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W.Va. Schools Serving More 4-year-olds Than Most States

April 02, 2007

CHARLESTON, W.Va. _ West Virginia is providing better access to preschool programs and dedicating more dollars to the effort than most other states in the country.  

The State of Preschool: 2006 State Preschool Yearbook compiled by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University ranks all 50 states on access to, resources for and quality of state preschool initiatives in the 2005-2006 school year.  

West Virginia is sixth this year in providing access to state-funded early childhood education for 4-year-old children. The state also is ranked 10th in the amount of money it spends per child at $4,529, up from $4,323 in 2005.  

“Educational and political leaders across West Virginia have made early childhood education a priority,” said State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “Our solid ranking in this report illustrates that support.”  

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.  

“In economic terms, high quality preschool has returned to the individual and the public up to $17 on every $1 invested,” said National Institute for Early Education Research Director W. Steven Barnett.  

West Virginia has passed legislation that requires universal preschool be available to all of the state’s 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 contributed to the state’s access ranking among 3-year-olds dropping from four in 2004 Yearbook to eighth this year.  

Overall, West Virginia met seven of 10 benchmarks for quality preschool. Those include having comprehensive learning standards; specialized teacher training;15 hours of teacher in-service; maximum class size of 20; a staff-child ratio of 1:10; screening referrals for vision, hearing, health, dental and support services; and site visits and other monitoring.  

The state requires prekindergarten teachers to be licensed teachers with BA degrees and certification in early childhood education but allows those with an associate’s degree to work on permit. West Virginia also requires teacher assistants have only a high school diploma, while the national standard calls for specialized training. West Virginia also requires meals be served only at preschool programs that meet 12 hours a week, while the national benchmark calls for meals at all programs.  

For more information, contact Cathy Jones, early childhood coordinator, at (304) 558-2696, or the Communications Office at (304) 558-2699.

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