Quality Counts 2015 Gives United States a D+ in Early Childhood and a C in Education

Education Week has released Quality Counts 2015, a report on the state of education across each state as well as a special focus on early childhood. The report’s authors found that even with the increased focused on early childhood learning, the United States as a whole earns a D-plus, while half the states earned grades in the C-minus to C-plus range. As for K-12 education, the nation’s score went down from a C-plus to a C with Massachusetts sitting as the highest ranked state with a B.

Key early childhood stats

  • Nearly two-thirds of children between 3 and 6 years of age are attending school. The majority of these children participate in either preschool (35 percent) or kindergarten (18 percent) programs.
  • Nationally only 35 percent of 3-year-olds participate in preschool and just three states enroll the majority of their children this age. By the age of 4, the national preschool enrollment rate reaches 61 percent, while 45 states enroll the majority of their 4-year-olds.
  • Children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families are less likely to be enrolled in preschool.
  • Forty-eight percent of all 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in some form of schooling. However, only 40 percent of children from low-income families attend preschool, compared with 56 percent of their more affluent peers.
  • Parental education is also strongly tied to participation in early-education programs. Sixty-two percent of 3- and 4-year-olds who have a parent with a postsecondary degree attend preschool, compared with only 41 percent of children without college-educated parents.
  • Preschool enrollment for 3- and 4-year-olds exceeds 50 percent in 10 states and the District of Columbia. For most states, preschool participation rates fall between 40 percent and 50 percent.

“No state really aces the exam on early-childhood education,” said Christopher B. Swanson, Vice President of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit organization that publishes Education Week. “In fact, we find very inconsistent performance across early-childhood indicators, with the majority of states ranking in the top 10 for some areas but in the bottom 10 for others. This speaks to the complexity of early education’s patchwork of laws, institutions, and programs spanning the public and private sectors.”

A key factor in ranking K-12 education is the Chance-for-Success Index, which captures the role of education in a person’s life, from cradle to career. The results show the nation holding steady in its efforts to promote positive learning experiences for youths and opportunities for adults to make good on a good education.

  • The United States received a C-plus. Massachusetts remained the highest scoring state with an A-minus, closely followed by New Hampshire.
  • Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Dakota each received a B-plus.
  • Mississippi and New Mexico received grades of D-plus, and Nevada received a D; they were also the lowest scored states in 2014.
  • Overall, 30 states increased their scores on the Chance-of-Success Index while Delaware and West Virginia had the biggest decreases.

Read Quality Counts 2015 and analysis in Education Week.

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