West Virginia – A Bright Spot in Early Childhood Education
What makes West Virginia noteworthy:
West Virginia provides access to 75% of its Black 4-year-olds and 47% of its Latino 4-year-olds, meets 9 out of 10 of NIEER’s quality benchmarks, and is available in all counties. The state offers preschool to all 4-year-olds.
West Virginia’s public preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds dates back to 1983, and in 2002, state legislation required that the state provide preschool access to all 4-year-olds by 2012. As of the 2016-2017 school year, West Virginia’s early childhood education programs are required to provide at least 25 hours of instruction per week and 800 hours of instruction annually.
- In a positive sign for progress toward more equitable practices, the state recently updated its discipline policies to limit suspension of preschool children, which disproportionately affects young children of color.
- To increase access, the state requires that a minimum of half of state preschool programs operate collaboratively with private prekindergarten, child care centers, or Head Start programs (per WVBE Policy 2525). In these contracted collaborations, the state and the collaborating partners mutually provide resources such as funding and facilities for preschool programming.
- While West Virginia provides high access to Black and Latino 4-year-olds, it provides access to only 4% of the state’s Black and Latino 3-year-olds. In order to provide truly meaningful access to the state’s Black and Latino children, West Virginia must expand its access for 3-year-olds while maintaining quality.
- West Virginia can further increase its program quality by enhancing its professional development, which is the NIEER quality benchmark that it did not meet in the 2017-2018 school year. Through culturally and linguistically competent coaching and mentoring policies and practices, the state can bolster its program quality by further supporting its ECE workforce.
- Latino children are underrepresented in the state preschool program; for every 10 Latino children that would be enrolled in the program based on West Virginia’s population of Latino children if they were fully represented, only 6.7 are enrolled. West Virginia should engage with Latino communities to bolster meaningful access for Latino children and families.
- In order to push further for equity, West Virginia should eliminate preschool suspensions and expulsions and replace them with evidence-based, culturally competent practices.