Building the Foundation for Bright Futures

Anna Lovejoy
January 24, 2005

A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness A
A Governor’s Guide
to School Readiness
Building the Foundation
for Bright Futures
Copyright © 2005 by the National Governors Association
Center for Best Practices.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 1-55877-370-3
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ii
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .iii
Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
School Readiness Defined
Common Elements of State School Readiness Policy
What Governors Can Do to Promote School Readiness
Building Ready States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Forging a Vision and Setting Priorities for School Readiness
Building and Governing a School Readiness System
Ensuring Accountability for Results
Conclusion
Supporting Ready Schools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Facilitating the Transition to Kindergarten
Aligning Early Learning Standards and Assessments
Helping Schools Get Ready for Children
Conclusion
Supporting Ready Communities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
Promoting Local Collaboration and Needs Assessment
Helping Community Leaders Track School Readiness Outcomes
Seeking Community Input in State Planning Efforts
Conclusion
Supporting Ready Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
Informing Parents
Visiting Families at Home
Offering Family Support Services
Conclusion
Supporting Ready Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
Ensuring High-Quality Care and Learning Opportunities for Young Children
Promoting Programs and Services for Infants and Toddlers
Ensuring High-Quality Prekindergarten Programs for Three- and Four-Year-Olds
Reaching Children with Special Needs and Children in Foster Care
Conclusion
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36
i
Building the Foundation
for Bright Futures
The National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices offers
Building the Foundation for Bright Futures: A Governor’s Guide to School
Readiness as a companion piece to Building the Foundation for Bright Futures:
Final Report of the NGA Task Force on School Readiness. Under the 2002–03
chairmanship of former Governor Paul E. Patton of Kentucky, NGA established
a gubernatorial Task Force on School Readiness to identify actions
that governors and states can take to support families, schools, and communities
in their efforts to ensure that all children are ready for school. The task force continued
under the leadership of the 2003–04 NGA chair, Governor Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho.
Participating governors included Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Governor Jennifer
Granholm of Michigan, former Governor Bob Holden of Missouri, Governor Bob Taft
of Ohio, Governor Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, and Governor Mark Sanford of
South Carolina.
This governor’s guide ties the state policy recommendations of the task force to concrete
examples of state initiatives to promote school readiness. It includes key considerations for
state policymakers and resources to help inform their decisions. The guide follows the same
readiness framework as the task force report, presenting what states are doing to build Ready
States and to support Ready Schools, Ready Communities, Ready Families, and Ready
Children.
The program and policy examples are representative of current state efforts to support the
adults, institutions, and systems seeking to ensure that all children enter school ready to
reach their full potential. Not every option entails a high price tag, and opportunities exist
to leverage flexible funding sources and coordinate existing programs and policies to serve
children more effectively and efficiently. Besides the specific program and policy examples,
this guide highlights emerging state strategies to align all school readiness efforts toward
common goals for children. Links to additional electronic information are included
throughout the publication.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures ii
PREFACE
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness
Anna Lovejoy, senior policy analyst, Education
Division, National Governors Association Center
for Best Practices (NGA), wrote this guide, with
contributions by Elisabeth Wright, senior policy
analyst, Education Division. The NGA Center
for Best Practices helps governors and their
key policy advisors develop and implement
innovative solutions to challenges facing states.
Dane Linn and Ilene Berman, director and
deputy director, respectively, of NGA’s Education
Division, and John Thomasian, director of the
NGA Center for Best Practices, offered valuable
insights and guidance. Within NGA’s Office
of Communications, John Blacksten, press
secretary, Center for Best Practices, and Kimberly-
Anne Boyer, program assistant, provided design
and editorial support and shepherded the
publication through the production process.
The NGA Center for Best Practices wants to
thank the many national experts and individuals
within states who provided information on
exemplary programs and policies. In addition,
the center would like to express its gratitude to
the policy staff of ZERO TO THREE: National
Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families for
their help in identifying effective initiatives for
young children and families: Julie Cohen, senior
policy analyst, Anne Goldstein, director of state
policy initiatives, Erica Lurie-Hurvitz, director of
public policy, Karen Alexander McGinley, Better
Baby Care project manager and information specialist,
Ngozi Onunaku, policy analyst, and Sheri
Lacy, policy assistant.
The author would also like to offer special
thanks to Karen Glass for providing thorough
and thoughtful editorial guidance on
this guide.
The A. L. Mailman Family Foundation, the
Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Joyce
Foundation generously supported the development
and production of this publication.
iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness
School readiness is a term used with increasing frequency
to describe expectations of how children will
fare upon entry to kindergarten. Children who enter
with the “right” skills and knowledge are more likely
to succeed in school than are their peers who are less
well prepared.1 Children’s social and academic success
has significant implications for the well-being of
families and communities and the growth of state
and national economies. Families, communities,
schools, and states have a strong interest in ensuring
that children are ready for kindergarten, and they all
play an important role in building the foundation for
children’s bright futures.
School Readiness Defined
Years of research on child development and early
learning show that several interrelated domains of
development define school readiness—physical wellbeing
and motor development, social and emotional
development, approaches to learning, language
development, and cognition and general knowledge.
2 These domains are important, build on one
another, and form the foundation of learning and
social interaction. Ready children are those who, for
example, play well with others, pay attention and
respond positively to teachers’ instructions, communicate
well verbally, and are eager participants in
classroom activities. They can recognize some letters
of the alphabet and are familiar with print concepts
(e.g., that English print is read from left to right and
top to bottom on a page and from front to back in a
book). Ready children can also identify simple
shapes (e.g., squares, circles, and triangles), recognize
single-digit numerals, and count to 10.3 Life
experiences directly impact a child’s development
beginning at birth and continuing through childhood.
4 Families, schools, and communities play a
central role in shaping these experiences, and states
are providing leadership to develop a coordinated
service and policy infrastructure to support them.
Common Elements of State
School Readiness Policy
States are leading the way in promoting school readiness.
The programs, services, requirements, and funding
sources they are using are as varied and complex
as are children’s developmental needs at this stage.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for states lies in coordinating
the different programs and services to ensure
the right ones are reaching the right children in the
right way. Whether addressing broad system-building
issues or individual program decisions, however, state
policy considerations share common elements related
to leadership, administration, accountability, and
funding that ultimately affect outcomes for children.
Leadership in Decisionmaking
For governors, the first order of business is generally
defining a vision for school readiness and assigning
responsibility for key decisions at the state level. To
overcome historical silos between programs and
among agencies, many governors are tapping top
state leadership to develop consensus and identify
priorities for state action. Collaborative governance
mechanisms vary among states and include children’s
cabinets, public-private commissions, and intergovernmental
agencies or task forces. Regardless of the
structure, these collaborations typically build consensus
on a vision and goals for the state and review existing
investments and policies to identify gaps, overlaps,
and leveraging opportunities. In addition, they seek
input from diverse public and private stakeholders at
the state and local levels, aim to reach agreement on
priorities, and outline strategies for achieving shortand
long-term goals. Moreover, they raise the profile
of school readiness issues, help define stakeholder
roles, and often are a means to ensure accountability
for decisions made at the top. Such collaborative
efforts also help governors and states make bottomline
decisions about which services the state will offer,
who will offer these services, and how much the
state will invest. Increasingly, states are focusing
on evidence-based practices and measuring results to
inform decisions. Further, they are working to build
on and integrate existing service infrastructures,
leverage public and private resources, and avoid
duplication across programs.
Administration and Delivery
States have considerable control over many decisions
related to funding, eligibility, and implementation.
