Maximizing NC’s Early Learning Investments Requires Regular Attendance

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Part 2 of Guidance for Advancing Action Along NC Pathways To Grade-Level Reading

Photo Courtesy: Yan Krukau on Pexels

Here is the second of our five-part Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Policy and Practice Action Toolkit to provide guidance for how policymakers, advocates, community non-profits, the business community, and other stakeholders can support the well-being of all NC children. This toolkit also highlights organizations and initiatives across the state that are already taking action to move the needle forward. Explore Part 1 of the toolkit here and read on to preview the actions that will be the focus of each toolkit. 

Toolkit Part 2 highlights the following actions: 

  • Recruit and Retain Educators and School Leaders of Color
  • Adjust Hiring Practices to Ensure High-Quality Educators
  • Eliminate or Minimize Suspension and Expulsion
  • Invest in School Health and Mental Health Staff and Clinics

More than three years after the start of the pandemic, unprecedented high rates of chronic absenteeism persists, at about 3x higher than it was before the pandemic. Therefore, the guidance in this second part of the toolkit prioritizes increasing the percent of young children in North Carolina who are present and engaged in learning, which is a central aspect of the NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading that has been led by NCECF since 2015.

NC has invested heavily in strengthening the quality of early learning environments, and early childhood educator professionalization to provide high quality learning environments. However, this is only beneficial to the extent that children have high rates of attendance.

Early grade chronic absenteeism, or missing 10 percent or more of the school year, has long lasting negative effects. Students who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level, by third grade, and are more likely to continue having poor attendance in later grades. Additionally, because chronic absenteeism in the early grades is associated with lower academic achievement, as children progress through school, it is also associated with an increased likelihood of dropping out of school, later substance abuse, and contact with the criminal-legal system. 

Reducing chronic absenteeism is about reducing the many barriers to attendance. Some of these barriers include: poverty, unstable housing and frequent moves, parent mental health and well-being, lack of reliable transportation, involvement with the child welfare system, child health and well-being, and lack of culturally welcoming and engaging school climate. 

The Pathways for Grade-Level Reading aims high and is driven by a bold vision:

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. 

Toolkit Part 1 (access here)

  • Support Families in Advocating for their Children.
  • Require Linked Strategies Across Programs to Engage and Learn from Families.
  • Ensure Assessment Instruments are Culturally and Linguistically Relevant
  • Ensure Education Accountability Systems are Culturally Relevant
  • Provide Professional Development for Teachers on Cultural Competency/Working with Families
  • Support Schools and Child Care Programs to Engage Deeply with Families 

Toolkit Part 2 (access here

Toolkit Part 3 (October 2023) 

  • Create Family-Friendly Employment Policies
  • Ensure Accessible Transportation to Early Care Programs, Schools and Health Services
  • Increase Access to Infant and Toddler Care
  • Increase Standards and Compensation of Birth-through-Age-Five Educators
  • Expand Child Care Subsidies for Children; Raise Child Care Subsidy Rates; and Provide Higher Subsidy Rates to Providers in Underserved Communities

Toolkit Part 4 (November 2023) 

  • Address Barriers in Health Insurance Coverage of IECMH Services to Ensure Adequate Benefits
  • Create a Mental Health Professional Development System Focused on Infant and Toddler Clinicians 
  • Expand the NC Child Treatment Program
  • Increase Professional Development in MH Treatment for Pediatricians and Family Physicians 
  • Integrate Mental Health Providers with Pediatric and Other Primary Care Practices

Toolkit Part 5 (January 2024) 

  • Use Data to Track Community Needs and Service Provision 
  • Screen Children and Families for Social Determinants of Health and Connect them to Appropriate Services
  • Expand Maternal Depression Screening and Treatment
  • Invest in Two-Generation Interventions
  • Increase Access to Affordable Housing
  • Include At-Risk Children in Early Intervention

Keep in Touch with NCECF and Support Our Work

Visit the info page to learn more about the Pathways Action Map and consider adding your work! Share it with others in your network and community, whose work you think should be spotlighted. We want to utilize the Map as a resource to build awareness of innovation, make connections, and identify gaps and opportunities that can help guide policy making, advocacy, funding, and capacity building.

If you have any questions, or would like a guided tour of the Pathways Action Map, please contact us. We’d love to hear your ideas on how to continue to utilize this tool to support the success of all North Carolina children.

Please be sure to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter and consider making a donation today to continue a strong 2023 by helping us transform the lives of North Carolina families, from their earliest days, while also supporting a small growing, family-friendly team. 

The NC Early Childhood Foundation is driven by a bold – and achievable – vision: Each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and well-being supported by a comprehensive, equitable birth-to-eight ecosystem. We build understanding, lead collaboration, and advance policies to ensure each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade.