Governor M. Gina Raimondo announced today that Rhode Island has once again been recognized as a national leader in early childhood education, as one of only three states to meet the quality standards of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
“Rhode Island has more pre-k classrooms, serving more students, than ever before, and as the NIEER report illustrates, those students are being exposed to high-quality programs that set them on an early path to success,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “When we invest in proven supports like early childhood education, it pays dividends down the road, and I’m grateful to all of the educators and policymakers whose support continues to position our state as a national leader.”
In the 2016-2017 school year, Rhode Island served 1,008 children in high-quality pre-kindergarten programming, an increase of 70 percent in enrollment over the previous year.
“This is another victory for early childhood education in Rhode Island. After implementing full-day kindergarten in every district in the state, we have expanded opportunities for state-funded pre-k, with a continued focus on maintaining high standards for students and teachers,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education.
“Rhode Island has improved on both the access and quality fronts when it comes to early childhood education. I am so proud of the high-quality programs we have grown in our state, but still too few students have access,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We have more work to do, and I look forward to keeping the momentum going so that we can reach even more young people and get them on the right track.”
“We are thrilled that Rhode Island’s State Pre-K Program is once again recognized as a national leader – one of just three in the nation to meet all of the quality benchmark standards set forth by NIEER. Rhode Island State Pre-K and Head Start programs together now reach 41% of Rhode Island’s low-income four-year-olds. We can build on that momentum to accelerate Rhode Island’s efforts to serve more young children with high quality early childhood education,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. “Investing in high-quality child care is another piece of our early education continuum. This is foundational work for Rhode Island’s high quality early learning landscape.”
NIEER announced Rhode Island’s performance in the State of Preschool Yearbook, a national report on state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, with detailed information on enrollment, funding, teacher qualifications and other policies related to quality.
The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) launched its state-funded program 10 years ago, and in 2014 received a federal Preschool Expansion Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. With the support of Governor Raimondo, Rhode Island now has 60 classrooms in 11 communities, with enrollment more than tripled since the 2014-2015 school year.
The lottery for next year’s Rhode Island Pre-Kindergarten Program will open in early May, and families must submit their applications by July 1. Families can sign up for a waiting listin order to be notified as soon as the application goes live. To be eligible for state pre-k, children must be 4 years old by September 1, and they must be residents of one of the identified communities.