Bridging Systems to Create Lasting, Positive Change

A new report highlights more than two years of work to foster stronger birth-through-third grade alignment across North Carolina. The report outlines how a cross-sector partnership ensured that early childhood strategies were included in the North Carolina state and local district plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA is the main federal law for K–12 public education.

Aligning Early Childhood Strategies so Every Student Succeeds in North Carolina shares the story of collaboration among the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), the NC Head Start Collaboration Office, the Office of Early Learning at the NC Department of Public Instruction, and EducationCounsel. The partnership bridged systems, departments and agencies to unite diverse stakeholders around a vision to create lasting, positive change for young children and their families in North Carolina.

Highlights of impact include:

  • More than two thirds of comments received by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) on draft state ESSA plans were about early childhood or birth-through-third grade strategies.
  • The North Carolina state ESSA plan includes birth-to-eight recommendations developed at two convenings of local and state leaders led by NCECF.
  • 80 district and two charter school teams attended regional meetings and developed shared commitments for birth-through-third grade strategies in their local work. Four months later:
    • 95 percent said that attending the regional meetings impacted their work.
    • 86% said that their ESSA plans would include birth-through-third grade strategies.
    • 87 percent of districts have included early learning in their plans and report making progress on their commitments, according to a survey of attendees.
    • 71 percent said that their teams were working to implement the commitments identified at the regional meetings.

The report is intended to celebrate the synergy across the state and provide a case study for other states and districts to use in their own work. It highlights the benefits of leveraging the strengths of nonprofit and government agencies, intentionally engaging advocates and creating demand, and supporting collaboration between school districts and local early learning leaders.

The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), the NC Head Start Collaboration Office, the Office of Early Learning at the NC Department of Public Instruction, and EducationCounsel will launch their work for 2019 with a webinar in January. The webinar will be followed by regional meetings that will focus on three areas that 2018 attendees identified as priorities: family engagement, aligned professional development and transition into kindergarten.

Additionally, North Carolina is one of seven states that has joined a peer learning network created by EducationCounsel to develop ESSA implementation plans and policies that can promote birth-through-third grade systems nationwide.

For a full copy of the report, visit

About the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation

The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) is the state’s only organization focused exclusively on children from birth through age eight—the most rapid period of development in human life. It promotes public understanding, spearheads collaboration and advances policy to achieve its vision that each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for lifelong health, education and well-being supported by a premiere birth-to-age-eight system.