With flexible funding sources (e.g., federal block
grants or state general funds), states often have discretion
over who is eligible for what services—all
families (voluntary or mandatory), at-risk children
(as the state defines), or families within specified geographic
regions or demographic groups. Depending
on the scope and range of services, states may opt to
1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
implement efforts statewide immediately, in a more
limited way at initial pilot sites, or gradually through a
phased-in rollout. States also decide who is eligible to
deliver services (e.g., schools, nonprofit organizations,
faith-based providers, or local public agencies)
and how funds will be allocated (e.g., through competitive
application or formula grant). The decisions
will vary depending on the goals and intended outcomes,
the services to be delivered, and the existing
state and local infrastructure.
Accountability
Increasingly, states are relying on local stakeholders
to match services with needs at the community level.
State-level entities are offering support, guidance,
and incentives, in addition to performing basic
administration and oversight functions. In this
capacity, states must decide what training and technical
assistance to offer, who will provide these supports
(e.g., agency staff or private partners), and
what financial support and incentives are available
to local providers and decisionmakers. Finally, states
must determine whom to hold accountable for what
outcomes (e.g., fiscal outcomes and child and family
outcomes), how to measure results, and what
rewards and sanctions to offer.
Funding
For state decisionmakers, the chief question is typically
how to pay for the services and supporting
infrastructure necessary to reach families and
achieve the desired child and family outcomes.
States have several sources of public and private
funding from which they can draw, depending on
intended goals and services. Among the many
potential federal sources available for school readiness
initiatives, there are a few major funding
streams.
The Community-Based Family Resource and
Support Program and Promoting Safe and Stable
Families grants fund state efforts to strengthen
families and reduce incidents of child abuse and
neglect through community-based, preventionfocused
family support programs.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and
Child Care and Development Fund block grants
provide states with flexible funding to promote the
well-being of children and self-sufficiency of their
parents.
Even Start offers resources to states to help break
the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by integrating
early childhood education, adult literacy and
basic education, and parenting education into a
single family literacy program.
The Maternal and Child Health Block Grant provides
funds to help states strengthen integrated
service systems to promote the health and wellbeing
of children and families.
Part B and Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act offer funding for infant and toddler
early intervention and early care and education
services for preschoolers with special needs.
Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
provides resources to local school districts to support
academic achievement for at-risk students.
(Although Title I is a source of funding for local
communities, states can encourage districts to use
the funds for early education services.)
States often contribute their own resources in addition
to or separately from federal funds to expand
services, strengthen infrastructure, or pursue statespecific
priorities. State general funds are sometimes
allocated to support school readiness efforts and are
typically distributed to local communities through
formula grants, competitive grants, or matching programs.
Some states dedicate revenue streams—
sales taxes, gaming or gambling fees, state lottery
revenues, or tax-exempt bonds—to school readiness
initiatives. In many cases, states encourage or
require local contributions. Funding sources include
local property taxes, local fees, parent contributions,
federal-to-local funding sources such as Title I, and
philanthropic, business, and community fundraising.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 2
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness
What Governors Can Do to Promote
School Readiness
States are continuing to serve as laboratories of
innovation for school readiness policy and practice.
In many cases, the most rewarding work and significant
accomplishments lie not in the specific programs
or services offered, but in the behind-the-scenes collaboration
and partnering occurring among public
and private stakeholders at the state and local levels.
Ensuring that all children are ready for school is a formidable
challenge that no single individual, program,
or agency can meet alone. It takes individual and
institutional leadership to move beyond immediate
concerns and commit to a broader long-term vision.
It also takes courage to build trust where turf battles
are the historical norm. Most of all, it takes smart
planning, strategic thinking, and effective communication
to reshape institutional and cultural mindsets
and implement true systemic change.
Perhaps the most important role that governors can
play is in providing leadership over efforts to build
Ready States. Governors can bring traditional and
new voices to the school readiness table, put their
authority behind cross-system collaboration efforts,
and demand accountability among stakeholders for
decisions and results. Perhaps most significantly, governors
can emphasize the central role of parents in
their children’s lives and clearly define the state’s role
in supporting families within the context of communities
and schools to ensure that all children start
school ready to reach their full potential.
3

A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 5
BUILDING READY STATES
Promoting school readiness is a complex and multifaceted
effort that requires public- and private-sector
involvement. There are no one-size-fits-all approaches
that states can adopt quickly or easily. The proven
strategies are as varied as are the needs of individual
children, and states are already investing in numerous
efforts to support children and families. For
most states, the key challenge is to bring together all
the disparate pieces of the “nonsystem” (e.g., health,
child welfare, family support, early intervention, and
early care and education) into a coordinated infrastructure
of services, programs, and decisionmaking.
Top-level public- and private-sector leadership
often determines whether systemic change occurs
and is sustained over the long term. Accordingly,
governors have an important opportunity to lead
key agencies and decisionmakers to design strategies
that meet the needs of families and the long-term fiscal
and social policy goals of their state.
In its final report, the NGA Task Force on School
Readiness recommends that governors ensure
Ready States by:
developing a vision and strategic plan for school
readiness that considers the role of families,
schools, and communities and that addresses the
developmental needs of children beginning
before birth to kindergarten (and beyond);
building a comprehensive and coordinated statewide
system for school readiness; and
ensuring accountability for results across agencies
and between the state and local levels.
Forging a Vision and Setting
Priorities for School Readiness
Governors can provide leadership in bringing
together the multiple, and often competing, voices
for children in a state to build consensus on a shared
vision, common goals, and mutual priorities. Many
states are already collecting funding and outcomes
data to identify gaps and duplication of services, set
priorities, and inform policy decisions. They are also
adopting strategies to measure progress toward common
goals and communicate results to policymakers
and the public. The most successful efforts tend to
enjoy strong gubernatorial support and involvement
from influential private nonprofit and for-profit
stakeholders. To sustain momentum and ensure a
continued legacy, governors should celebrate successes,
no matter how small, along the way. They
should also communicate results effectively to key
audiences (e.g., parents, legislators, community
leaders, service providers, and the public).
Moreover, they should pursue strategies to sustain
efforts in the face of changes in political leadership
or policy priorities (e.g., by seeking to codify changes
through statute and building strong grassroots and
private-sector support).
Several states are taking advantage of national opportunities,
such as the federal Maternal and Child
Health Bureau’s State Early Childhood Comprehensive
Systems (ECCS) Project or the multistate
Build Initiative of the national Early Childhood
Funders Collaborative (see National System-Building
Initiatives for School Readiness on page 8). Governor
Dirk Kempthorne and First Lady Patricia Kempthorne
of Idaho are capitalizing on the state’s federal ECCS
grant to support an Early Care & Learning Cross
Systems Task Force to improve coordination across
all systems that serve young children. The task force
vision calls for all of Idaho’s young children to be
healthy, nurtured by families with quality learning
opportunities, and supported by community resources.
The vision is driving the development of a statewide
plan that involves communities and families in
improving the lives of children. The Governor’s
Coordinating Council for Families and Children,
housed in the governor’s office, is directly involved in
the task force. The council enables voices from civic
groups, government agencies, nonprofit organizations,
and the business and faith communities to
participate in discussions and decisionmaking on
children and families. For more information, visit
http://www.gccfc.idaho.gov.
Pennsylvania is one of several states involved in the
national Build Initiative, which seeks to help teams
of public and private stakeholders build statewide,
comprehensive early learning systems. The commonwealth’s
strategic workplan for the initiative
incorporates Governor Edward G. Rendell’s priorities
for early care and education. These priorities
include expanding and improving the quality of
early learning programs, ensuring access, engaging
and educating parents and the public, and improving
the coordination and integration of all systems
that provide early childhood services. With the governor’s
leadership, Pennsylvania increased funding
for early care and education for fiscal 2004–05 with
$15 million in new funds for state-expanded Head
Start programs, $30 million to support child care
quality and accessibility improvements, and $225
million for the Education Accountability Block
Grant to local school districts. Two-thirds of the
block grant funds will support three early learning
options—prekindergarten programs, full-day kindergarten,
or class size reduction in the early elementary
grades. For more information, visit http://
www.pde.state.pa.us/early_childhood/cwp/view.asp?Q=1047
72&A=179.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle released a comprehensive
vision and strategic plan to invest in children
and their families. KidsFirst is based on broad input
from state leaders and local and private stakeholders.
