2017 started with a jaw-dropping announcement by the Harvard University Center for the Developing Child. Researchers discovered that we had vastly underestimated the number of neural connections formed each second in the first few years of life. Rather than 700, the number was more than 1 MILLION neural connections per second!
As brain science continues to advance at an astonishing rate, it has built an irrefutable case that children’s earliest experiences are built into their bodies—shaping their brain architecture. These experiences build the foundation for future learning, and they build the foundation for our state’s future. Fortunately, North Carolinians have long recognized that the well-being of our communities and our state is directly connected to well-being of children.
In keeping with our history, North Carolina leaders are coming together to listen and learn, to collaborate and to take action. Throughout 2017, time and again state and local people came together across disciplines, sectors, systems, and political identities for one purpose—to do what is needed to support children’s optimal development.
- Through NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading hundreds of stakeholders have identified shared measures of success, determined where to act first, and are now identifying what actions to take to improve outcomes for young children. In 2017, leaders volunteered to participate, people stayed engaged and the number of partners grew.
- North Carolinians spoke up loud and clear to let the state know that its plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) needed to include a focus on early learning. Two-thirds of public comments submitted to the state were on early learning and the final plan included birth-to-eight strategies.
- More than 300 professionals working with children birth through age eight and their families participated in 14 community conversations to provide input into how to create the best possible future for young children in North Carolina.
These are just a few of the examples highlighted in our 2017 report. We are grateful to the many leaders who devote their time, energy, and expertise to our collective work. Acting together upon what brain science shows about how children develop will ensure the best possible future for our children and our state.
Tracy Zimmerman, NCECF Executive Director