State Policy and Research for Early Education (SPREE) Working Group


The State Policy and Research for Early Education (SPREE) Working Group began in 2016 and released their seminal report A Fair Start: Ensuring All Children are Ready to Learn in 2018. 


The goal of SPREE is to identify research-based and effective early education strategies toward crafting a framework with an accompanying guide to enhance state legislators' decision making abilities towards improving the educational outcomes of the youngest learners in their state. These outputs will not reflect specific polices or legislation, but are to help state legislators better understand the most important factors for improving early education outcomes informed by research. This effort has been made possible by the Heising-Simons Foundation.

The main output of the SPREE Working Group will be distributing the framework and guide to a large legislative audience. This output is expected to have a significant impact on legislators across the country by impacting the overall policy discussion. The recommendations will also be available for download via NCSL’s Early Learning and Support Website

Legislative Members:

Representative Terri Collins, AL Senator Rebecca Millett, ME
Representative Emanuel 'Chris' Welch, IL Senator Brian Kelsey, TN
Senator Katrina Jackson, LA Senator Claire Wilson, WA

Legislative Staff:

Lisa Gezelter, Commitee Analyst, OR  

Non-Legislative Members:

Shantel Meek, Children's Equity Project, AZ Iheoma U. Iruka, Equity Research Action Coalition, NC
Hanna Melnick, Learning Policy Institute, CA Karin A. Garver, NIEER, NJ
Jennifer Stedron, Early Milestones Colorado, CO Beth Tarasawa, NWEA, OR
Conor Williams, Century Foundation, D.C.  

NCSL Staff:

Patrick Lyons, Policy Specialist Jorge E. Casares, Policy Associate
Emily Ronco, Staff Coordinator  


Issue Areas

Examples of early education issue areas for exploration and potential inclusion into the final set of recommendations include:

  • School readiness, assessment and intervention
  • Family engagement and community schools
  • Literacy and mathematics proficiency 
  • Teacher credentialing, specialization and professional development
  • Chronic absenteeism, discipline and expulsions
  • Dual language learners
  • Effects of poverty

Meetings and Timeline

The SPREE Working Group will officially meet once each year at NCSL’s Legislative Summit for a day-long preconference or postconference session. Here are the most important dates and deliverables for the SPREE Working Group:

  • Aug. 7, 2016: NCSL Legislative Summit, Chicago (Preconference). This initial gathering provided time for member introductions, a discussion of the mission and goals of SPREE and several presentations on early education research and policy with time for discussion, questions and collaboration.
  • Aug. 9-10, 2017: NCSL Legislative Summit, Boston (Postconference). This meeting of the SPREE Working Group served to review the initial framework and to cooperatively create the final version and an accompanying publication. A discussion took place to determine the design, content and dissemination for the ensuing publication.
  • September 2017-January 2018: SPREE members and NCSL staff collectively developed a publication highlighting the group’s efforts and the resulting framework. This drafting process began in September. In December, the draft will be professionally edited and graphically designed by NCSL’s Communications team with distribution online and in print in January 2018.
  • July 29-30, 2018: NCSL Legislative Summit, Los Angeles (Preconference). This meeting of the SPREE Working Group served as a review of the 2018-2020 scope of work and discussion about maximizing service to state legislatures across the country. Attendees participated in a site visit to an early learning center and learn about local implementation challenges and successes.
  • Aug. 8-9, 2019: NCSL Legislative Summit, Nashville (Postconference). This meeting of the SPREE Working Group continued the discussion around supporting state legislators and legislative staff in their efforts to improve preschool through third grade educational outcomes. Attendees participated in a discussion regarding the effectiveness of the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K program with researchers from Vanderbilt University.
  • July 13-15, 2020: Educating Our Youngest Learners During Challenging Times, Virtual Summit. This meeting of the SPREE Working Group will explore the challenges that state legislatures face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.