It establishes school readiness as the first of four goals;
the others are strong families, healthy kids, and child
safety and well-being. The plan identifies immediate
action steps, potential areas for public-private partnerships,
and strategies to achieve a long-term legislative
agenda. In support of school readiness, the governor’s
plan focuses on improving parents’ options
for high-quality early care and education, investing
further in early childhood professional development,
expanding kindergarten programs for four-year-olds,
and conducting public awareness efforts to promote
early literacy experiences. For more information, see
http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/docs/kidsfirst.pdf.
In 2003 Hawaii became one of the first states in the
nation to adopt a definition of school readiness in
statute: “Young children are ready to have successful
learning experiences when there is a positive interaction
among the child’s developmental characteristics,
school practices, and family and community support.”
Hawaii’s School Readiness Task Force involved public
and private stakeholders in the process to develop this
definition, which both publicly communicates school
readiness as a priority and guides decisionmaking
at the state and local levels. The task force represents
the early childhood arm of Hawaii’s P–20 Initiative
to link early learning, K–12, and postsecondary
goals and expectations. For more information, visit
http://www.goodbeginnings.org/school.htm.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano engaged the public-
private advisory State Board on School Readiness to
inform her “5-Year School Readiness Action Plan” that
aims to improve the early care and education system
and increase the long-term educational success of children
in the state. As a first step, Arizona is developing
a quality ratings system for child care to inform parents
about quality and offer child care providers technical
and financial assistance to improve quality. The governor
supports efforts to build a high-quality early care
and education workforce through scholarships, wage
enhancements, and a new Early Education Emerging
Leaders program. She is also seeking to implement a
health consultation system for child care providers and
preschool programs. For more information, visit
http://www.governor.state.az.us/cyf/school_readiness/index_
school_readiness.html.
Building and Governing a School
Readiness System
Building a true system of coordinated services and
policies for young children requires a strong commitment
to collaboration and systemic change on
the part of state leaders. Agency executives must be
willing to rethink the way they do business and be
prepared for shifts in lines of authority over programs
and decisions. Governors can lead state
efforts to build school readiness systems. For example,
they can create children’s cabinets or commissions
to promote coordination and collaboration.
They can also give agencies joint authority over programs
and decisions. Moreover, governors can bring
all related programs and services for young children
under one existing agency or create a new agency to
focus on this population.
The historical and political contexts of states vary, so
there is no single best arrangement to administer
and govern school readiness policies and programs.
Each approach brings different benefits and challenges.
For example, creating a statewide agency for
birth-to-five programs may increase alignment and
efficiency among those programs, but it may also
create or reinforce disconnects between K–12 and
public health services. A collaborative governance
body may bring all relevant voices to the table, but it
may also increase the difficulty of reaching consensus
on a common agenda. Regardless of the governance
structure, states should consider collaboration
mechanisms (e.g., memoranda of understanding
or joint authority over funding streams) among
all agencies that touch the lives of children and famuilding
the Foundation for Bright Futures 6
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness
ilies to bring policies and decisions into alignment.
Such partnerships provide opportunities to create,
for example, unified data collection requirements,
training opportunities, and professional standards
across prekindergarten, child care, and Head Start
programs.
A growing number of states are encouraging shared
governance and program oversight through collaborative
bodies, including cross-agency commissions or
state children’s cabinets. Such commissions or cabinets
generally seek to raise the profile of children
and family issues and promote better coordination
among government programs that serve children
and families. They typically include various public
and private stakeholders from the state and/or local
levels, depending on their mission and goals. For a
full discussion of state children’s cabinets, see the
NGA Center for Best Practices’ A Governor’s Guide to
Children’s Cabinets at http://www.nga.org/center/divisions
/1,1188,C_ISSUE_BRIEF^D_7251,00.html.
The Louisiana Children’s Cabinet aims to reduce
gaps and duplication of services to children. The
cabinet’s primary function is to coordinate children’s
policy across the departments that serve children.
It makes recommendations to the governor on
funding priorities and maintains a children’s budget
that details spending on all state initiatives for them.
The cabinet is composed of key state agency secretaries,
two state legislators, and a representative of
the Louisiana Supreme Court. It also relies on recommendations
from a 32-member advisory board
that is composed of parents, assistant secretaries of
state departments, and members of statewide child
advocacy organizations. For more information, visit
http://www.gov.state.la.us/ldbc/childrenscabinet/childrens
home.htm.
In support of her early childhood initiative, Project
Great Start, Governor Jennifer Granholm established
the Michigan Children’s Cabinet to improve
the effectiveness and efficiency of programs for children
and their families. The cabinet is developing a
three-year strategic plan that will outline priorities
and strategies for accomplishing specific goals.
Members include leaders of the state’s agencies for
education, public health, family services, and labor
and economic growth. The Children’s Action
Network, an advisory body to the cabinet, makes recommendations
on prevention and early intervention
services for children from birth to age five.
Among other charges, the network is tasked with
implementing a coordinated early childhood system
by 2007. The Children’s Action Network includes
members of the Michigan Children’s Cabinet, members
of the child advocacy community, and other key
state government staff. For more information, visit
http://www.greatstartforkids.org/about.htm.
Governors can also authorize joint oversight among
state agencies for programs and decisions to ensure
alignment of goals and services. The Arkansas
Departments of Education and Human Services are
responsible for implementing several interrelated
early childhood initiatives. The two state agencies
jointly govern early childhood programs, including
parent outreach efforts, community-based early childhood
mental health pilot projects, and prekindergarten
literacy training that is aligned with K–2 training.
Under the departments’ joint leadership,
Arkansas has aligned learning frameworks for early
childhood, prekindergarten, and K–4 education. The
two agencies also jointly oversee efforts to track indicators
of progress toward intended school readiness
outcomes. Most significantly, department officials
share responsibility for the state’s prekindergarten
program. Governor Mike Huckabee appointed an 18-
member Early Childhood Commission to advise and
inform the joint efforts of the departments. For more
information, visit http://www.state.ar.us/childcare/.
In September 2004, Governor Rendell announced
the creation of a new Pennsylvania Office of Child
Development within the state’s department of public
welfare to oversee all of the early childhood and
child care programs previously housed in three separate
offices. The appointed deputy secretary for the
new office serves as the administration’s point person
for the governor’s early learning agenda and
also serves as a policy director in the department
of education. The new office and the
deputy secretary’s joint appointment to both
agencies are intended to ensure an integrated,
unified approach to the commonwealth’s early
learning programs, which are a high priority of
Governor Rendell. For more information, visit
http://www.pde.state.pa.us/early_childhood/site/default.asp.
7
A few states are pioneering new strategies to
strengthen school readiness systems and decisionmaking.
Two states are leading the way in establishing
new state departments to consolidate and
streamline early childhood programs. Georgia’s new
Bright From the Start: Georgia Department of Early
Care and Learning is charged with coordinating and
streamlining the state’s early child care programs to
help ensure every child in the state enters kindergarten
ready to succeed. Formerly the Georgia
Office of School Readiness, the department will
administer the state’s universal prekindergarten program,
license center-based and home-based child
care programs, and administer federal nutrition programs.
In addition, it will house the Georgia Head
Start–State Collaboration Office, administer the
Child Care and Development Fund 4-percent quality
set-aside dollars and other earmarked quality dollars,
and manage the contracts of the state’s resource
and referral agencies. The department will also distribute
federal Even Start dollars for early literacy
and work collaboratively with Smart Start Georgia—
a public-private initiative for services to children
from birth to age three—and other organizations to
blend federal, state, and private funds to enhance
early learning and education. For more information,
visit http://www.osr.state.ga.us/.
