What Works for High Quality Birth-to-Age Eight Early Care and Elementary Education? 

September is Attendance month, and NCECF is excited to feature another What Works for Third-Grade Reading working paper that addresses one of the important factors influencing both regular school attendance and third grade reading proficiency. What Works for Third Grade Reading: High Quality Birth-to-Age Eight Early Care and Elementary Education considers why high quality education matters for third grade reading proficiency, outlines its connections with other factors that impact early literacy (like regular school attendance), and highlights options that have been shown to move the needle on quality education.

The resource is one of 12 new working papers that offer research-based policy, practice and program options to states and communities working to improve third grade reading proficiency. What Works for Third Grade Reading: Regular Attendance was featured last week.

High-quality center- and school-based early care and education programs help prepare all children for school and life success. Children in higher quality programs have more advanced language and pre-math skills, more advanced social skills, warmer relationships with their teachers1 and fewer behavioral challenges.2 These kinds of gains are particularly powerful for children from low-income families and those at risk for academic challenge who, on average, start kindergarten behind their peers in pre-literacy and language skills.3

Enrollment in early care and education programs can also lend consistency and stability to children’s lives, advancing their social competence, behavioral and cognitive outcomes, language development, school adjustment, and overall child well-being.4 The positive impact of high quality early care and education lasts into the elementary school years.

Continued high-quality education in elementary school is critical for building a strong foundation for learning. Children who attend high quality preschool programs followed by elementary schools that are not high quality are at risk of losing the gains they have made.5

The rate of progress in the early elementary school years can be predictive of later academic challenges or successes. Children who are reading proficiently at the end of the third grade are four times more likely to graduate than their peers,6 and reading problems among third to fifth grade students correlate with later learning, life and economic challenges including lower adult literacy, youth delinquency and later incarcerations, and lifelong economic challenges.7

High quality education can be measured in many ways, including teacher preparation, student proficiency, student growth and more. Particularly for younger students, regular school attendance can serve as a measure of school quality—positive school climates that are welcoming and engaging to students and parents, with principals, teachers and staff trained in the importance of attendance, are more likely to improve attendance rates.

What Works for Third Grade Reading is a collection of 12 working papers that address whole-child, birth-to-age-eight factors that support children’s optimal development and improve reading proficiency. The resource was produced by the Institute for Child Success and the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation, in collaboration with BEST NC, to support the work of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways) initiative.

Pathways is bringing together diverse leaders working across disciplines, sectors, systems, and political ideologies to define a common vision, shared measures of success and coordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth. Pathways is an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation in collaboration with NC Child, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and BEST NC.


1U.S. Department of Education. (2015).  A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/documents/early-learning/matter-equity-preschool-america.pdf

2Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy. (2012). Quality: What it Is and Why it Matters in Early Childhood Education. Retrieved from https://www.scaany.org/documents/quality_earlyed_scaapolicybrief_sept2012.pdf

3U.S. Department of Education. (2015). A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America, op cit.

4The Research Base for a Birth through Eight State Policy Framework. (2013) .Child Trends. Retrieved from  http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/2013-42AllianceBirthto81.pdf

5Education Commission of the States. (2016). Companion Report: 50-State Comparison: K-3 Quality. Retrieved form http://www.ecs.org/ec-content/uploads/50-State-Comparison-K-3-Quality_Updated-1.pdf

6 Annie E. Casey Foundation (2013). Early Warning Confirmed. Retrieved from http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-EarlyWarningConfirmedExecSummary-2013.pdf

7Simonton, S. (2016, July 18). Reading Difficulty in Young Children Linked to Later Trouble with the Law. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Retrieved from http://jjie.org/2016/07/18/reading-difficulty-in-young-children-linked-to-later-trouble-with-the-law/