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

State Boards Can Be Key Players in Improving Early Childhood Education

For Immediate Release: January 24, 2018

Contact: Michael Spaeth,, 703-684-4002

State Boards Can Be Key Players in Improving Early Childhood Education

Alexandria, VA — Recognizing the importance of early childhood education (ECE), federal and state governments have been investing billions of dollars to serve the nation’s youngest children. Yet many children still enter elementary school unprepared, and their K-12 schooling largely fails to close those initial gaps. State boards of education have authority that positions them to be key players in improving early education. A new NASBE Education Leaders Report discusses opportunities for state boards to use this authority to improve ECE policy in their states.

Analysis of the varied state board roles reveals several key areas in which they exercise authority over ECE:

  • Teacher Workforce: In all, 32 state boards have authority over preK-12 teacher licensure, 28 approve teacher preparation programs, 15 oversee teacher professional development programs, and 13 oversee evaluation systems for early educators. For example, Kansas worked with a consortium of higher education institutions to align preparation programs with early childhood unified license requirements. As part of NASBE’s ECE network, the New York Board of Regents is revisiting its core competencies and licensure structure.
  • Leader Workforce: There are 24 state boards that determine principal licensure, 7 with authority in principal preparation, 12 that oversee principal professional development programs, and 13 that oversee principal evaluation methods. Nebraska, for example, plans to enhance its Principals Early Childhood Leadership Program by providing video-based training aligned with priorities the state board identifies for ECE.
  • Financing: In 31 states, state boards maintain some degree of authority over funding and allocations for K-12 children, whether it be manifested in the form of grants or budgetary approvals.
  • Early Learning Standards and Guidelines: Sixteen state boards oversee early learning standards, and others develop guidelines for children from age 3 to 5. Illinois’s state board, for example, in 2013 amended the state’s standards after convening researchers, policy experts, and stakeholders from public and private schools, Head Start, colleges, and community-based early care and learning programs to collaborate on the revision.
  • Kindergarten Entry Assessments: Thirty-three states have developed policies and resources for the kindergarten entry assessment, and the state boards in Colorado, Illinois, and North Carolina have the authority to approve this assessment and related tools for their schools to use. Colorado’s state board worked with its department of education to convene experts and other stakeholders on school readiness assessment. North Carolina’s board similarly collaborated in 2012 on a process for K-3 formative assessment.
  • Child Care: Although state boards typically do not have authority over child care programs, Iowa, Louisiana, and North Carolina do. In Louisiana, for example, the state board establishes statewide minimum standards for the health, safety, and well-being of children in early learning centers.  
  • Head Start: Under ESSA, each local education agency (LEA) receiving Title I funds is to “develop agreements” with Head Start agencies and, if feasible, other early childhood education entities. State boards can issue guidance to LEAs on how to make such local coordination fruitful.

NASBE has been deeply committed to advancing ECE for decades. From its influential task force report “Right from the Start” in 1988 to its current cohort of ECE network states, NASBE has been working closely with state boards, state education agencies, and other state agencies to support the delivery of quality services to children and their families. Through cohorts of ECE networks, state boards have advanced research-informed standards, curriculum, assessments, and teaching practices. They have also strengthened teacher preparation and professional development in line with research.

“ECE has an undeniably direct connection to college and career readiness, yet current state policies are not adequate to support it,” writes author Winona Hao. “By investigating and applying state boards’ authority in collaboration with other state leaders, states can develop more effective policies.”

Read and share the NASBE Education Leaders Report “The Role of State Boards in Improving Early Childhood Education.”

NASBE is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and ensure continued citizen support for public education. Learn more at


Featured Items


New State Strategic Plans Zero In on Learning Recovery

This NASBE analysis looks at 49 state strategic plans and finds many target learning recovery and other pandemic-related education issues.
A diverse group of preschoolers in a classroom i

Preschool for All

The state role in early education keeps growing. This Standard details the ways that states have expanded access to quality preschool, the research that supports these efforts, and the growing pains these initiatives are likely to experience.
Photo Credit: iStock i

Six Questions to Advance Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship

Adolescents consume a lot of screen media, which exposes them to potentially harmful media messages that impacts their physical, mental, and social well-being. Read how some states are equipping students with skills to navigate a complex media landscape.

Upcoming Events

From the States