Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

We Can Do Better: 2011 Update,” a recently released report from the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), finds modest improvements in 10 program requirements and five oversight benchmarks for the nation’s early education and care centers. The report, the third since 2007, ranks the 50 states, District of Columbia and U.S. Department of Defense. More than 11 million children under age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in an early education and care setting, NACCRRA notes.

The average state score was 87 out of 150 points, up from 83 in 2009 and 70 in 2007. “States have made progress, but more progress is needed,” NACCRRA notes. “Using a standard grading scale, no state earned an A. The Department of Defense earned a B, and four states earned a C. Twenty-one states earned a D. Half of the states (26 states) earned a failing grade. While we should be pleased with the improvement among the states since 2007, an 87 equates to a score of 58 percent, a failing grade in any classroom in America.”

Massachusetts, with an overall score of 106, ranks fifth in the nation, behind the Department of Defense, Oklahoma, the District of Columbia and Illinois. Rounding out the top 10 are Florida, New York, Washington, Rhode Island and Tennessee. (Read the Massachusetts findings.)

The commonwealth is one of 35 states that meet NACCRRA’s minimum health and safety requirements and one of 22 that “require child care centers to address all six basic child development domains — language and literacy, cognitive/intellectual, social, emotional, physical and cultural.”

“Massachusetts,” the executive summary notes, “improved its teacher education requirements and increased the number of developmental domains it requires programs to address.” (See the commonwealth’s new 2010 Family, Group and School Age Child Care Regulations.)

Other strengths that NACCRRA found in Massachusetts include requirements for family engagement and for licensing staff with bachelor’s degrees in early childhood or a related field. The report also finds several weaknesses in the Bay State, including inspections that are only conducted once a year and education requirements for center directors that fall below NACCRA’s recommended standard.

Here are NACCRRA’s program benchmarks:

Here are NAACCRA’s oversight benchmarks: