Equity Starts Early

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High-quality early education programs can improve outcomes, narrow achievement gaps, and convey long-term benefits for children in school and life. This is especially the case for children from low-income families (Minervino, 2014). However, just over one third of three- and four-year-olds from low-income families were enrolled in preschool in 2013 (Kids Count, 2015), and even fewer children participate in quality infant and toddler programs. Children at risk who do not participate in high-quality early education programs are 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education, 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 60 percent more likely to never attend college, 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime, and 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent (Save the Children, 2015). With the achievement gap beginning to manifest in children as young as nine months, and 90 percent of brain development occurring during the first five years of life, chiefs are committed to expanding and upgrading early childhood programs and strengthening early elementary teaching and learning to provide equal educational opportunities for every young child from birth through third grade. Our commitment to early education is not new. In 2009, chiefs publicly acknowledged the “quiet crisis” threatening the future of young children from families of need, and outlined an agenda to (1) build more coherent state early childhood education systems aligned with kindergarten through third grade (K-3) schooling, (2) increase access to high-quality early childhood education programs, and (3) craft a new state-federal partnership to advance early learning opportunities, particularly for those children most at risk. Important work has been accomplished on these recommendations. 

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