Addressing educational equity, the opportunity gap, school readiness and other complex challenges facing children birth to age eight is a critical task facing this country, and state policymakers are in a unique position to help produce impactful outcomes for children and youth – that’s the conclusion of a new report by the State Policy and Research for Early Education Work Group (SPREE), part of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
A Fair Start: Ensuring All Students are Ready to Learn offers a framework developed by the work group to guide and assist state policymakers in ensuring every child enters school ready to learn.
“Large gaps often exist in reading and math skills for poor students or those of color when they enter kindergarten, and these gaps persist, if not widen, throughout the student’s education. This is not the case in other industrialized countries that outperform the U.S. on international comparisons of student achievement, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam,” notes the report.
“If a child’s education is considered to be a marathon, then it is imperative that each student begins the race at a fair starting line to ensure they have an equal chance to succeed. In the U.S., however, where children start, and their eventual educational success, can often be predicted their by race and socioeconomic status.”
In 2016, NCSL formed the work group with support from the Heising-Simons Foundation. SPREE includes 16 members: a bipartisan composition of eight state legislators, two legislative staff and six early learning researchers. Initial meetings included presentations and working sessions where SPREE members heard from several early learning experts and deliberated top priorities for the framework.
NCSL states the report provides an impetus for bipartisan and impactful policy and intentional leadership that improves access and opportunity for all young learners. The approach highlighted in this report is reinforced by a 2016 NCSL publication, No Time to Lose, resulting from the work of NCSL’s International Education Study Group who studied top-performing countries to determine the most critical elements for state policymakers to consider.