January 5, 2022

The United States is on the cusp of making a historic investment in early care and education (ECE). This investment comes at a moment in time when the pandemic has exposed the fragmented and siloed nature of our early childhood systems in both urban and rural communities. Widespread racial protests have launched a national reckoning with pervasive racial inequities. Also, during the past two years, an important development has been taking place in the ECE world that can help inform our response to these challenges.

Twenty-eight states across the United States have been hard at work improving state and local ECE systems, supported by $275 million of Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B–5) funds. The aim of these efforts is to improve the quality of early childhood programs and services, including how programs and services work together in a coordinated fashion to best meet the needs of children and families. I suggest that state and local system-building efforts like those supported by PDG B–5 are essential to how we address learning loss in the aftermath of the pandemic, and how, as we expand access to ECE programs, we rebuild better, more equitable systems of care and education.

Over the past six years, my colleagues and I have collaborated with 40 communities in five states that are implementing coherent packages of coordinated strategies to improve outcomes for children and families during the first decade of children’s lives. These communities have established school-community partnerships that improve the quality of teaching and learning, coordinate comprehensive services, and deepen partnerships with families. In effect, these communities are working to create the overall community early childhood environments (through age 10) that ground-breaking research by Raj Chetty and colleagues at Harvard’s Opportunity Insights Project demonstrates is a primary driver of social mobility.

These place-based initiatives are one of the most powerful innovations at our disposal for promoting equity, improving outcomes for children, and strengthening families and communities. Spanning the early childhood-elementary school continuum, these partnerships implement effective, innovative strategies that help all children learn and thrive.

In a new nine-part series, launched on EDC’s First 10 blog, I explore what we can learn from the 40 communities we have worked with over the past several years. Upcoming posts will focus on promoting educational and racial equity through cross-sector partnerships and how to get started with First 10. Future posts will take a deeper dive into the First 10 model. I encourage you to visit the blog and share your questions, insights, and lessons learned from your own ECE work.

This post is an abbreviated version of a post that appears in its entirety on the First 10 blog

David Jacobson is an EDC principal technical advisor and the author of the 2019 report “All Children Learn and Thrive: Building First 10 Schools and Communities.”
Early Childhood Development and Learning

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