Map Shows Where Preschool Access and Quality Intersect

By Lillian Mongeau — July 13, 2016 1 min read
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Using new data by the National Institute for Early Education Research, The Hechinger Report built an interactive map that shows where preschool access and quality intersect.

Of states offering a public preschool program, the largest category, with 18, are states that have a high-quality program but only offer it to a small percentage (less than 30 percent) of their 4-year-old population. Another five states offer preschool to more than 46 percent of their 4-year-old population, but at a fairly low-quality standard.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia offer high-quality preschool to more than 30 percent of their 4-year-olds. And just four states—Vermont, West Virginia, Georgia and Oklahoma—and the District of Columbia offer high-quality programs to more than half of their 4-year-olds.

For more than a decade, the National Institute for Early Education Research has used 10 quality benchmarks, including things like class size and teacher qualification requirements, to judge state preschool program quality. The Institute has faced criticism for setting the bar too low with its benchmarks, which it has repeatedly called a mere baseline for quality. The new data looked at a broader set of 15 elements that included how much money was being spent per child, how much support was offered to dual-language learners, and other measures Institute researchers hope tie more directly to high quality, rather than just being a baseline for basic sufficiency. What did they find?

“Access to real quality is pretty darn low,” Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, told me for an article I wrote about the state of preschool in the U.S. that accompanied the map.

From the article:

The chance that parents without a high school diploma will be able to place their child in a high-quality preschool program is one in 10, Barnett said. For parents with graduate degrees, the odds are slightly better: one in three.

Not everyone agrees that expanding public preschool is the best use, or even an appropriate use, of federal funds. A look at the data makes it clear that were we to undertake such a project, we’d have a very long way to go.

Graphic courtesy The Hechinger Report.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.