State officials and policymakers have been focused on college- and career-readiness for several years yet challenges still exist to graduate students with the skills and competencies necessary to obtain sustainable employment. 2015 promises to be another busy year concentrated on implementing best practices and enacting innovative policies that prepare America's youngest students for entry into school, create environments for all students including those at-risk, and offer a variety of experiences so students participate in work-based opportunities. In order to ensure a world-class education for all students, leaders will likely address these top 5 issues facing states this year.

On Thursday, Nov. 20 a group of state legislators and education officials met with staff from the White House Intergovernmental Affairs and representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.  An update on the Administration's priorities, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and critical early education initiatives were discussed.

To be successful in today’s world, every student must graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college, the workforce and life. Experts agree instruction to put students on track for college- and career-readiness can’t wait to begin until kindergarten. This session focused on policies and program solutions to ensure successful and expanded access to preschool education.

To be successful in today’s world, every student must graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college, the workforce and life. Experts agree instruction to put students on track for college- and career-readiness can’t wait to begin until kindergarten. This session focused on policies and program solutions to ensure successful and expanded access to preschool education.

To be successful in today’s world, every student must graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college, the workforce and life. Experts agree instruction to put students on track for college- and career-readiness can’t wait to begin until kindergarten. This session focused on policies and program solutions to ensure successful and expanded access to preschool education. 

To be successful in today’s world, every student must graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college, the workforce and life. Experts agree instruction to put students on track for college- and career-readiness can’t wait to begin until kindergarten. This session focused on policies and program solutions to ensure successful and expanded access to preschool education.

It is clear we need American students to be more than warehouses of knowledge and information as the expectation has been in the past.  As a nation we must bring our educational system up-to date so students also can apply knowledge and solve complex problems. This begins with high-quality early learning, continues through K-12 then continues until college completion and careers.  Students must be able to work not only independently, but also with each other; they also need to be able to communicate ideas effectively. In short, to be successful in today’s world, every student must graduate from high school college- and career-ready.  In order to ensure student success from early education through college completion and careers policymakers must address these 5 issues as legislatures begin this year.

While the results from pre-K education are well documented, the current funding and availability of early education varies widely.  The recent recession has made it difficult for states to continue funding state-run pre-K programs, resulting in a decrease of $442 in the average state pre-K funding per child. Enrollment in state-run pre-k programs has remained relatively flat.

It is the growing consensus among education leaders that vital learning happens before age 5. Until the recent economic downturn, state funding for early childhood education had been increasing steadily. Between 2001 and 2012, funding more than doubled to $5.1 billion annually. Maryland’s funding level increased nearly 600 percent, from $19.9 million in 2005 to $113.9 million in 2012. Alabama’s pre-K funding more than quintupled during that period. Since the start of the Great Recession, some have backtracked on support for early education. According to data from the National Institute for Early Education Research, Missouri’s funding for pre-K has dwindled from $14.7 million in 2005 to $11.8 million in 2012. Arizona’s funding, which was once more than $12.5 million, has been eliminated, taking preschool services away from more than 4,300 children.

The U.S. Department of Education has set a deadline of 5 p.m. EDT Monday, July 11 to comment on guidelines for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. Those wishing to provide input, including data and relevant research, on the draft criteria should visit http://www.ed.gov/early-learning/elc-draft-summary.

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