Early Childhood Education Programs

The Rhode Island Department of Education is committed to ensuring that all children begin school ready to learn and are ready to have success in their schooling careers, as life-long learners, and productive citizens. 

Students on climbing structureProviding access to voluntary, free, high-quality pre-kindergarten programs is a strategy proven to help close the achievement gaps that are noticeable even before children enter school and to provide increased educational opportunities for all students. Research shows that attending high quality early childhood education programs helps children develop important social and cognitive skills and knowledge that prepares them to succeed in school.

There is clear evidence of long-lasting benefits for children who participate in very high quality educationally focused early childhood programs. The benefits to children can also generate substantial government savings, including reduced need for special education services, reduced need for cash assistance and other public benefits as well as reduced rates of incarceration. In fact an analysis by economist Robert Lynch, from the Economic Policy Institute, predicts that:

“A public investment in providing high-quality prekindergarten to all Rhode Island children ages 3 and 4 would start paying for itself by generating cost savings within 9 years. By the year 2050, the ratio of total benefits to total costs would be 8 to 1.”

The Rhode Island Education Aid Foundation Formula approved in 2010 will take a phased-in approach to expanding access to high-quality Pre-K starting with communities that have a high proportion of children eligible for free and reduced price lunch. The phased-in approach will allow our state to ensure that Pre-K expansion creates high-quality learning programs, improves access for the students who need it the most, and assures a smooth transition between early childhood and K-12.

Technical Paper on Setting Expectations for Rhode Island's Youngest Children: Developing High-Quality Early Learning and Development Standards [PDF, 238KB]

2013-14 State Pre-Kindergarten Programs

The Rhode Island Pre-kindergarten Program, now in its 5th year, provides free, high-quality pre-kindergarten classes to eligible children. RIDE oversees the program. Statewide this year, 234 children are participating in thirteen pre-kindergarten classes.

The 2013-14 state pre-kindergarten lottery was held in August 2013. Enrollment for this school year is closed. Lottery applications for the 2014-2015 Pre-K school year will be posted on this page by July 2014. To be eligible, children must be 4 years old by September 1, 2014 and they must be residents of one of the identified communities. Children are selected for participation by lottery.

This year's participating programs are (in alphabetical order; please note: two sites are each operating two classrooms):
  • Beautiful Beginnings Child Care
    700 Elmwood Ave., Providence
  • Central Falls School District
    521 Dexter St., Central Falls
  • CHILD, Inc. (two classrooms)
    28 Payan St., West Warwick
  • East Bay Community Action Program Head Start
    8 John H. Chafee Blvd., Newport
  • Imagine Preschool
    400 East Ave., Warwick
  • Mariposa Highlander Pre-K at the Wanskuck Boys and Girls Club
    550 Branch Ave., Providence
  • Ready to Learn Providence, at the Community College of Rhode Island
    1 Hilton St., Providence
    (Applications available at 945 Westminster St., Providence)
  • Ready to Learn Providence @ Heritage Park YMCA Early Learning Center
    333 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket
  • Smith Hill Early Childhood Learning Center
    25 Danforth Street, Providence
  • Westbay Children’s Center
    22 Astral St., Warwick
  • Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association (two classrooms)
    204 Warwick St., Woonsocket

Application Information

The 2014-2015 state Pre-K child lottery application will be posted by July 2014.  Applications will also be available at all participating Pre-K programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pre-K Program Overview

In 2008, the RI General Assembly enacted legislation directing the RI Department of Education to begin planning for an initial pilot prekindergarten program meeting high-quality standards. The resulting design has earned the program a quality rating of 10 out of 10 in the annual National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) State of Preschool publication.

Rhode Island Pre-Kindergarten Program Video


From the time children walk into a RI Pre-Kindergarten classroom until the time they leave, children are actively engaged in learning. Intentional teaching means that teachers apply what they know from research and best practice in the field of early childhood and intentionally plan their day to ensure that every child gets the most out of every experience.

Curriculum in RI Pre-Kindergarten Classrooms – Video

Classroom Quality

RI Pre-Kindergarten teachers are committed to continually assessing and refining their teaching practice to be the best that they can be. PreK Program classrooms use a number of tools that provide data to teachers about their classroom practices.

Child Assessment

RI Pre-Kindergarten classroom teachers implement a system of ongoing child assessment which includes observations of children, samples of children’s work, interviews with children, and interviews with parents. This information is entered into a web-based child portfolio using Teaching Strategies GOLD and is used by teachers to inform curriculum planning, to differentiate instruction for individual students and groups of students, and to ensure that children make steady progress toward learning outcomes.

