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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:


July 27, 2017
U.S. News & World Report -- Disparities in learning begin even earlier than you think.
June 30, 2017
U.S. News & World Report -- Policymakers won't improve early childhood education by constraining their ideas to the existing system.
June 27, 2017
New America -- Without consideration of the developmentally critical early years, a school accountability system reflects a limited view of...
May 18, 2017
U.S. News & World Report -- Head Start has accomplished a great deal for children and families – but it could do even more.
May 4, 2017
U.S. News & World Report -- America spends the least on education during the years in which children learn most.

Blog Posts

December 2, 2019
Sara Mead
Today, December 2, is National Special Education Day, marking the anniversary of President Gerald Ford’s signing of the Individuals with...
October 30, 2019
Sara Mead
Of the 11 million young children with working mothers, more than half spend more time in family child care than any other setting. Family...
August 15, 2019
Ashley LiBetti
Last month, yet another study came out examining the effects of Head Start on children’s long-term outcomes. The findings were lackluster:...