Ten states -- Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Carolina -- score highest in Education Week's sixth annual assessment of the performance of state education systems.
The states, which collectively got a mark of "C," were graded on their standards for what students should learn, how they test students and hold schools accountable, and for improving the quality of teaching while giving schools equal and adequate resources.
Each year, the 50-state survey called Quality Counts singles out one facet of public education for special scrutiny. This year's focus is on state childcare and preschool programs. A majority of US children under five-years-old attend day care, preschool or have a babysitter.
Research shows that kids that attend pre-kindergarten programs do better in reading, writing and mathematics and socially than kids who do not. Not all states spend money on early childhood education programs, but the 39 that do spend $1.9 billion collectively.
The survey found that the quality of programs and teacher certification requirements vary greatly from state to state. For example, Rhode Island is the only state that requires child-care providers to have a bachelor's degree.
All states require kindergarten teachers to have a college degree and teaching certificate, but only 20 states have the same requirement for preschool teachers.
Six states -- California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan and Washington -- require preschools to teach children specific skills such as letters and numbers,
Georgia, New York and Oklahoma legislators are considering expanding their pre-K programs to all children in each of those states.