Education Week has released its 19th annual Quality Counts report for 2015 and for the first time in the report’s history, it focuses on early childhood education. Quality Counts 2015 includes the Early Education Index, examining levels of participation, equity and enrollment trends in early learning programs in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Quality Counts 2015 acknowledges the strong momentum and bipartisan consensus on the importance of high-quality early childhood education, as well as new investments at the federal, state and local level. Despite this consensus, the report gives the nation a D+ on the Early Education Index, showing there is much work to be done to improve and expand access to early learning programs that prepare children at all income levels for success. The District of Columbia ranked highest in the Early Education Index, with an overall grade of B+.

Other key findings from Quality Counts 2015 include:

  • Nearly two-thirds of children ages 3 to 6 years old are enrolled in early learning programs
  • Enrollment rates in early education programs increase as children get older
  • Children from low-income families are less likely to be in preschool and enrollment rates are lower for children whose parents do not work full time, are not fluent in English or who have lower levels of education themselves
  • Rates of preschool enrollment vary widely across the states
  • In nearly all states, children from higher-income homes are more likely to attend preschool. Only two states – Montana and Wyoming – have preschool enrollments for low-income children that are higher than children from wealthier homes.

Click here for the full Quality Counts 2015 report, including state-by-state grades.

Quality Counts 2015 is just the latest evidence that we need a substantial federal investment in early childhood education to expand high-quality early learning experiences for young children. As Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Administration continues its efforts to cultivate public-private partnerships through Invest In US and other initiatives, FFYF will continue to push for policies that improve the availability and quality of early education opportunities in this country.