Not long ago, Illinois was getting more kids into early childhood education. Those days are gone.
Illinois began the Preschool for All initiative in 2007, and boosted the number of kids enrolled from 77,000 to 95,000. Then budget cuts hit in 2010, and the number has fallen to 70,000.
Access is one of several ways the state is evaluated, says Robin Steans, head of the education group Advance Illinois. “How many 3- and 4-year-olds are we managing to serve? What kind of health screenings and developmental screenings are we able to get kids early on? How qualified are instructors? What are the environments that they’re learning in? All stuff we want to know if we want to understand how well we’re serving our kids, and unfortunately there we’ve dropped. We dropped from 14thto 15th if you look at our national standing,” she said
Steans says more information on what works in pre-school is soon to be produced to fill in gaps in the information about the effectiveness of pre-school programs, such as readiness for kindergarten.
Steans says high-quality early childhood programs can stop learning gaps before they start.