A new Massachusetts Department of Early Education
and Care will become effective July 1, 2005. By statute,
the new department will oversee preschool programs
previously administered by the education department.
It will also assume related early childhood
responsibilities from the office of child care services.
For more information, visit http://www.mass.gov and
search for “Early Education and Care Council.”
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 8
National System-Building Initiatives for
School Readiness
The Build Initiative helps states construct a coordinated
system of programs, policies, and services that
respond to the needs of young children and their families.
With funding from the national Early Childhood
Funders Collaborative—a consortium of national and
local foundations that have substantial grantmaking
programs in early childhood care and education—the
initiative supports policymakers, service providers, and
child advocates in ensuring that children are safe,
healthy, eager to learn, and ready to succeed in
school. Build currently provides grants to stakeholder
teams in five states—Illinois, Minnesota, New
Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—to build statewide
early learning systems. State teams involve parents,
advocates, service providers, state agency officials,
business and community leaders, and others who
work with children. In addition to funding, state teams
receive ongoing technical assistance from national policy
experts. Build states identify and achieve measurable
outcomes in areas such as evaluation, financing, public
engagement, quality improvement, and infrastructure
employment. The first-year evaluation of the initiative
found that although approaches and priorities differed,
each state was able to take concrete steps to move
specific policy agendas forward. For more information, visit
http://www.buildinitiative.org/.
The federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s State
Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Project provides
planning grants to help state maternal and child
health agencies and partner organizations implement
comprehensive early childhood systems that promote
the health and well-being of young children, enabling
them to enter school ready to learn. The project is supporting
efforts in two stages: two years of planning and
three years of implementation. In 2003 states received
grants of $100,000 for the first planning stage, and
they will receive another two years of planning support.
The three-year implementation phase, which will provide
states with $150,000 per year, will begin in 2005.
The project requires states to concentrate on ensuring
access to parent education, family support services,
medical homes, early care and education services, and
mental health and social-emotional development services.
Many states have used these funds to supplement
efforts already underway and, in many cases, to more
directly include maternal and child health systems in
comprehensive planning efforts (see the Idaho example
on page 5). For more information, visit http://www.healthy
child.ucla.edu/NationalCenter/.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness
Ensuring Accountability for Results
To ensure ultimate success, states need to establish
goals and measure progress toward outcomes for
children, families, schools, communities, and state
systems. This involves selecting measures that reflect
that the responsibility for school readiness lies not
with children, but with the adults who care for them
and the policies and systems that support them.
Multiple measures are required to track progress
toward system outcomes (e.g., evaluate progress
toward integrating service delivery systems and
adopting key policy changes); program outcomes
(e.g., evaluate program implementation efforts and
track aggregate data from developmentally appropriate
child assessments); and child outcomes (e.g.,
track indicators of family stability and child health
and well-being). Measuring results helps hold policymakers
and stakeholders accountable for meeting
agreed-upon goals.
Public and private stakeholders in Ohio have developed
a strategic plan for building an early learning
system that will enable the partners to regularly
monitor and evaluate progress and realign goals and
priorities as needed. The plan has been incorporated
into the Ohio Build initiative, and it lays out the
goals, milestones, and core elements of a 10-year
effort to build an early learning system based on
three guiding principles: relationships matter, quality
matters, and resources matter. Core elements
touch on funding, curriculum, service delivery, political
will, system infrastructure, caregiver accreditation
and regulation, and caregiver training, qualifications,
and compensation. For more information, visit
http://www.build-ohio.org/system.htm.
Many states are far along in developing, using, and
communicating the results of school readiness indicators
(see National School Readiness Indicators
Initiatives on page 10). During spring 2004, Virginia
Governor Mark R. Warner released No Time to
Waste: Indicators of School Readiness 2004 Data Book.
The result of Virginia’s involvement in the
national School Readiness Indicators Initiative,
the report includes indicator data on the physical,
social, emotional, and cognitive status of
children—all factors that research has shown to
influence whether children are ready for kindergarten.
The report will be used to track data
trends over time and promote informed policy
decisions in support of school readiness (see
http://www.vakids.org/early%20care%20and%20edu/SRI20
04.pdf).
Inconsistent data can challenge states interested in setting
up sound accountability systems. One important
step they can take is to establish common measurements
and consistent data reporting mechanisms to
enable improved information-sharing and analysis
across state agencies and programs. This may involve
increasing or reallocating resources to support consistent
data collection efforts. Since 1996 the Minnesota
Departments of Education and Health and Human
Services and the Minnesota Head Start–State Collaboration
Office have partnered to coordinate and
enhance the state’s screening efforts of young children
in the Early Childhood Health and Developmental
Screening Program, the Early and Periodic Screening,
Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) program, and the
screening that occurs in Head Start. Recently, the
departments released Minnesota Quality Indicators for
Child Health and Developmental Screening: A Comprehensive
Framework to Build and Evaluate Community-Based
Screening Systems (see http://education.state.mn.us/con
tent/077474.pdf). These comprehensive standards aim
to improve the content quality and consistency of
screening programs for young children in EPSDT,
Head Start, and early childhood programs. They were
developed with substantial input from parents and
community health and early childhood education
experts. An evaluation of the impact of the quality indicators’
framework on screening programs and subsequent
child outcomes is planned for 2005. Once the
results have been tracked, the public will be made
aware of progress toward school readiness goals.
States can develop a communications strategy to
report progress, using results to inform policy decisions
and build support for school readiness efforts
among parents, educators, policymakers, legislators,
and the public. In Connecticut Ready, Set, Grow . . .
CT Kids! is a statewide, multiyear communications
and mobilizing campaign in support of the public
goal that, “All children born in Connecticut beginning
in 2004 will enter kindergarten healthy, eager
to learn, and ready for school success.” The campaign
seeks to inform parents and the public
about the importance of children’s readiness for
school and to persuade policy leaders to reinvest
in young children. For more information, visit
http://www.readysetgrowctkids.org/about.html.
9
Conclusion
Governors are in a unique position to guide collaborative
efforts in building Ready States. Gubernatorial
leadership is critical to establish a clear vision and
common goals for children and to empower other
state, local, and private-sector leaders to make
informed decisions in exchange for positive results.
Governors can ensure that state efforts focus on the
needs of children and families first, are based on
solid research, and are implemented in partnership
with local and private-sector efforts to maximize
resources and seed innovation.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 10
National School Readiness
Indicators Initiatives
The School Readiness Indicators Initiative works with 17
states to develop comprehensive school readiness indicators
to inform public policy for young children and their
families at the state level. The task of participating states is
to develop child outcome and systems indicators that tell
the school readiness story of children in the state from birth
through age eight. The indicators are intended to stimulate
policy, program, and other actions to improve the ability of
all children to read at grade level by the end of the third
grade. They are broad enough to present a picture of the
whole child, including what he or she knows and can do
and his or her health status, economic well-being, and
mental and emotional health status. States have also identified
indicators for ready families, ready communities, and
ready schools, and they have selected system outcomes to
monitor the services and supports available to young
children and their families. For more information, visit
http://www.gettingready.org/matriarch/default.asp.
Through its Policy Matters initiative, the Center for the
Study of Social Policy (CSSP), a nonprofit policy research
organization, has developed a research-based policy
framework and method to benchmark and measure state
progress toward specific policy goals. Policy Matters
applies the Casey KidsCount indicators model, which
tracks common indicators of child well-being across states
and over time, to state policy decisions. It identifies the
critical policy elements necessary to achieve positive outcomes
for marriage, youth development, school readiness,
family stability, and economic security. Under the
school readiness piece, these elements include licensing
and accreditation policies, comprehensive professional
development systems and compensation policies, and
quality standards for early care and education. CSSP has
developed an interactive database with state-by-state
information on existing policies within this framework.
