Weisenfeld is the lead author on the new NIERR report, Implementing 15 Essential Elements for High-Quality Pre-K: An Updated Scan of State Policies, designed to help newly elected decision-makers map out agendas to fulfill those essential elements for high-quality preschool programming.

According to the report, the most challenging element for programs to meet is increased learning time; nearly 60 percent of preschool programs offer only part-day programs. Few states have data to report on classroom quality or employ strategies to support children who are learning English as well as another language at home.

The report also outlines how well the 59 programs meet the essential elements.

Most states have early learning standards in place to guide quality pre-k programs, and most meet the goal of having two adults in each pre-K classroom. Another essential element, political will – or an interest among decision-makers to enhance high-quality preschool programming – is growing in many states.

The report complements NIEER’s annual State of Preschool yearbooks. While NIEER yearbooks examine the policies that support state-funded preschool programs, Implementing 15 Essential Elements for High-Quality Pre-K reviews how and the degree to which these policies are implemented.