Quality Counts Finds Uneven Early-Childhood Policies
While 39 states and the District of Columbia together spend more than $1.9 billion a year on prekindergarten for at least some children, states' efforts to finance and monitor the quality of early-childhood education vary greatly, an Education Week report to be released this week concludes.
Quality Counts 2002: Building Blocks for Success, the sixth annual edition of the newspaper's 50-state report card on public education, focuses on state efforts in early-childhood education and care. The 169-page report, which was supported with a grant from the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, was scheduled for release Jan. 7 at a press conference in Washington.
The report examines what all 50 states and the District of Columbia are doing to provide early-learning experiences for young children; ensure that those experiences are of high quality; prepare and pay early-childhood educators adequately; and measure the results of early-childhood programs. In addition, the report examines states' commitment to kindergarten.
The newspaper found that, at best, great unevenness exists in the quality of early-childhood settings—especially when the standards and expectations for prekindergarten and child-care providers are stacked up against those for kindergarten.
Although every state requires kindergarten teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree and a certificate in elementary or early-childhood education, for example, only 20 states and the District of Columbia require teachers in state-financed prekindergartens to meet similar requirements. In 30 states, teachers in child-care centers can begin work without having any preservice training.
"Studies show that the quality of early care and education that young children receive lays the groundwork for future academic success," said Virginia B. Edwards, the editor of Quality Counts 2002 and Education Week. "States are getting that message and investing in early-learning experiences for their youngest residents."
Still, she noted, states have a long way to go in ensuring that all families who want it have access to high-quality early care and education.
Quality Counts 2002 also includes Education Week's report cards on education in the 50 states and, for the first time, the District of Columbia. Among the findings of the state-by-state review: Only 16 states and the District of Columbia test all 3rd through 8th graders in English and mathematics annually. In only nine states are those tests based on state standards, as required by the newly revised federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The report provides updated information for most of the more than 80 indicators used to gauge the health of each state's education system.
Education Week subscribers will receive their copies of the report, dated Jan. 10, by mail. The full report, with extra data, is also available on Education Week's Web site, at www.edweek.org/qc.
Vol. 21, Issue 16, Page 3