High-Quality Early Learning Can Narrow Washington’s Achievement Gap, Presentation Suggests


Washington has been building a connected early education system for years, and if its still-emerging approach is going to close the achievement gap it should do more than increase quality, it should create high-quality child care and preschool.


This was one of the messages a team from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently delivered to a Washington state Legislature committee in a presentation. One line captured that point: “Only high-quality-or-better programs increase school readiness.”


The briefing laid out the building blocks of high-quality early learning, everything from two educators for every 15 to 22 children to increasing pay for lead early learning teachers so it is comparable to salaries for K-3 teachers. The presentation even suggested model programs that are more sustainable than often-cited-but-expensive Perry/HighScope Preschool and Abecedarian programs, such as New Jersey’s Abbot Preschool approach.

Washington already has a set of quality improvement programs, including its rating and improvement system, Early Achievers. The Gates presentation suggested Early Achievers can boost quality, but like many effective education reforms, it will take time.


“Early Achievers can increase school readiness in WA, slowly at first more quickly as program participation and quality increase.”

“Early Learning That Sticks.” Briefing for the Washington State Legislature. 1/30/14.

The briefing is full of important information and worth checking out. If you have the time you can watch the hearing. (Thanks to the Children’s Alliance for highlighting the presentation and hearing.)


Then you can head over to the New America Foundation and read “New Research: Early Education’s Influence on the Achievement Gap” on encouraging findings about closing that gap. (If you want to track developments in early learning, especially in the nation’s capital, follow the story’s author, Conor P. Williams, on Twitter @ConorPWilliams.)

As written in that story, (the Infant Health and Development Program) could — if made widely available to low-income families in the United States — “eliminate income-based gaps in IQ at age three.” The results suggested that these effects would fade somewhat over time, but would remain substantial in later years: were the program universal, the high/low-income IQ and achievement gap at age eight would be one-third to three-quarters erased.

Check it out.