Policymakers can use this tool to help them establish goals
and track progress toward policy and systems outcomes.
For more information, visit http://www.cssp.org/major
_initiatives/state_policy.html.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness
Increasing awareness that learning begins at birth is
casting a new light on the role of public elementary
schools in ensuring that children enjoy positive early
experiences in the kindergarten classroom. Today,
children are entering school with varying skills,
knowledge, and experiences that challenge a
school’s ability to meet all children “where they are.”
The concept of Ready Schools seeks to define what
schools can do to better support young children. It
centers on children’s transition to the school environment,
clear expectations for what children
should know and be able to do at kindergarten
entry, and continued high-quality instruction
throughout the early elementary grades (and
beyond). Local leadership remains a strong feature
of public education in America. Yet the NGA Task
Force on School Readiness identified three actions
that governors can take to support local efforts to
implement Ready Schools:
support families, schools, and communities in
facilitating the transition of young children to the
kindergarten environment;
align state early learning standards with K–3 standards;
and
support elementary schools in providing highquality
learning environments for all children.
Facilitating the Transition to Kindergarten
Kindergarten entry often means a dramatic shift for
children—in terms of class size, academic demands,
social environment, and parent involvement—relative
to what they may have experienced at home or
in preschool. School efforts to communicate and
reach out to families and early childhood educators
prior to the start of kindergarten help alleviate culture
shock for children and their parents.5 States can
help schools develop local transition plans in collaboration
with parents, principals, preschool and
kindergarten teachers, Head Start and child care
providers, and other community members. They can
also encourage innovative and promising practices
at the local level, such as holding kindergarten registration
earlier in the year and introducing children
and parents to their teachers before the start of
school. Finally, states can offer incentives and supports
for teachers and administrators, many of whom are
already struggling to balance a tremendous workload
and limited resources, if they engage proactively in
innovative transition practices. Continued study of
transition practices is necessary to identify effective
strategies, but several models are emerging in states
that hold promise. (See, also, National Transition
Initiative on page 12.)
In 2004 South Carolina launched an innovative public
awareness and home visiting initiative to support
children’s kindergarten transition. Countdown to
Kindergarten, a partnership between the public
nonprofit organization South Carolina First Steps
and Columbia’s EdVenture Children’s Museum,
educates parents about the importance of home literacy
and hands-on learning activities. It is privately
funded and includes public awareness strategies,
teacher home visits to at-risk children and their parents
prior to the start of kindergarten, and a
Countdown celebration at the EdVenture Museum
to celebrate the “first day” of school. In its first year,
Countdown to Kindergarten attracted significant
media attention and reached more than 600 children
across the state. Pre- and post-survey results
show that the home visits had a significant positive
impact on the frequency of parent-child interactions
on early numeracy, reading and early literacy,
and arts and crafts activities. Thanks to these successes,
South Carolina First Steps is seeking to
expand Countdown to Kindergarten in its second
year. For more information, visit http://www.scfirststeps.
org/CountdowntoK.htm.
West Virginia’s Early Childhood Transition Steering
Committee helps local communities develop effective
transition policies and practices for children
below age five. It includes representatives from state
and local agencies, Head Start families, the education
department, the child care system, and the
birth-to-three system (Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act Part C early intervention). The steering
committee seeks to maximize positive outcomes
for children as they move through different settings
by ensuring program experiences are consistent, fostering
positive ongoing relationships between families
and professionals and among participating agencies,
and developing a smooth transition process for
children, families, and involved agencies. It provides
information, training opportunities, and technical
assistance materials to local communities. In particular,
the steering committee developed a transition
checklist for local agencies to track transition proce-
11
SUPPORTING READY SCHOOLS
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 12
dures and timelines in keeping with effective practice
and legal requirements. The West Virginia Department
of Education will require schools to use this checklist
under the Universal Access to Pre-kindergarten
System, which state law requires to be implemented
statewide by 2013. For more information, visit
http://www.wvearlychildhood.org/steer.html.
Aligning Early Learning Standards and
Assessments
States are leading collaborative efforts to establish
clear expectations for what children should know
and be able to do by kindergarten entry. In most
states, early learning standards, also termed goals or
guidelines, are intended to inform parents, caregivers,
and educators about individual children’s
developing skills. This knowledge can then guide
adults’ decisions about what each child needs. These
standards are not usually intended to directly assess
children’s performance. Yet they can be used to
guide appropriate assessment practices to improve
instruction and track children’s progress, such as
continuous observation and work sampling.
Standards are typically developed in collaboration
with parents, researchers, policymakers, administrators,
and educators and, increasingly, they are linked
to K–12 standards.
Nearly 40 states have or are developing learning
standards for young children.6 They are applying
these standards to all settings for young children,
including the home, preschool and child care centers,
Head Start programs, and family, friend, and
neighbor care settings. Moreover, states are connecting
training and professional development for early
care and elementary school educators to support
greater continuity between early learning programs
and schools. Federal developments, such as the
Good Start, Grow Smart initiative, also are encouraging
states to enhance and align early learning
standards with state standards for elementary and
secondary education, particularly for literacy, language,
and mathematics (see National Early Learning
Standards Initiative on page 13).
Many states have developed standards specifically for
preschool-age children. Rhode Island, for example,
has adopted standards for four-year-olds that are
divided into eight domains: approaches to learning,
social and emotional development, language development
and communication, literacy, mathematics,
science, creativity, and physical health and development.
Kentucky is among several states that have
developed guidelines for children from birth to
kindergarten-age. Such guidelines recognize the
tremendous variability among children at this stage.
Although typically incorporating all developmental
domains, guidelines for infants and toddlers often
emphasize children’s health, physical development,
and emerging social and language skills. Standards
for three- and four-year-olds tend to increase the
focus on cognition, general knowledge, language
and communication, and emerging literacy skills as
well as social and emotional skills (e.g., cooperation,
self-regulation, and conflict resolution). Kentucky
and Rhode Island, as do many states, offer information
and guidance to parents, as well as training and
technical assistance to professionals, on appropriate
application of the standards to instruction and continuous
assessment activities. For more information
on Rhode Island’s early learning standards, visit
http://www.ride.ri.gov/els/. For more information on
Kentucky’s initiatives, visit http://www.kidsnow.ky.gov.
The Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR)
is a leading model that incorporates early learning
standards into a statewide assessment and instructional
system for local schools. MMSR is increasingly
being applied to child care, prekindergarten, and
Head Start programs. It incorporates research-based
instruction, age-appropriate assessment of children’s
learning, and effective communication among
National Transition Initiative
The W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Supporting Partnerships to
Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) seeks to align early learning
and elementary school systems, as well as health and
critical services, for children who are likely to be unprepared
to learn. The initiative focuses on supporting a
smooth transition to school over time. Communities in
eight states receive support to implement transition practices,
such as aligning expectations and standards,
increasing parent involvement, and coordinating training
for prekindergarten and elementary teachers. SPARK
communities are located in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii,
Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and
the District of Columbia. For more information, visit
http://www.sparkkids.org/.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 13
teachers, parents, and early childhood providers. An
important component of the model is the Work
Sampling System™, which provides a mechanism
for teachers to document and assess children’s
skills, knowledge, behavior, and academic accomplishments
in different subject areas. Trained teachers
and early childhood providers document children’s
learning and rate each child’s growth and progress
using developmental guidelines, work samples,
and checklists. Progress is shared with parents and
reported to teachers of the next grade level.
Aggregated data inform an annual report to the
legislature on the level of school readiness
statewide. For more information, visit http://www.mdk
12.org/instruction/ensure/MMSR/.
Helping Schools Get Ready for Children
The main characteristics of Ready Schools include
research-based instruction and high standards that
are implemented consistently across all classrooms;
qualified teachers, ongoing professional development,
and adequate compensation; and strong
leadership from teachers and school administrators.
