Latest National Early Childhood Research Shows Positive Gains for Kentucky Preschool Education

 NIEER Yearbook Findings Highlight Positive Steps for KY Children and More Work to Do

LEXINGTON, KY – Today’s release of the annual State of Preschool Yearbook by the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) demonstrates Kentucky’s positive progress in preschool education and calls for continued improvements. The report aligns directly with the Prichard Committee’s efforts to broaden public awareness and understanding about the importance of investing in high-quality early education for Kentucky children from birth through third grade.

Kentucky has made smart investments in preschool education – increasing access, changing policy and practice to support high-quality early learning environments, and building a data infrastructure for continuous improvement.

The NIEER Yearbook demonstrates accomplishments and work yet to be done to ensure all young children across the Commonwealth, particularly those in greatest need, are prepared for each new step in their educational journeys.

According to the NIEER Yearbook, Kentucky boosted preschool funding by nearly 30 percent to almost $93 million between FYs 2015 and 2016. During the span measured in the Yearbook, Kentucky’s Preschool Program enrolled 19,182 children, about 26 percent of the states’ 4-year-olds and 9 percent of state 3-year-olds.

Current NIEER benchmarks used in the report were designed to help states build programs, focusing on resources and policies related to the structural aspects of public pre-K—elements needed for a high-quality program but not fully defining one. According to the Yearbook, Kentucky met nine of 10 NIEER quality standard benchmarks for preschool education.

“Early childhood education is a great investment,” said NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. “We see Kentucky investing resources and maintaining quality standards but more work is needed to expand access to provide the high-quality pre-K that helps children get the best possible start in life.”

“We are pleased to learn these results,” said Cory Curl, Prichard Committee Associate Director and lead staff for the Committee’s statewide preschool education engagement efforts. “Kentucky continues to strengthen preschool teaching and learning and these results are proof positive of all the work by early childhood educators and our state’s policy makers. But there is still work needed to reach more children. Kentucky has not kept pace with other states on preschool enrollment. Between 2010 and 2016, Kentucky dropped from 14th to 22nd in the nation for access for 4-year olds. We look forward to our continued collaboration to bring high quality preschool experiences to every Kentucky child. That investment pays off in life success and preparing the workforce of tomorrow.”

“States meeting current benchmarks should be proud of their accomplishments,” Dr. Barnett concluded. “But simply meeting the benchmarks does not guarantee children are receiving a high-quality classroom experience. Research indicates most states need to do more to ensure high quality for every child.”

NIEER’s State of Preschool Yearbook was supported with funding provided by the Heising-Simons Foundation while the survey data on which it relies was funded by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The findings, interpretations, and conclusions in this report are solely those of the authors. For more information and detailed state-by-state profiles on quality access, and funding, please visit

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group. Comprised of volunteer civic and business leaders from across Kentucky, the Committee has worked to improve education for Kentuckians of all ages since 1983. 

See NIEER’s Kentucky report here.

To learn more about the Prichard Committee’s work on preschool education, visit


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