CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia's youngest citizens are getting the kick-start they need to succeed. According to The State of Preschool 2014 Yearbook released by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), West Virginia is one of the leading states providing every child access to high quality preschool education.
"By focusing our attention on meeting the educational needs of our youngest children, we establish a strong foundation for academic success before their first day of kindergarten," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. "West Virginia's Universal Pre-K Program is a national leader, and we will continue to work with all levels of our education system to create the highly trained future workforce West Virginia businesses want."
The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) today, during its monthly board meeting, honored West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) staff members who work daily to enhance the state's Universal Pre-K programs.
"The work being conducted by the WVDE in collaboration with the DHHR is vital to the future success of our state," said Gayle Manchin, WVBE president. "It is a great honor to be recognized on a national level for our innovative and progressive work establishing the Universal Pre-K Program in West Virginia. The students are the true benefactors."
The State of Preschool 2014 Yearbook indicates that about 70 percent of four-year-olds in West Virginia are enrolled in the state's Universal Pre-K Program for a ranking of fifth in the nation for access for this age group. The state ranks seventh for access for three-year-olds. West Virginia now meets nine of ten quality standards benchmarks monitored by NIEER. It met the teacher bachelor's degree benchmark for the first time in the 2013-2014 school year, part of a gradual plan to increase personnel requirements in the program. The program also increased the number of instructional days per year from 108 to 128 and the number of instructional hours per week from 12 to 14. Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, all programs will operate full day (300 minutes per day) for no less than 160 days per instructional year.
"Collaboration with the Governor's Office, other state agencies and the West Virginia Legislature is what has allowed our preschool programs to thrive," said Lloyd Jackson, WVBE member and one of the originators of the state's Universal Pre-K legislation. "Children who attend high-quality pre-K programs enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies and stronger basic math skills. Research also shows that high-quality pre-K can decrease dropout rates, crime and delinquency, and improve health. These are all things that align with our One Voice, One Focus: All Students Achieving vision plan."
West Virginia's Universal Pre-K Program is credited with boosting preschool enrollment statewide. From 2002 to 2013, preschool enrollment of four-year-olds increased from 24 percent to 73 percent. Across the state, more than 15,000 children are enrolled in 1,031 West Virginia Universal Pre-K classrooms. During the 2013-14 school year, 74 percent of the classrooms were in collaboration with community partners, including childcare centers and Head Start programs.
On a national level, for the second year in a row, NIEER's data show that states have increased funding for pre-K. Adjusted for inflation, state funding for pre-K increased by nearly $120 million in 2013-2014 across all 50 states and Washington, DC. Enrollment growth also resumed with a total increase of 8,335 slots to reach its highest level recorded over the report's 12-year history.
"It is heartening to see state funded pre-K, once the fastest growing area in the entire education sector, back on the road to recovery," said NIEER director Steve Barnett.
For more information, contact Liza Cordeiro in the WVDE Communication Office at 304-558-2699. To view a full version of The State of Preschool 2014 Yearbook, visit http://nieer.org/yearbook.