These schools also address individual children’s
needs, including second-language learners and students
with special needs. Moreover, they measure
results and revise practices that are not effective.7
States can support schools by clearly defining the key
features of Ready Schools and by providing local
administrators and educators with supports, guidance,
and incentives to implement these features.
Several states are developing tools to guide school
administrators in measuring both children’s readiness
for school and schools’ readiness for children. (See,
also, National Ready Schools Initiatives on page 14.)
Vermont has developed a multipart assessment that
gathers information from kindergarten teachers on
children’s readiness at the beginning of the school
year, collects data from school principals on their
school’s readiness for young children and their families,
and includes health screening data collected by
school nurses. The ready schools assessment is based
on the National Education Goals Panel’s “top 10”
characteristics of these schools. Data are generated
from reports of kindergarten teachers and principals
on four domains: smooth transitions, instruction and
staff development, partnership with the community,
and resources (e.g., supports for teachers and availability
to parents of outside services, such as health
services, housing assistance, and parent education
classes.) Superintendents and principals receive their
own data reports and communities receive important
highlights. To date, Vermont’s schools are strongest on
transitions and resources and show greater variability
on partnering with the community and instruction
and staff development. For more information, visit
http://www.ahs.state.vt.us/publs/docs/KReady2002-03.htm.
Similarly, Hawaii has just completed the first year of
the Hawaii State School Readiness Assessment, which
incorporates measures for both children and
schools. The Hawaii Children Ready for Schools
instrument is based on the state’s preschool content
standards and relies on teachers’ professional judgment
of children’s ongoing behaviors in the classroom.
The instrument was designed to help track
school and system improvement over time for cohort
groups (not individual children) as they enter
kindergarten and to support school- and classroomlevel
curriculum planning. Schools and teachers can
use the classroom and aggregated school results to
examine curriculum areas for instructional purposes.
The companion Hawaii Schools Ready for
Children instrument seeks to track changes in
schools’ key readiness policies and practices over
time related to transition, communication, parent
education, parent involvement, school improvement,
and early childhood classroom practices focused on
early childhood areas. For more information, see
http://www.hawaii.edu/hepc/pdf/Reports/PhaseII_Valid_3
_24.pdf.
National Early Learning
Standards Initiative
Good Start, Grow Smart, an initiative of President George
W. Bush, aims to help states and local communities
strengthen early learning for young children. The initiative
seeks to strengthen the federal Head Start program, partner
with states to improve early childhood education, and
provide information to parents, teachers, and caregivers.
The president’s plan encourages states to voluntarily develop
guidelines on literacy, language, and prereading skills
activities for children ages three to five that are aligned
with state K–12 standards and are applicable to all child
care settings. Good Start, Grow Smart’s state activities
also incorporate professional development and early
childhood program coordination efforts. For more information,
visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/early
childhood/toc.html.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 14
Conclusion
Research and thinking are still emerging around the
concept of Ready Schools, and states are taking steps
to guide and encourage innovative local efforts.
States are working with national experts to identify
best practices to facilitate children’s transition to
kindergarten and assess schools’ readiness for children.
They are also developing appropriate and
research-based early learning expectations and
aligning them with K–12 education standards. These
activities cast a new light on the role of public
schools in supporting children’s learning before
kindergarten entry. Further research will continue
to inform policies and practices in this area.
National Ready Schools Initiatives
Helping Schools Get Ready for All Children is an initiative
to develop a clear definition of Ready Schools
and create concrete assessment tools and resources
for schools seeking to improve learning environments
for children. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation awarded
High/Scope Educational Research Foundation $1.4
million to help create consensus on the components
of such schools. The initiative seeks to build on current
efforts with schools and work closely with early
childhood educators, elementary educators, and representatives
from the Supporting Partnerships to
Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) initiative—a W. K. Kellogg
Foundation effort designed to prepare vulnerable children
to be ready for school and prepare schools to be
ready for children (see National Transition Initiative on
page 12). High/Scope has created a ready school
assessment instrument and is providing training and
technical assistance to schools so they can reach out
to children who are particularly at risk of school failure.
The instrument includes questionnaires for parents,
teachers, and principals. High/Scope is now testing
the validity of the ready school assessment instrument
in schools, and it will present study findings by
the end of the grant term in 2006. For more information,
visit http://www.highscope.org.
Mapping the PK–3 Continuum (MAP) is a broad
effort of the Foundation for Child Development
(FCD) to support efforts to connect prekindergarten,
kindergarten, and the first three elementary grades
into a coherent first level of publicly funded education.
FCD is focusing its resources on the research
and application of PK–3 alignment strategies that
reinforce what children learn from one school year
to the next and that inform new expectations and
learning experiences for children as they continue
through the early elementary grades. Details on
FCD’s P–3 concept are outlined in Mapping a P–3
Continuum (MAP): P–3 as the Foundation of Education
Reform (see http://www.ffcd.org/uploadDocs/
4.30.04.bogard.MAPrelease.final.pdf). For more information,
visit http://www.ffcd.org/ourwork/f-index.html.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 15
SUPPORTING READY COMMUNITIES
Families’ access to information, health care services,
and high-quality early care and education options
has a direct bearing on children’s readiness. Much
of the action, responsibility, and decisionmaking for
child and family service delivery occurs at the local
level, but states can play a supporting role for community
leaders. The NGA Task Force on School
Readiness recommends that governors ensure
Ready Communities by:
promoting local collaboration and school readiness
needs assessment;
assisting community leaders in tracking school
readiness outcomes; and
seeking community input in statewide planning
efforts.
Promoting Local Collaboration and
Needs Assessment
Communities are well positioned to identify the needs
of local families. Local infrastructure is just as important
as the state’s in connecting families to resources
and services easily and efficiently. Communities are
also well suited to identify local public- and private-sector
partners to leverage resources and reach families
directly. States can provide guidance and resources to
help community leaders and all related stakeholders
(e.g., family support, health and mental health, and
early childhood education) review the existing policy
and service landscape to better match resources with
family needs. (See, also, National Community School
Readiness Initiatives on page 15.)
Wilmington, Delaware, began an early childhood
strategic planning process several years ago in collaboration
with the Delaware State Early Care and
Education Office. The city used the state’s strategic
plan, “Early Success: Creating a Quality Early Care
and Education System for Delaware’s Children,” to
develop goals and priorities based on the state’s
key systemic elements, including quality programs,
professional development, family engagement,
and public will. This alignment with state planning
enabled the city to leverage state support. For
example, the state education department and early
care and education office already committed
almost $20,000 to Wilmington’s early literacy training
program for child care providers and parents.
For more information, visit http://www.familyandwork
place.org/providers/provider.advocacy.htm.
Many states have modeled their efforts to seed local
planning and implementation activities after North
Carolina Smart Start, a long-standing comprehensive
state initiative to support broad community-driven
school readiness efforts. Smart Start is a public-private
initiative run through the nonprofit North Carolina
Partnership for Children (NCPC) and offers flexible
funding to local partnerships in exchange for positive
results for young children. Specific services vary
based on local priorities, though all partnerships seek
to improve the quality of child care, make child care
more affordable and accessible, provide access to
health services, and offer family support. Currently,
$192 million in state funds support Smart Start, and
the initiative has raised more than $200 million in
National Community School
Readiness Initiatives
The National League of Cities’ Campaign for Early
Childhood Success, launched under the 2003 chairmanship
of Mayor John DeStefano Jr. of New Haven, Conn.,
was a yearlong campaign to encourage municipal involvement
in improving outcomes for children from birth to age
five. As the focal point of the campaign, Mayor DeStefano
challenged cities and towns across America to develop
multiyear early childhood plans for their communities.
More than 100 cities accepted the challenge and are
working to create a long-term, strategic agenda for
addressing the key needs of their youngest residents in
areas such as health care, early learning, and parent
education and support. For more information, visit
http://www.nlc.org/nlc_org/site/programs/institute_for_
youth_education_and_families/early.cfm.
