Louisiana is well above the national average in pre-school enrollment, according to a new Education Week report. The news organization’s 2015 Quality Counts report graded states on their pre-school and kindergarten access, as well as on overall education performance.
The state received a B- on the early education index. That ranks it fourth among 50 states and Washington D.C. The national grade is a D+.
Louisiana’s official push to expand access and improve quality for young children began in 2012, with legislative approval of Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s pre-school overhaul. Officials have crafted a new grading system for pre-schools, streamlined oversight and simplified enrollment. More changes are afoot, including new teacher credentials that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will consider Jan. 13 and 14.
The news about Louisiana’s pre-school access comes even as early childhood advocates urge the state to do more for those who aren’t being reached, particularly children younger than 3. Critics say rising child-care costs for younger children have forced working families to seek other options.
Education Week’s data shows that in 2013, about 51 percent of all Louisiana’s 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in pre-school programs. Nationally, only about 47 percent of young children were. Education Week did not provide specific data on newborns through 2-year-olds. The report examines both public and private programs.
The state also is making progress towards closing its pre-school poverty gap — the difference between the enrollment rate for higher-income children and that of low-income children — even as the country’s gap widens. What’s more, most Louisiana students attend full-day pre-school programs, which isn’t the norm nationally.
Also noted in the report: Louisiana’s kindergarten enrollment is on par with the rest of the country, while the percentage of students attending full-day kindergarten is higher here than elsewhere.