The State of State Prekindergarten Standards in 2003




Susan B. Neuman
Kathleen Roskos
Carol Vukelich
Douglas Clements

Today, an increasing number of states support school readiness programs, recognizing that high quality early childhood education positively affects all children's success in school and the quality of their future. Research confirms that these benefits are especially pronounced for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom have had limited educational experiences. These studies provide further evidence that education cannot be postponed until children reach school-age; rather, nurturing early educational environments employing research-based practices provide a critical foundation for children's later achievement.

Recent federal initiatives, including Good Start Grow Smart, the revised guidance for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) state plans, and the reauthorization of Head Start, call upon states to enhance these efforts, by developing or rigorously reviewing their prekindergarten guidelines or standards in literacy, language, and mathematics to be in alignment with state K-12 standards. Quality prekindergarten standards are a critical part of a state's architecture in developing systems of service delivery for young children, serving to frame content and curriculum, professional development, and assessments for the benefit of helping children develop school readiness skills.

This report examines the quality of state prekindergarten standards in language, literacy, and mathematics. Recognizing that states are at various stages of development, the analysis was designed to highlight quality standards, and to provide feedback to states in the process of establishing, reviewing, or strengthening prekindergarten standards. In this policy brief, we describe our methods, and analytic tools for examining quality. We encourage State Department early childhood specialists to request individual rating scores for their state by contacting


As part of the Good Start Grow Smart initiative, Early Childhood Academies were designed to promote best practices and to encourage greater coordination and collaboration across early childhood programs and funding streams. In preparation for the Academies, content specialists, working with the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, were charged with developing criteria for what constituted quality standards in language, literacy and mathematics. Following an extensive literature search, and series of discussions, the following criteria were established:


Method for Examining Standards

            Standards and indicators in language, literacy, and mathematics for each state were coded by at least two experts in each of the requisite fields. Reliability was established, followed by selective re-codings to further ensure quality. Exemplars of strong and weak indicators were selected to help states better understand criteria.

Rating scores were determined as follows:

Percentages were converted to grade designations: 90-100% A, 80-89% B, 70-79% C, 60-69% D, and below 60% F. To provide clear guidance to states, grades were given in each category, along with an overall grade.

Next Steps

      CIERA intends to provide helpful feedback to state directors of early childhood on state prek standards, prior to publishing these data. Individual state reports will be generated, and distributed to state contacts, followed by discussions with the authors of the report.