First Five Years Fund executive director Kris Perry and other education experts shared their reactions to the latest round of National Assessment of Educational Progress results with National Journal’s Fawn Johnson. Read the full article here.

The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) should be celebrated. Too often we focus on the negative without celebrating the progress our country has made in educating our children and providing them with the skills they need to succeed academically and in a 21st century workforce.

Educators, parents and policymakers alike are doing their best to boost achievement and the latest NAEP scores are emblematic of these efforts. However, it will take a robust approach to expanding high quality early childhood opportunities for disadvantaged children birth-age 5 to multiply these academic gains and maximize K-12 investments and reform efforts. Research by Nobel Prize laureate economist James Heckman shows that high-quality early learning for disadvantaged children helps prevent the achievement gap and reduce the need for costly remediation programs such as special education.

Early childhood education is an upstream strategy for preventing many of the remediation problems K-12 teachers work tirelessly to address. For example, high quality program models, such as Educare have shown positive results in preparing disadvantaged children for later academic success. Research from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North
Carolina-Chapel Hill has shown that disadvantaged children who enroll in Educare as infants or toddlers enter kindergarten with the same vocabulary and school-readiness skills as their middle-income peers and are better prepared for success by third grade, the most important year of an individual’s academic career.

The data speaks for itself. Teachers and administrators agree that it is much more effective to invest in high-quality early learning than it is to play catch up and attempt to close achievement gaps through costly special education and remediation programs. Yes, we are making progress on better education outcomes, but we can kick this progress until full gear by investing in quality early childhood education from birth to age five. Better education outcomes start at birth and continue through school. Education policy and practice must include quality early childhood education in order to prevent the achievement gap, boost achievement and build a strong workforce to grow our economy.