The only organization dedicated solely to helping state boards advance equity and excellence in public education.

Newest Issue of the Standard Considers Preschool for All

Alexandria, VA — Buoyed by evidence of the long-run benefits to children, families, and communities, states have for years been expanding preschool options and enrollment. The state role in early education keeps growing. Authors in the latest issue of NASBE’s State Education Standard document how states have expanded access to quality early education, the research that supports these efforts, and the growing pains these initiatives are likely to experience.

National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) researchers Steven Barnett and Allison Friedman-Krauss lead the issue with a look at the rapid and accelerating growth of state-funded preschool programs, a boon that is likely to continue. They urge state leaders to prioritize access, quality, adequate funding, and continuous improvement to ensure that all children reap the benefits of such initiatives.

A set of articles explores two approaches to state-funded preschool programs and lays out considerations for policymakers. Georgetown University researcher William Gormley has long studied a ground-breaking universal pre-K program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one of the nation’s first. Longitudinal studies by him and his colleagues reveal benefits to students as they move through K-12 and beyond. In another article, David Blau, economics professor at The Ohio State University, questions whether “preschool for all” is the best way to extend access to preschool to the children who need it most. On the grounds of efficiency and equity, targeted preschool programs are the better investment, he writes.

Stanford University’s Deborah Stipek urges greater attention to math instruction early on, noting that disparities in students’ math achievement often are apparent before they even enter kindergarten. But efforts to raise math achievement and close gaps requires attention to both preschool and early elementary grades, as well as alignment of high-quality curriculum and instruction across them, she writes.

Anna Powell, Wanzi Muruvi, and Brandy Jones Lawrence from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at University of California–Berkeley share lessons from California’s statewide launch of transitional kindergarten, including how schools and districts are navigating challenges in system governance, funding, workforce development, and compensation. They also assess the impact on other early childhood education providers.

State board members Leigh Keener and Christine Benson unpack the efforts to expand preschool opportunities in Arkansas and Illinois, respectively. In Arkansas, the LEARNS Act has created a roadmap for the state board to create a more unified system and ensure access to high-quality early childhood education across the state, Keener says. The visionary Smart Start Illinois initiative has expanded early learning opportunities and catalyzed additional investments in kindergarten readiness, Benson writes, and the state’s move to create an agency focused on early childhood aims to improve system alignment.

Read the Spring 2024 Standard, “Preschool for All.”

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at


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