The Best and Worst States for Early Childhood Education

January 7, 2015
The business community has a clear economic stake in the future of our nation’s children and, as a result, is becoming more active in promoting policies that help young children succeed. 
In 2010, we released a report titled, Ready, Set, Go! to make the case for why business should support early childhood education. Our rationale was simple. 
  • The first five years are the most critical in the development of a child’s brain.  
  • Achievement gaps develop well before children begin kindergarten.
  • High-quality pre-K programs for three- and four-year-olds can have a significant impact on all children, but especially those from low-income families. 
  • Meaningful investments in quality early learning programs for younger children have lasting effects that can reduce costs later in life while enhancing economic growth. 
  • A high-quality early childhood education can help break the cycle of poverty.

This seems like a no brainer, right? So, how are we doing across the country in providing young children with a quality early childhood education? Mediocre, at best.

Education Week released its annual Quality Counts report card today titled, Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown which assesses the “state of the states” when it comes to early childhood education outcomes and participation.

EdWeek gives each state and the nation as a whole an overall grade. (the U.S. earns a ‘C’ for outcomes).

No state earns an ‘A’ overall for outcomes, so there is room for improvement everywhere. On the flip side, no state earned an ‘F’ overall either, which is only mildly encouraging.


Top 10 States Bottom 10 States
1. Massachusetts 41. California
2. New Jersey 42. South Carolina
3. Maryland 43. Louisiana
4. Vermont 44. Alabama
5. New Hampshire 45. Idaho
6. Connecticut 46. Arizona
7. Wyoming 47. Oklahoma
8. Pennsylvania 48. New Mexico
9. New York 49. Nevada
10. Minnesota 50. Mississippi
EdWeek also grades the states on early childhood education participation based on enrollment, poverty-based gaps, and trends. No state earns an 'A' here either, however both Idaho and Utah receive failing marks. The nation earns a 'D+' for participation.
Top 10 States Bottom 10 States
1. District of Columbia 41. New Mexico
2. Hawaii 42. Indiana
3. Mississippi 43. Colorado
4. Louisiana 44. California
5. North Dakota 45. Oregon
6. West Virginia 46. Washington
7. Wyoming 47. Vermont
8. Iowa 48. Nevada
9. Arkansas 49. Idaho
10. Connecticut 50. Utah

So, what can YOU do to support early childhood education? Here are seven actions a business person can take and six actions the business community can take

Companies like PNC and business groups like the Business Council of Alabama are already making commitments to early childhood education.
Investments in early childhood education aren't just the morally right thing to do; it’s the economically smart thing to do, as well.
Mark D'Alessio is manager of communications for the Center for Education and Workforce.