Early Childhood Results Count!

Post by Susan Dawson and Laura Koenig of E3 Alliance.

In the last week of September, 47 very knowledgeable representatives from health, mental health, education, social, academic, business, and civic sectors came together to launch an eight month effort to turn around an alarming drop in Kindergarten Readiness across our region.

Let’s start with the facts behind this effort:

  • Kindergarten Readiness is highly predictive a student’s success in 3rd grade reading and math – in fact far more predictive than race, income, or any other demographic
  • Kindergarten Readiness is a late stage indicator for health and mental health issues that can impact a child their entire life.
  • Kindergarten Readiness in our region has been far too low – at just around 50% in overall readiness (literacy, numeracy, Language and communications, social/emotional skills), but at least it has held steady despite huge cuts in funding and growth of children in poverty.
  • That is, until the 2015-16 school year, when we saw readiness drop drastically – from 53% to 41% in just one year.
  • And we have discovered that this drop correlates exactly with a drastic drop in federal, state, and local services for low income families when these children were zero-three years old.

This drop in services has come at a time when our families needed them most, when poverty rates for our region where at their highest. It meant more children than ever before were experiencing the stress of extreme poverty without having the aid of any service that might have helped them. If this drop in early childhood services indeed has caused such a massive drop in school readiness, we know that it will not turn around, and many thousands of children will be set up to fail in school and life, unless we bring together the health, mental health, and education sectors to work together to address the needs of children who have come in not on a path to success, as well as the generations of students behind them getting ready to enter school.

The Early Childhood Results Count initiative was designed to build on the great work of those who are working for children and families every day in our community. Central Texas has been championing school readiness for many years, but drastic changes to our early childhood systems caused by decreased  state and federal funding mean that we have find new approaches to change systems in order to advance the needs of our youngest community members and turn around the alarming drop in school readiness our region has seen. We adopted an aggressive tactical goal: that 1500 fewer Kindergarteners would come in “not ready” next year. This tactical target is aligned with our strategic goal that 70% of our children enter Kindergarten school Ready by 2020. The 47 community representatives, as well as dozens of cross-sector leaders from across the region, will be spending many hundreds of hours between now and  March of 2018 to build our community action plans to reach this goal.