Ever since the Pew Charitable Trusts stopped funding pre-K advocacy and research projects last year, many of us in the early education field have wondered about the fate of the State Preschool Yearbooks that the National Institute for Early Education Research has been publishing since 2002. After diving into our work here at New America to add pre-K data to the interactive database of our Federal Education Budget Project, I have become even more concerned about the prospect of no longer having information on the proportion of children in Head Start and state-funded early childhood programs in each state, not to mention the important annual pronouncements of whether state funding for pre-K is going up, or, as we've seen in the past two years, in decline.
In a commentary for the Huffington Post this week, I explain why a loss of the preschool yearbooks spells danger for the early education community and would lead to major setbacks in the already uphill battle to make early education (not just for preschool, but for programs and schools across the birth-through-third-grade spectrum) a part of the broader education conversation in this country. I recognize that NIEER's approach to benchmarking quality has been controversial at times, yet the basic mission of the yearbook research and data collection -- to provide solid, comparable data on what pre-K funding and enrollment looks like across the country -- is still sound and sorely needed. In an interview, W. Steven Barnett, director of NIEER, said he would like to expand data collection to include a fuller picture of early childhood, including more childcare programs and data on full- and half-day kindergarten. But those ideas are merely a pipe dream at the moment as NIEER struggles to figure out how to keep the current yearbook in operation.
You can read more in my piece, "Back to the Dark Ages for Preschool: The Crippling Consequences of a Disappearing Data Source." Please let me know what you think. Is there something else to fill the void if NIEER's preschool yearbooks were to close or become a mere shadow of their current selves?