New Report Aims at Framework to Improve Early Learning


"A Fair Start" Is Based on a Two-Year Study

NCSL press release Denver—Large gaps exist in reading and math for low-income students entering kindergarten. On average, these students enter kindergarten 13 months behind in reading skills and 11 months behind in math skills. These gaps persist and even widen throughout their K-12 education, creating achievement gaps, according to a new report released by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

The report, “A Fair Start: Ensuring all Students Are Ready to Learn,” is based on the culmination of NCSL’s State Policy and Research for Early Education (SPREE) Working Group, made up of eight state legislators, two legislative staffers and six early learning experts from around the country. The working group was formed in early 2016 with the mission of developing a framework for state legislators to effectively engage in early learning policy discussions.

This report outlines a series of practical strategies and policy options for state legislators to enhance their state policy discussions. The focal point of the report is the SPREE Framework—with five key principles. They include:

  • Equity: Ensuring that every student has access to the educational resources and rigor they need to be successful. Using data to spotlight gaps in outcomes is an equitable strategy.
  • High-Quality Preschool-3rd Grade Education: Sustaining the gains made from high-quality pre-K is a challenge. States can think about how their kindergarten through third grade systems can ensure these gains are sustained by thinking about alignment and coordination in K-3.
  • Governance: Governance structures are incredibly complex and varied across the states. SPREE members reiterated that these structures should promote equity and excellence and be aligned and coordinated to provide the best outcomes for students.
  • Community and Family Engagement: Two-generation strategies—aimed at simultaneously supporting the child and their parent(s)—along with community schools providing a host of educational, health and supplemental services along with out-of-school opportunities are means to improve outcomes for P-3 students and their families.
  • Educator Development: SPREE members reiterated that the P-3 teacher workforce needs to be professionalized. By providing targeted professional development to build the knowledge and skills aligned with early childhood development. Also considering improving the pay and skillsets of these teachers was important.

Read the SPREE Working Group report.


NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.