BCG Report on Early Childhood Education: How and Why Cities are Rethinking Their Approaches

In our 2017 foundation report update, we emphasized the importance of early childhood education.

According to the Washington State Board of Education, less than half (or 44.2 percent) of entering kindergarteners in 2015–16 were able to demonstrate the six characteristics of school readiness (as measured by the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WaKIDS assessment). The numbers are lower for some populations (fewer than one in three Hispanic students is kindergarten ready, for example) and low-income students.

The state’s goal is to increase the percentage of school-ready kindergarteners to 69 percent by 2020. To get there, the State Board of Education advocates for expanding access to high-quality early childhood education. We agree. Today, only 40 percent of the state’s three- and four-year-olds enroll in early learning programs, a rate that puts Washington in the bottom quartile of states.

Focusing on kindergarten readiness is a cost-effective way to help ensure students begin their academic careers on a level playing field, thus increasing their potential for consistent individual growth, a successful K-12 experience, and completion of postsecondary programs. The state should continue to make targeted investments to expand early learning options for children most at risk of entering kindergarten unprepared.

So we were interested in – and wanted to call your attention to – a brief article from the Boston Consulting Group discussing how and why cities are rethinking early childhood education. It’s a good read, with examples from cities across the country. Here’s the frame:

Research shows that high-quality early-childhood education (ECE) is a critical factor in childhood development and long-term success, in reducing the achievement gap between children of different races and economic groups, and in creating strong communities. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, for example, has found that children who are reading on grade level by the third grade are far more likely to graduate from high school than those who are not, and that children who participate in high-quality ECE programs are more likely to hold stable employment and less likely to need public assistance as adults. Evidence suggests that ECE helps create better and safer communities and increases local tax revenue over time.

To get the desired outcomes, it’s important to provide the right ingredients. The article offers good lessons. We won’t attempt to summarize it here. The authors conclude,

ECE has long been recognized as a powerful—and needed—educational force. At the same time, many efforts have failed to meet their full potential: ensuring that each child has the necessary foundation to learn and grow. While there is no silver-bullet solution to ECE, local stakeholders should consider new approaches to building strong early-childhood systems. This means taking care to develop the whole child, focusing on the birth-to-third-grade continuum, and ensuring that each sector involved in childhood development is collaborating for the success of every child.

Makes sense.