State Agencies to Develop and Implement Vision for Early Childhood; Report Highlights Pathways to Grade Level Reading Initiative

A cross-state-agency planning team featured the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative when they reported to the NC General Assembly this week on how to develop and implement a statewide vision for early childhood. The team recommended that “North Carolina continue the work initiated and led over the past two years by the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading to define and implement shared measures of success.”

The team’s report, State Agency Collaboration on Early Childhood Education/Transition from Preschool to Kindergarten, describes Pathways as an “ongoing cross-agency, public-private effort to support a high-quality, accountable birth through third grade approach” and features the Pathways Measures of Success Framework graphic. The document reports that Pathways “has been successful in engaging state and local, government, business, philanthropy and research stakeholders to create a unified framework for North Carolina to improve early literacy outcomes for young children.”

The report echoes Pathways’ emphasis on the importance of cross-sector work on early childhood, stating:

“A comprehensive early childhood system in North Carolina for the whole child, birth through third grade, with shared measures of success, requires sustained leadership and collaborative action across sectors. As previously described, children’s educational attainment is maximized with not only aligned educational policies, and practices, but also with integrated, whole child services that address children’s health, mental health, and family engagement.”

To develop and implement a shared action plan for children birth through third grade, the report recommends collaborative planning among three existing NC Councils – the Birth through Third Grade Interagency Council, the Child Wellbeing Transformation Council and the NC Early Childhood Advisory Council.

The report is the result of work by representatives from the NC Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, and several divisions of the NC Department of Health and Human Services (the Division of Public Health, the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, the Division of Social Services, and the Division of Child Development and Early Education).

Pathways was first mentioned in state law in 2016, when the General Assembly charged the Departments of Health and Human Services and Public Instruction to:

  • Collaborate on an ongoing basis in the development and implementation of a statewide vision for early childhood education; and
  • Develop a comprehensive approach to early childhood education, birth through third grade, including creating cross-agency accountability with a comprehensive set of data indicators, including consideration of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading, to monitor and measure success of the early childhood education systems.

In response to that charge, the Departments initiated a process to define a shared vision of a birth through third grade system and action steps that would lead to: 1) maximizing gains young children made in high-quality early childhood programs; 2) helping close the achievement gap in third grade and beyond; and 3) reducing retention and school dropout rates.

This report is a response to a subsequent 2017 session law mandating the continuation of collaborative efforts to develop and implement a statewide vision of early childhood education and a comprehensive approach that is birth through third grade. The report was presented to the General Assembly on Monday, January 1 and is slated for discussion at today’s NC State Board of Education meeting.

NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading is an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation in collaboration with NC Child, The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and BEST NC. Pathways’ vision is that all North Carolina children, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, are reading on grade-level by the end of third grade, and all children with disabilities achieve expressive and receptive communication skills commensurate with their developmental ages, so that they have the greatest opportunity for life success.