Decades of research shows that high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs have significant academic and lifelong benefits, ranging from lower rates of grade retention and special education placements to greater high school completion rates. Studies find that when children have access to quality ECE programs, they have an opportunity to develop the cognitive, physical, and social competencies that serve as a foundation for success in kindergarten and beyond. As a result, policymakers in many states have made new investments to increase access to and the quality of these programs—particularly for at-risk children.
In order to sustain children’s gains from early learning programs, ECE and public education systems need to better align their goals, approaches, and policies around teaching and learning. Research shows that alignment of policies and practices is especially important during the birth to third (B-3rd) grade continuum, when children develop important social-emotional and cognitive skills that are essential for later learning. State leaders also can enhance the benefits of their ECE investments by coordinating early learning strategies with the efforts of other agencies that serve young children and their families.