After years as one of only a handful of states receiving perfect 10 out of 10 ratings on the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) preschool quality standards, NC has slipped a notch in the annual State of Preschool 2016. NIEER revamped their standards for the first time this year, and NC’s Pre-K program hits 9 out of 10 of the new standards. Only two states – Alabama and Rhode Island – meet all 10 new benchmarks, while six states, including North Carolina, meet all 10 of the old benchmarks.
NC stumbles on a benchmark about assistant teacher training. The old benchmark requires only lead teacher training – 15 hours per year. NC Pre-K meets that standard with flying colors, requiring teachers to have 80 hours of training per year, professional development plans, and coaching. The new benchmark specifies 15 hours of training, individual professional development plans, and coaching for lead and assistant teachers, which NC does not currently require.
The new standards are intended to support practices that are directly linked to the quality of children’s experiences in the classroom, rather than focusing on inputs or structure. NIEER notes that since the standards are just being released, states have not yet had the opportunity to revise their policies in response, and that change can take time.
NC ranks 25th in the nation in access to preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds this year according to NIEER, down from 24th last year. Unlike some states, NC does not serve 3-year-olds in the NC Pre-K program.