Making Connections is a 10-year investment of the
Annie E. Casey Fund in more than 20 communities across
the nation to improve outcomes for families and children
in tough or isolated neighborhoods. Each Making
Connections site works with a team to develop strategies
to strengthen families and the neighborhood. Efforts are
concentrated on creating opportunities to earn a decent
living and build assets; building close ties with family,
neighbors, kin, faith communities, and civic groups; and
having reliable services close to home. For more information,
visit http://www.aecf.org/initiatives/mc/index.htm.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 16
private resources since its inception in 1993. With
philanthropic support, NCPC now houses the Smart
Start National Technical Assistance Center to help
other states implement similar statewide, communitybased
initiatives. General technical assistance and
materials are available publicly, and the center has
awarded grants to seven states—Alabama, Colorado,
Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and
Vermont—to support planning and implementation
efforts. NCPC also hosts an annual national conference
for state and local policymakers and practitioners
to share best practices and lessons learned. For more
information, visit http://www.smartstart-nc.org/.
The Oregon Commission on Children and Families
provides flexible funding to local commissions to
support comprehensive supports and initiatives for
children and families. Local plans must indicate how
communities will measure and ensure progress toward
Oregon benchmarks for children and families. For
more information, visit http://www.ccf.state.or.us/pageoccf
links.html.
In 1998 California voters passed Proposition 10 to
dedicate state revenue from a 50-cent tax on cigarettes
for early childhood initiatives. Approximately
$600 million flows through the public-private First
Five California Commission on Children and Families
to local commissions for services to infants, toddlers,
and preschoolers. For more information, visit
http://www.ccfc.ca.gov/.
Helping Community Leaders Track School
Readiness Outcomes
States can also provide guidance and technical assistance
to communities on setting measurable goals
for child outcomes, selecting indicators and measures
of progress, evaluating results, and communicating
outcomes.
Since 1994 Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, a statewide
nonprofit organization, has collected communitylevel
data on key child indicators to inform state
early childhood and related policies. Through
meetings, publications, and other communication
tools, the indicators are used to promote best practices
in communities and across the state and aim
to hold systems accountable. With support from
several national foundations, including the David
and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Kauffman
Foundation, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT led a fiveyear,
17-state initiative to replicate this model and
identify common indicators from which other
states and communities can start. Communicating
community-level and statewide results is a key component
of this initiative, and several states, including
Connecticut and Virginia, have attracted significant
media attention to their efforts. For more
information, see the School Readiness Indicators
Initiative on page 10 or visit http://www.rikidscount.org/.
South Carolina First Steps is a results-oriented,
statewide early childhood education initiative largely
based on the North Carolina Smart Start model that
seeks to ensure children arrive at first grade healthy
and ready to succeed. It is developing a rigorous
evaluation with the High/Scope Educational
Research Foundation to assess local progress toward
achieving the First Steps goals and determine the
impact of the initiative on children and families at the
state and local levels. The impact assessment will
include school readiness measures; benefits from
child development services; immunization status;
low birthweight rates; parent literacy; parenting
skills; parental involvement; transportation; developmental
screening results; and other related
measures. County school readiness boards will use
the results to inform investment decisions and will
be held accountable for results. For more information,
visit http://www.scfirststeps.org.
Seeking Community Input in State
Planning Efforts
Community voices offer a reality check for state decisions.
Local input is necessary to ensure policies
make sense on a local level and are feasible to implement.
Local involvement also strengthens grassroots
support for an initiative and helps ensure the longterm
sustainability of the efforts. State leaders can
include community representatives at the state
school readiness planning table, or form an advisory
board of local leaders and stakeholders, to inform
state decisions. They can also solicit local input by
hosting town hall meetings, local public forums, or
focus groups with community stakeholders to seek
their input in state planning efforts.
The Vermont Governor’s Cabinet on Children and
Youth sought local input through community
forums, focus groups, and stakeholder planning ses-
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 17
sions to design and roll out Building Bright Futures,
an initiative to improve early childhood services
through regional and local planning efforts. For
more information, visit http://www.ahs.state.vt.us/early
childhood/BBFutures.htm.
Similarly, Idaho Governor and First Lady Kempthorne’s
Early Care & Learning Cross Systems Task Force has
sought wide community input on a statewide plan for
school readiness. The state hosted regional meetings
for public and private partners to gather input, which
helped secure strong approval of the plan’s goals.
The plan will be completed by June 2005. With support
from the federal Maternal and Child Health
Bureau’s State Early Childhood Comprehensive
Systems grant, the task force will begin implementing
the plan in fall 2005. For more information, visit
http://www.gccfc.idaho.gov/ECLCSTF.html.
Conclusion
Communities play an important role in directing
resources to meet the needs of families, informing
state decisions, and building grassroots awareness
and support for investments in early childhood.
States can strengthen, build on, and spearhead successful
community efforts that improve children’s
readiness for school. Strong state leadership, guidance,
community input, and effective partnerships
can make a significant difference in the lives of children
and families.

A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 19
SUPPORTING READY FAMILIES
The family plays the most important role in a young
child’s life. Young children depend on their parents
for health care and optimal nutrition and for safe and
stimulating environments in which to explore and
learn. The relationship between parent and child is
the most critical to a child’s development.8 Family wellbeing
is also closely associated with school readiness.
Child poverty, abuse and neglect, maternal depression,
and parental substance abuse are all associated
with both short- and long-term negative consequences
for children’s physical and mental health, educational
attainment, and social and behavioral development.9
However, the new economy has brought changes in
the workforce and in family life. These changes are
causing financial, physical, and emotional stresses in
families, particularly low-income families. Moreover,
increasing numbers of new immigrants are raising
their children in the face of language and cultural barriers.
In its final report, the NGA Task Force on School
Readiness recommends that governors and states can
promote Ready Families by:
supporting parents in their primary role as their
children’s first teachers;
promoting safe, stable, and economically secure
families; and
addressing the needs of culturally and linguistically
diverse families.
Various state efforts to support parents of young
children are already underway across the nation.
They include parent education and outreach initiatives,
home visiting programs, and comprehensive
family support programs. States can also ask pediatricians,
family practitioners, and other health care
providers to distribute child development information
to parents and identify and refer children with
developmental delays to early intervention services.
Moreover, states can promote public- and privatesector
strategies to increase parents’ flexibility in
balancing work and family needs.
Informing Parents
Parent Web sites, awareness campaigns, and information
kits are relatively easy and inexpensive ways
to disseminate information to parents, though their
direct impact on parent behavior can be difficult to
measure. Several states have developed parent information
kits and guides through public-private partnerships
and distribute these kits through schools,
hospitals, doctors’ offices, prenatal programs, public
libraries, family assistance agencies, local community
organizations, and the Internet. California’s Kit
for New Parents includes videos with information on
early literacy, quality child care, child safety, child
health and development, and discipline approaches.
It also includes a customized Parents Guide with
information on resources and services within local
communities. The First Five California Commission
on Children and Families allocated $18 million for
1 million kits from the state’s 50-cent tobacco tax, a
dedicated funding stream for early childhood initiatives.
Evaluations show the materials have had a
positive impact on users’ parenting knowledge and
awareness of local resources for child care assistance,
medial care, and other services. For more information,
visit http://www.ccfc.ca.gov/. Alabama, Kentucky, and
Pennsylvania are among those states that have adapted
the Parents Guide using their own information through
a partnership with its authors at the Center for
Community Wellness of the School of Public Health
at the University of California, Berkeley. For more
information on customized guides, visit http://www.uc
wellness.org/pub_parents.html.
A key component of Michigan Governor Granholm’s
Project Great Start, the “Read, Educate and Develop
Youth” (R.E.A.D.Y.) program offers parent kits that
include health, nutrition, and development information
as well as reading information and a video
on the importance of early child development.