Child Assessment in RI Pre-Kindergarten Classrooms – Video

Family Engagement

Family Engagement is a core component of high-quality, early education classrooms. Children do better in school when they experience a preschool curriculum that is culturally relevant and integrates elements of their own life experiences. In addition, when parents and caregivers partner with teachers and support children’s learning at home, we create the conditions that maximize outcomes for children.

Family Engagement in RI Pre-Kindergarten Classrooms – Video

By act of the General Assembly in 1968, nursery schools and kindergartens were endorsed as the initial steps in early childhood education and were thereby made an integral part of the education system of Rhode Island. This act was the result of an upsurge of interest across the nation in offering planned educational opportunities to preschoolers; the establishment of an increasing number of facilities for children under six; and the demand by parents for a safe, healthy and acceptable places for their child to begin his/her educational experience. Thus, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) was authorized to plan for the approval of existing early childhood programs and to assume leadership in establishing of standards for new facilities. That is, by legislative act, namely, Chapter 48 of Title 16 of the General Laws of Rhode Island, the Commissioner was given responsibility for setting standards and planning approval procedures for educational programs serving children three to six years of age.

General Information

Pursuant to state law (RIGL 16-48), the Comprehensive Early Childhood Education Program Approval standards shall apply to early childhood education programs in order to ensure developmentally appropriate early development and learning experiences based on Rhode Island’s Early Learning Standards to children between the ages of three (3) to six (6) years of age.

These standards shall also pertain to kindergarten classrooms operating in private programs in which kindergarten is the terminal grade.
Applicants must already meet the Tier 1/Foundational Level of being either:

  • A Child Day Care Center, Family Child Care Home, Head Start Program, or private preschool licensed by the State of Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families OR
  • A program housed in a public or private K-12 school that meets physical facility requirements of the RI Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Application to the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education pursuant to these standards represents the program's desire to seek voluntary approval as a Comprehensive Early Childhood Education Program.

Programs intending to apply for CECE program approval should contact Carla Swanson at Carla.swanson@ride.ri.gov or 401-222-8994.
  • ADA Guidance: The publication Commonly Asked Questions about Child Care Centers and The Americans with Disabilities Act is available through the Department of Justice.
  • BrightStars: BrightStars is a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS). QRIS initiatives exist in many states across the country, and although each state model is unique, all QRIS programs are designed to rate the quality or level of a child care program, identify areas for improvement, inform consumers about levels of quality, and target quality improvement resources.
  • Caring for Our Children: The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education publishes Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards: Guidelines for Out-of-Home Child Care, 2nd Edition as a FREE downloadable copy.
  • Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) is a system for observing and assessing the quality of interactions between teachers and students in classrooms.
  • Division of Early Childhood (DEC), Council for Exceptional Children: The DEC is a non-profit membership organization designed for individuals who work with or on behalf of children with special needs, birth through eight years and their families. Founded in 1973, DEC is dedicated to promoting policies and practices that support families and enhance the development of children. Children with special needs include those who have disabilities, developmental delays, are gifted/talented, and are at-risk of future developmental problems. DEC sponsors a variety of training including and various resource materials; advocated related to national, state, and local public policy; and provides a variety of documents on effective practice related to young children with special needs including DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education.
  • DCYF Licensing and Programs:  To begin the licensing process with DCYF, please email Brenda Almeida. Be sure to include the following information with your request: your program name, mailing address, phone number and person to contact.
  • The Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS)
  • Handbook of Public Playground Safety: The Handbook of Public Safety is a Consumer Products Safety Commission document available to be downloaded for free.  
  • LISC: LISC operates The Rhode Island Child Care Facilities Funds, which provides the capital and technical expertise that child care programs need to improve the quality and capacity of their physical space. The Fund assists licensed child care centers and homes that are committed to providing high quality care and to serving low-income children eligible for DHS subsidies from infancy through school-age years.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC): The NAEYC is the nation's largest early childhood professional membership association for early childhood educators. NAEYC sponsors a variety of training including an annual conference; published the journal "Young Children", and various resource materials; advocated related to national, state, and local public policy; provides a variety of documents on effective practice related to young children; and operates an accreditation system designed to improve the quality of care and education provided for young children in group programs.
  • RIDE: Evaluation of Credential Request
  • RI Early Learning Standards
  • Rhode Island Red Cross
  • Safe Water Drinking Act
  • Teacher Assistant Resources

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