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Early Childhood Education

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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Improving young children’s early learning experiences is an essential complement to K-12 reforms. Research shows that early years form the crucial foundation for children’s later learning, but that disadvantaged youngsters have less access to the types of experiences that foster learning and development, resulting in large achievement gaps even before children enter kindergarten. High-quality early childhood programs can help prevent or narrow these gaps, however, allowing children from all backgrounds to enter school prepared to succeed.

Bellwether’s work in early childhood seeks to make publicly funded programs more effective; develop innovative strategies to expand access to high-quality early learning; improve the preparation, training, and compensation of early childhood educators; and scale the work of high-performing early childhood providers. We also work to bridge the divide between K-12 and early childhood policies to help create aligned, birth-to-eight learning systems.

We advise foundations and advocacy organizations working to improve early learning outcomes and produce research, policy analysis, and ideas for the field as a whole. Although our approach is grounded in a deep knowledge of childhood development, how young children learn, and the early childhood provider and policy landscape, we also draw on relevant lessons from our K-12 work.

The content below reflects our work on this issue:


March 5, 2019
Ashley LiBetti
Leading by Exemplar: Case Studies of Head Start Programs is an in-depth analysis of five high-performing Head Start programs from across the country...
March 5, 2019
Ashley LiBetti
Leading by Exemplar: Data Utilization in Head Start Programs provides in-depth information about the data utilization practices of five high-...
March 5, 2019
Ashley LiBetti
Leading by Exemplar: Instructional Models in Head Start Programs provides in-depth information about the instructional models of five high-performing...
March 5, 2019
Ashley LiBetti
Leading by Exemplar: Lessons from Head Start Programs is a synthesis of findings drawn from an in-depth analysis of five high-performing Head Start...
February 26, 2019
Bonnie O'Keefe, Melissa Steel King, Chad Aldeman
An Uneven Path: Student Achievement in Boston Public Schools 2007-2017 finds that Boston students outperform their peers in other cities on...


August 23, 2017
Mathematica Policy Research released a study earlier this week looking at the effects of KIPP pre-K on student achievement. The results, which have...
July 27, 2017
Disparities in learning begin even earlier than you think.
June 30, 2017
Policymakers won't improve early childhood education by constraining their ideas to the existing system.

Blog Posts

August 18, 2021
Bellwether Education Partners
Join Ahead of the Heard for a lively back-to-school series expanding on Andy Rotherham’s original Eduwonk post, What’s Your Magic Wand?,...
March 2, 2021
Elliot Regenstein and Chris Strausz-Clark, Guest Bloggers
This guest post is in response to a new series of briefs from Bellwether, From Pandemic to Progress, which puts forth eight ambitious but...
February 9, 2021
Juliet Squire and Ashley LiBetti
Today, we and several of our Bellwether colleagues released From Pandemic to Progress: Eight Education Pathways for COVID-19 Recovery,...