Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 on expanding early childhood education with an infusion of new funding, a vision he championed over the past year with a plan for universal preschool. But throughout his administration, the country has been grappling with economic turmoil.
Five years later, what is the state of early education?
A new report by the New America Foundation looks at a range of measures including student achievement, family well-being, and funding to see how children from birth through age eight, are faring.
The results show that while enthusiasm is up — philanthropy, advocacy, and research are all on the upswing — millions of children still lack access to quality child care or preschool.
Here are some of the findings:
*Federal funding for early childhood initiatives overall spiked in 2009 thanks to stimulus dollars, then stagnated.
*Test scores for fourth-grade math and reading increased on the National Assessment for Educational Progress, but the achievement gap increased between students from poor and better-off families
*More children are living in poverty. A record 48 percent of American students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
*State funding per pupil for preschool programs decreased, raising questions about the quality of programs.
Some signs of improvement:
*New federal investment through the Affordable Care Act of 2010 expanded access to home visiting programs, which pair new parents with nurses, social workers or trained mentors
*Additional federal funding through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge and Promise Neighborhood Initiatives is improving services for children and families.
*The Department of Health and Human Services tightened standards for Head Start programs and improved professional development for teachers
*Quality rating systems are developing in many states to improve the quality of child care