For Immediate Release: June 2, 2021
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has recognized the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Early and Elementary Learning as one of four effective state offices of early learning (SOELs). Released today as part of NIEER’s Effective State Offices of Early Learning study, the WVDE is credited for its long-standing commitment to early learning and the state’s high-quality Universal Pre-K Program. Alabama, Michigan and New Jersey are the other states recognized as part of the four-year research initiative.
Early childhood programs are an essential component of the education infrastructure as they provide a foundation upon which a child’s academic, social-emotional and developmental success are rooted. NIEER’s research focused on the ability of SOELs to build sustainable systems of effective early education that adapt to state-level changes while staying focused on goals for children and families.
“We are elated that NIEER continues to recognize our years of hard work and continued vision for early learning in West Virginia,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “The commitment of the Department and our partners aims to ensure all West Virginia children receive the highest quality services available to them at an early age so they are more likely to achieve lifelong success.”
“Ongoing support from the State Board of Education to set effective policy and from the state legislature to prioritize early learning with dedicated funding are a testament to our support of these initiatives,” said West Virginia Board of Education President Miller Hall. “This national platform helps to tell the story of how important early and elementary education are in our state.”
The West Virginia Universal Pre-K Program boasts a 76 percent participation rate based on 4-year-olds who go on to attend the state’s kindergarten program as 5-year-olds. West Virginia Universal Pre-K enrolled more than 15,000 children, which census data notes is 68 percent of 4-year-olds in the state. Nationwide, state-funded preschool program enrollment continues to grow, serving more than 1.6 million children; however, just a third of 4-year-olds are enrolled in public preschool programs nationwide.
The report further credits the WVDE as being innovative in leveraging resources and fostering “cross-agency collaboration” for the benefit of children. The state’s Universal Pre-K met nine out of 10 NIEER quality standard benchmarks and ranks eighth in the nation for per-pupil funding.
The full NIEER report can be accessed by visiting the NIEER website at www.nieer.org with West Virginia’s case study detailed on pages 81-103.
For more information on West Virginia’s Universal Pre-K program, visit https://wvde.us/early-and-elementary-learning/wv-early-learning-spotlight/.
For media inquiries, contact Christy Day, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications, at 304-558-2699 or Christy.Day@k12.wv.us.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) conducts academic research to inform policy supporting high-quality, early education for all young children. Such education promotes the physical, cognitive and social development needed for children to succeed in school and later life. NIEER provides independent, research-based analysis and technical assistance to policymakers, journalists, researchers, and educators.