This week the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released an analysis of 59 public pre-k programs in 44 states and the District of Columbia. NIEER’s report relied on Jim Minervino’s 15 Essential Elements framework for high-quality public preschool programs to analyze each program. Minervino’s 15 elements fit into 3 overarching areas: how supportive the program’s environment is, how rigorous the early learning policies are, and how strong the specific program practices are.
Using that framework, NIEER’s report found that state programs are working towards including more essential elements in their programs. This year, the average number of essential elements among states was 6 out of the 15. The report also found that 8 state programs fully met 10 or more of the 15 elements. The full state-by-state analysis can be found here.
The report, which builds on similar research NIEER completed in 2016, shows that six additional states have a supportive political environment for pre-k programs. This strengthened political will can lead to increases in spending, larger program enrollment, and improved program quality.
While many states have made positive gains in implementing and expanding high-quality programs, there are still challenges for state pre-k programs. NIEER’s analysis found that the most challenging element was dosage of pre-k. Less than half of programs were able to offer full day programing, which is important for working families.
Ensuring that children have access to high-quality care and learning in their early years is vital for healthy development and long-term success. States’ commitment to high-quality care and learning will improve school readiness and development for all children served.