What the Yearbook Says About Teacher Qualifications

May 28, 2010

Findings from the 2009 State of Preschool yearbook indicate a slow down in the recent trend of increasing standards for teacher qualifications. Overall, for the 2008-2009 school year, 23 out of 38 states with pre-K programs failed to fully meet NIEER benchmarks for teacher qualifications. Qualifications include having a minimum of a BA degree and specialized training in early childhood education.

Consistent with the past two years, only 26 state-funded prekindergarten programs (out of 51) require their lead teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. However, almost all programs require specialized training in early childhood for their lead teachers (44 out of 51 programs). As states continue to deal with large budget deficits, there’s always the danger that current requirements could be watered down and/or eliminated from state policies. Proposals to upgrade teacher qualifications could also be put on the back burner.

During the 2008-2009 school year, there was a slight increase in the number of programs meetings the benchmarks for assistant teacher qualifications. Even so, only 14 out of 51 programs require assistant teachers to have at least a Child Development Associate credential or equivalent.

See how your state compares to these findings in this Yearbook teacher qualifications data table by clicking the image below. It contains information on types of required teaching certifications, in-service requirements, state supports for teacher education and salary information. For complete information on state-funded preschool programs, go to the 2009 Yearbook Interactive Database.

— Dale J. Epstein
Assistant Research Professor, NIEER

Yearbook Teacher Qualifications Data

Leadership Matters: Governors’ 2011 State Pre-K Budgets Run the Gamut

May 20, 2010

If all of the governors’ FY 2011 budgets were to pass as proposed, total state pre-K funding would remain roughly the same as FY 2010 – about $5.3 billion, says Pre-K Now’s just-released Leadership Matters report. Beyond the national total, however, lie big variations, ranging from expansion plans in Alabama to elimination of state pre-K in Arizona. Among the highlights are these:

Nine governors would increase pre-K investments. These proposals would increase funding for early learning in these states by a total of $78.5 million.
Three states and the District of Columbia anticipate an increase for pre-K through their school funding formulas.
Ten governors are proposing to flat fund pre-K. These proposals maintain funding for early learning at FY10 levels and include Alaska and Rhode Island, which both started new programs in FY10.
Twelve governors are proposing to decrease pre-K funding. In these states, early learning investments would decline by a total of $100.6 million.
Ten states continue to provide no state-funded pre-K.

This year’s report is a handy resource because it’s online and interactive, with a search feature that provide metrics on pre-K funding for a given state, including the five-year trend, a snapshot of the governors’ stances on pre-K, and even a glance at pre-K in neighboring states.

Of course, governors don’t always get what they want, so this picture is likely to change, not least because of the tough choices state leaders must make in the current recessionary environment. That’s one reason Pre-K Now project director Marci Young is calling on Congress to include incentives in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind Act reauthorization) that strengthen state investments in pre-K.

Using The State of Preschool 2009: What You See In Print is Only Part of What You Get

May 14, 2010

Each year, when we publish the NIEER State of Preschool Yearbook, we rank the various state pre-K programs based on children’s access to them and resources allocated to pre-K in each state. Beyond these rankings, however, there’s lots to learn from the print edition and even more in the online edition, which contains an informative appendix.

For each pre-K initiative, the print edition has a profile page with an overview of the program’s evolution and specific information on access, quality standards, and resources for the program. What many may not realize is there is also a multitude of additional information that we collect, analyze, and post online. That’s where we make available data on policies pertaining to eligibility criteria, operating schedule, program standards, early learning standards, personnel, monitoring, and family engagement. There’s also supplementary information on access, quality standards, and resources.

For the first time, these online data are available in an interactive format that enables users to access state-specific information on a variety of measures. With this tool, they can see where their state ranks, gather information on specific topics of interest, or look at pre-K programs in a particular region of the country.

To view the interactive dataset and see how your state is doing, you can go to http://stateofpreschool.org/. The entire report can be found at www.nieer.org/yearbook. In future blog posts, we’ll be looking at how the new yearbook data inform such topics as ELL standards, teacher pay and qualifications, curriculum, monitoring, and quality.

