West Virginia is fifth this year, behind only Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas and Vermont, in providing access to state-funded early childhood education for 4-year-old children. West Virginia improved from sixth place in the 2004 Yearbook.
The state also is ranked 10th in the amount of money it spends per child at $4,323. In 2004, West Virginia spent $4,556 per child enrolled in preschool, which placed the state 18th nationally.
“The unwavering support of educational and political leaders across the state shows that early childhood education is a priority for West Virginia,” said State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine.
Research shows that high quality preschool improves high school graduation and college attendance rates, employment and earnings and lessens future crime and delinquency. It also helps fight unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drug use.
West Virginia has passed legislation that requires universal preschool be available to all of the state’ 4-year-olds by the 2012-2013 school year. Half of the programs will be in collaborative settings with Head Start, child care and private programs.
While the state has expanded access to prekindergarten for 4-year-olds, it has been forced to limit funding of 3-year-old programs to special needs children because of limited financial resources. The change saw the state’s access ranking among 3-year-olds drop from four in 2004 Yearbook to eighth this year.
The 2005 Yearbook follows a study late last year by the National Institute for Early Education Research that found that West Virginia’s Early Childhood Education Program for 4-year-olds showed improvement in children’s early language, literacy and mathematical development.Children who attended preschool before entering kindergarten knew more letters, more letter-sound associations and are more familiar with words and book concepts.
West Virginia requires prekindergarten teachers to be licensed teachers with BA degrees and certification in early childhood education. The state also has adopted the West Virginia Early Learning Standards Framework, which promotes learning and provides guidelines for assessment, screening, referral and support services.