Report: The Road to High-Quality Early Learning

The Road to High-Quality Learning: Lessons from the States released by Learning Policy Institute describes and analyzes how four states—Michigan, West Virginia, Washington, and North Carolina—have built high-quality early education systems. It is based on reviews of policy documents, studies, and data in each state, as well as observations of programs and interviews with 159 individuals, including policymakers, program administrators, providers, teachers, parents, advocates, and researchers. These states exemplify an array of promising practices that are designed to meet a state’s needs and to satisfy its priorities.

Michigan offers high-quality prekindergarten that is targeted for low-income children. It has restructured program administration to facilitate coordination across the early care and education system and made program- improvement strategies routine.

West Virginia makes preschool available to all 4-year-olds, paying for the program with general school aid dollars. It offers communities considerable autonomy in program design and evaluation, and requires collaboration across private providers, schools, and Head Start.

Washington follows the Head State model, offering a range of wraparound services to the state’s most vulnerable students. Through intensive coaching and rigorous standards, the state is improving home-based child care as a way to expand access to quality early education programs.

North Carolina offers a “one-stop shop” at the local level, offering an array of birth-to-five services for low-income families. The state pioneered the development of a quality rating system and supports teachers to build their skills through training and salary supplements.

To make engaging, age-appropriate programs a reality, each of the states relies on common overarching strategies: establishing standards for quality and systems that incentivize improvement; investing in knowledgeable and skilled educators; coordinating and aligning early education programs; seeking sufficient funding sources and mechanisms; and building broad-based support.

Lessons From the States:

  1. Prioritize Quality and Continuous Improvement.
  2. Invest in Training and Coaching.
  3. Coordinate the Administration of Birth-Through-Grade-3 Programs.
  4. Strategically Combine Multiple Funding Sources to Increase Access and Improve Quality.
  5. Create Broad-Based Coalitions and Support.

For more on the report:

Fact Sheet

Invest in our Children!