The governor, House of Delegates and state Senate made early education a priority with $6 million in targeted investments. The debate about early education has shifted from expanding access to ensuring that high quality is at the core of the state’s investment.

In 2017, data from The Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program, implemented in nearly half of school divisions, showed that 40 percent of children entered kindergarten unprepared in at least one domain-math, literacy, social skills and self-regulation. Children who enter kindergarten behind will struggle to catch up. Closing the readiness gap begins with quality early education.

E3: Elevate Early Education set out to make public investment a priority. Our strategy was to:

• Partner with UVA CASTL and the Virginia Department of Education to create VKRP to define the readiness gap.

• Advocate for a Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission study to analyze the effectiveness of state-funded programs and propose ways to improve.

• Demonstrate that investment in quality leads to kindergarten readiness by creating The New E3 School.

The JLARC report revealed that the Virginia Preschool Initiative, the state-funded preschool program for at-risk four-year-olds, impact on readiness is unknown and the quality varies. It also recommended that all school divisions participate in VKRP to understand how kindergarten children are entering school.

In response, E3 worked alongside policymakers and advocated for a House-led $6 million budget package focused on:

• Implementing VKRP in all kindergarten classrooms in the fall and spring to show student growth. For the first time, all Virginia school divisions, including VPI programs, teachers and parents will understand children’s skills beyond literacy. Professional development will support teachers.

• Conducting classroom observations in all VPI programs to assess quality. Professional development will support teachers to improve quality.

• Piloting in 50 programs across Virginia, the UVA model that was developed in The New E3 School.

Recently, Governor Northam launched a new Children’s Cabinet that will be chaired by our First Lady Pamela Northam, who will lead the initiative. These investments along with others make this an exciting time for children in Virginia!

LISA HOWARD

PRESIDENT AND CEO

E3: ELEVATE EARLY EDUCATION, A BIPARTISAN, ISSUE-ADVOCACY GROUP

RICHMOND

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