Tennessee now meets 9 of 10 standards for high-quality pre-K programs, which demonstrates progress over the last several years, according to the 2020 edition of The State of Preschool Yearbook by National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

Tennessee is one of only 12 states with pre-K programs to have met 9 of 10 of NIEER’s quality standard benchmarks. Additionally, Tennessee is 1 of 14 state programs that met the staff professional development benchmark, which remains the most difficult benchmark for pre-K programs to meet.

This year’s ranking is a result of significant improvements to Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K Program (TN-VPK) between 2016 and 2020 due to unwavering commitment from state leaders and partners, even throughout the ongoing pandemic where funding for the program has been maintained.

“We are thrilled to see the hard work of improving the quality of pre-K education in Tennessee pay off,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We know providing students with high-quality materials and instruction at every age is critical for long-term success. This ranking is a testament to the hard work and prioritization of early childhood education and literacy across the state.”

Starting with Tennessee’s Pre-K Quality Act of 2016, improvements to the TN-VPK program have continued through Governor Bill Lee’s administration, including shifting to a competitive VPK grant application process, facilitating an annual training on the pre-K Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), piloting of pre-K coaching, and shifting to research-based sounds first supplement and high-quality instructional materials.

The report is based on NIEER’s annual survey in which department staff respond to questions on the state’s pre-K policies and is the only nationwide source of data on state-funded pre-K programs.