Press Release

Disjointed, Misaligned Systems Leave Policymakers in the Dark About Students’ Early Learning
State-by-State Analysis Reveals Wide Disparities in Assessing Academic, Social Development in Pre-K Through 2nd Grade

At a time when the nation is investing significantly more resources into early learning, policymakers have few ways of knowing whether those investments are paying off because of a dearth of dependable information about how much students are learning socially, emotionally, and academically from preschool through grade 2. 

A new report from FutureEd documents the incoherent, misaligned web of early learning assessments that are costly, challenging to administer, prone to misuse by policymakers, and often neglected altogether.

The lack of a comprehensive, coherent system of measures compromises a critical component of the nation’s educational infrastructure, a problem intensified by the pandemic’s disruption of early learning programs nationwide. Drawing on a FutureEd 50-state survey and the insights of nearly four dozen state and national experts, the report finds that:


  • 43 states have adopted quality rating and improvement systems for child care and preschool programs, but the complexity of the systems’ metrics, lack of teacher training, and other problems have reduced their effectiveness.  
  • High-quality, teacher-child interactions are a crucial component of successful preschool programs, which are now funded by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Yet many programs can only afford to monitor these interactions intermittently, serving more as a dipstick of program quality than as a regular form of instructional feedback for teachers.
  • While 29 states have adopted kindergarten-entry assessments, the quality of the assessments varies widely. And the assessments rarely align with those used in prekindergarten programs.
  • 27 states measure student learning in kindergarten through 2nd grade, including some that require screenings for reading proficiency or dyslexia. These can provide valuable information to guide instruction, but the over-identification of students of color for special education and misuse of the data create their own set of problems.

“The absence of high-quality, systemwide data makes it hard to target resources effectively, ensure disadvantaged students are getting the early support they need, and improve programs and teaching quality,” said Lynn Olson, a FutureEd senior fellow who authored the report. “A lack of sound measures risks squandering resources—and leaving our aspirations for young children unfulfilled.”

Read the full report here

For more information, contact Phyllis Jordan at 202-413-2247 or

FutureEd is an independent, solution-oriented think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. We are committed to bringing fresh energy to the causes of excellence, equity, and efficiency in K-12 and higher education on behalf of the nation’s disadvantaged students. 

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