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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:

Publications

July 15, 2015
Foreword by Michael J. Petrilli and Amber M. Northern, Report by Sara Mead and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel
In Pre-K and Charter Schools: Where State Policies Create Barriers to Collaboration, authors Sara Mead and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel examine thirty-six...
July 22, 2014
Sara Mead
As our nation’s largest preschool program—and the only one exclusively focused on the poorest children—Head Start plays a critical role in our nation...
April 5, 2012
By Andrew J. Rotherham
When a little girl, who I’ll call Tina, arrived in a pre-kindergarten program in Washington, D.C. she was unable to recognize any sounds or letters....
March 22, 2012
By Andrew J. Rotherham
Barbie turned 53 this month. She’s now several years into an AARP membership and yet wisdom has apparently not come with age. She’s still driving...
December 3, 2011
By Sara Mead, Andrew J. Rotherham and Rachael Brown
When Barack Obama ran for president, he claimed that improving early childhood education would be a hallmark of his education reform agenda....

Op-Eds

March 19, 2017
C-SPAN - Ashley LiBetti Mitchel talked about her Education Next article in the Winter 2017 issue on pre-K programs at charter schools in the U.S.   
March 9, 2017
U.S. News & World Report - He can make his child care plan better for families and children – and more appealing to Congress.
February 23, 2017
U.S. News & World Report - The U.S. can accelerate its own progress on child care policy by looking at the rest of the world.  

Blog Posts

April 28, 2020
Sara Mead
COVID-19 highlights the foundational weaknesses in our nation’s approach to early care and education. Unlike K-12 public schools, which are...
April 22, 2020
Sara Mead
Most state-funded pre-K programs, like most schools, are closed due to the coronavirus. But most states do not have the same state...
March 19, 2020
Sara Mead
Why do Bernie Sanders and some of his primary rivals think it’s good for government to fund community-based, nonprofit organizations to...