Dale J. Epstein

Assistant Research Professor


Education Can “Shore Up” New Jersey’s Image

May 10, 2010

Linda Darling-Hammond’s recent lecture at the Education Law Center in Newark could not have come at a more appropriate time for concerned New Jersey educators. Except for heated debates between a newly elected governor and the New Jersey Education Association, the only notoriety that New Jersey has received lately has been Jersey Shore, a silly reality television show glorifying bar-hopping, fake tans and unruly hair poufs. Surely, New Jersey has more to offer than “GTL” (that would be gym, tan, laundry) and the popular show’s cast of mostly non-Jersey residents. Darling-Hammond’s lecture highlighted New Jersey’s progress as a national leader in education and her comments came against a backdrop of harsh economic reality that many in the audience clearly felt could have a deleterious effect on that progress in the form of imminent budget cuts.

Darling-Hammond, who is a Stanford University professor and nationally-known education policy expert, said that because of the state’s Abbott program, inequities between districts have been minimized, enabling minority students the opportunity to better succeed. Her point was that New Jersey’s outcomes should be looked to by other states and federal policymakers as they address the vast disparities that continue to exist among the nation’s schools and hinder the progress of our students. Darling-Hammond made no political comments, but she did stress that the gains that have been made over the past ten years here in the Garden State need to be continued.

One of the most attention-grabbing statistics that Darling-Hammond shared was that even though New Jersey boasts demographic diversity that’s similar to California, minority students in New Jersey scored higher on one test than did average students in California. Even naysayers should agree that this is a testament to the fact that the system in New Jersey has been working and that it should not be cut off in the prime of its game. Darling-Hammond’s praise is especially uplifting, coming, as it does, in the midst of the most passionate education debate the state has seen in a long while, one in which teachers have been the target of negativity on radio stations and newspaper blogs. As a former Camden teacher, Darling-Hammond made it clear that investing in teachers is the key to successful school finance. “Standards can’t teach themselves,” she said.

In a time when a majority of folks voted down their local school budgets and others rally for school choice, it seems that some of the data that Darling-Hammond so eloquently presented should be wider spread and better known by New Jersey voters. Maybe voters would take more notice if she got herself a fake tan and pouf hair-do!

— Alex Figueras-Daniel

Research Project Coordinator, NIEER

Steven Barnett: Thoughts on the State of Preschool

May 4, 2010

Today I visited a wonderful publicly funded preschool program run by the AppleTree Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.  In D.C., 40 percent of 4-year-olds attend the District’s preschool programs and nearly a quarter of the 3-year-olds.  The programs meet high standards and are adequately funded.  I don’t know if all of them are up to the high standards of AppleTree, but I do know that far too few children in the rest of the nation have the opportunity to attend such programs.  In fact, I think we may have reached a peak in 2009 when one-quarter of all children attended a state pre-K program at age 4, and things have turned worse since.

Preschool-age children across the country are feeling the impact of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Many parents no longer can afford pre-K for their children.  Yet, at a time when the need for publicly funded preschools is growing in almost every state, the recession has led states to cut back on early education programs. Young children are caught in this squeeze play.

The State of Preschool 2009, a survey that ranks each state’s support for preschool education and tracks those efforts over time, shows a pause in what had been a rapid increase in state preschool programs.  In some states enrollment has been cut back to the lowest levels in many years. Other states have cut quality standards or reduced the amount they spend per child.

As a result, the immediate future of pre-K seems much more perilous than past trends might suggest. Looking ahead, some states have already cut pre-K spending for 2011, including Arizona which has totally eliminated funding for preschool.  Cuts are being intensely debated in other states.

We hope that our 2009 survey’s data on enrollment, quality standards, and funding will help inform these debates.  I will briefly review the results.

Last year total enrollment in state-funded pre-K increased, but not in every state.  In nine states—Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oklahoma— the percentage of children enrolled actually declined. Although some of these declines are quite small, the need has increased, and many American children, particularly those in middle-income working families lack access to quality preschool education. Read the rest of this entry »

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