R.E.A.D.Y. is a joint initiative of the Michigan
Department of Education and Central Michigan
University and is supported with corporate and
foundation donations. At-risk families can receive
free kits through school districts and county health
offices, and the kits are also available for purchase.
The state’s surgeon general has developed a network
of family care, pediatric, and OB/GYN physicians
who have agreed to feature the materials in their
offices. In addition, the Michigan Department of
Community Health has forged a partnership with
the state’s Visiting Nurses Association to provide new
parents in high-priority school districts an in-depth, athome
briefing on the R.E.A.D.Y. kit. The R.E.A.D.Y.
program also offers literacy materials for toddlers,
preschoolers, and kindergartners, along with other
products for parents. R.E.A.D.Y. materials are used
widely in parenting and school readiness programs
across the state. Most parents who used the kits report
that they provided important information and motivated
them to read and interact more with their child.
Modified R.E.A.D.Y. products are now available for use
nationwide. For more information on the R.E.A.D.Y.
program, visit http://www.michigan.gov/greatstart.
As part of Governor Warner’s Education for a
Lifetime initiative, Virginia is distributing 111,000
toolkits for new parents in English and Spanish.
The toolkit offers information about child safety,
nutrition, development, health care, and child
care as well as information about resources on
early childhood programs and services offered
throughout the state. The state also has a toll-free
telephone line (1-866-KIDS TLC) to link parents
to resources and services. These activities build on
continued state efforts to increase enrollment in
the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security
plan; promote immunizations, good nutrition, and
health screenings for children; and reduce the
occurrence of childhood asthma and obesity. For
more information, visit http://www.governor.virginia.
gov/Initiatives/Ed4Life/Pre-K.htm.
Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s “Right from Birth”
is a video series on parenting and early literacy. The
series, first broadcast statewide in December 2000,
leads parents and caregivers through the stages of
early childhood from birth to 18 months and gives
practical advice on how adults can support children’s
development. With funding from the state
human services department, Mississippi Public
Broadcasting also provides outreach and community-
based workshops to reach additional parents and
child care providers in every county. In 2002 “Right
from Birth” was incorporated into the curriculum
for family and consumer sciences in Mississippi high
schools and community colleges. Mississippi Public
Broadcasting also works closely with the Mississippi
Department of Health, the Mississippi Department
of Education, and Head Start programs to disseminate
materials and facilitate workshops. “Right from
Birth” and its companion series for three- to sevenyear-
olds, “Going to School,” are now offered
throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and
Louisiana through a partnership among public
broadcasting companies in the region. For more
information, visit http://www.etv.state.ms.us/kids_parents/
rfb/overview.html.
With support from the Talaris Research Institute,
Mississippi Public Broadcasting is also one of 20 public
broadcasting networks across the nation that are
involved in the “Parenting Counts: A Focus on Early
Learning” public awareness campaign. The campaign
and accompanying workshops provide parents
with the latest information on child brain development
and good parenting through on-air and print
resources. The campaign features Web resources,
mini-grants, parenting brochures, early learning
workshops, and six 60-second television segments on
parenting. The entire campaign models best parenting
practices and is designed in an easy-to-use and
easy-to-understand format. For more information,
visit http://www.talaris.org/parentingcounts.htm.
Visiting Families at Home
Intensive, family-focused initiatives such as home visiting
and family literacy programs influence parent
behavior and improve child outcomes, particularly
when they involve high-quality, well-implemented
services, are staffed by well-trained professionals, and
link with other family supports.10 However, these programs
tend to require more resources, training, and
coordination. The cost of home visiting programs
varies depending on the number and duration of
visits, the home visitor’s credentials and caseload,
supervision and administration, and other variables.
(Also, see National Home Visiting Models on page 22.)
In Minnesota Early Childhood Family Education
(ECFE) is a voluntary program for all families with
children from birth to kindergarten-age. Services
are offered free, or for a nominal fee, in all school
districts and tribal schools, and they are tailored to
meet the needs of families in each community. Most
programs include home visits, parent discussion
groups, parent-child activities, play and learning
activities for children, early screening for potential
children’s health and developmental problems,
community resource information for families and
young children, and libraries of books, toys, and
other learning materials. The state funds ECFE
through a formula grant to school districts. The
grant combines state and local funds. For more
information, visit http://www1.minn.net/~ecfe/index.html.
Ohio has consolidated several programs for young
children into a single initiative, Help Me Grow,
which provides families with prenatal services and
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 20
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 21
newborn home visits along with information about
child development. Families with young children are
connected with resources through an information
line and written materials. Help Me Grow also houses
Ohio’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Part C early intervention services for infants and
toddlers. State funds and federal Part C and
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds support
Help Me Grow, which has served more than
42,000 infants and toddlers since its inception. For
more information, visit http://www.ohiohelpmegrow.org/.
As part of her “5-Year School Readiness Action Plan,”
Arizona Governor Napolitano successfully secured an
$8.7-million increase in fiscal 2004 for Healthy
Families Arizona, a preventive home visiting program
for families with at-risk newborns. The program aims
to promote positive parent-child interaction, improve
child health and development, and prevent child
abuse and neglect. It is based on the Healthy Families
America program model and provides voluntary
screening and home visiting services to mothers and
their infants who are identified as at risk for child
abuse and neglect. Trained family support specialists
provide comprehensive assistance with parenting,
stress reduction, and assessments of a child’s health
and development needs. The state budget for Healthy
Families Arizona is just over $15 million, and the
program serves more than 4,400 families. Funding is
allocated primarily from state general funds and
the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
block grant. A 2003 evaluation indicated the program
helped reduce parental stress, improve home environment
safety, and increase education and employment
levels among parents. For more information, visit
http://www.de.state.az.us/dcyf/opfs/healthy.asp.
Missouri is the birth state of the national Parents as
Teachers (PAT) home visiting model that aims to
enhance child development and school achievement
through parent education. Core services
include personal home visits by trained parent
educators; parent group meetings; developmental
health, vision, and hearing screening; and parental
access to available state and local resources. Missouri
PAT programs are voluntary and are offered through
every school district to all parents. The program is
funded with $37.3 million in state general funds
and serves more than 150,000 families. See National
Home Visiting Models on page 22 for more information
on the Parents as Teachers national model.
For more information on Missouri PAT, visit
http://www.dese.state.mo.us/divimprove/fedprog/earlychild/EC
DA/PAT_INDEX.htm.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 22
National Home Visiting Models
States and local communities can adopt several national
home visiting program models that incorporate different
goals, services, interactions, and providers.
Healthy Families America is a national home visiting program
designed to promote positive parenting, enhance child health
and development, and prevent child abuse and neglect. The
program is built on 12 research-based critical elements
related to service initiation, service content, and staff characteristics.
Healthy Families America is located in more than
440 communities in 35 states, the District of Columbia, and
Canada. For more information, visit http://www.healthy
familiesamerica.org/home/index.shtml.
The Nurse Family Partnership program provides home visits
by registered nurses to first-time mothers. The program seeks
to improve maternal health and child development outcomes
by promoting health-related behaviors, competent caregiving,
pregnancy planning, and educational achievement and
employment among new mothers. Nationally, the Nurse
Family Partnership is serving families in more than 200 counties
across 22 states. Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana,
Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming are
among those administering programs through state-level
agencies either statewide or in select communities. Program
evaluations show significant positive impacts on maternal
health and parenting skills, reductions in child injuries
and cases of abuse and neglect, and increases in mothers’
workforce participation. For more information, visit
http://www.nccfc.org/nurseFamilyPartnership.cfm.
Parents As Teachers (PAT) is a national home visiting
model, originally developed in Missouri, that aims to
enhance child development and school achievement
through parent education. Family participation is voluntary,
and programs can be local or statewide. PAT can be
a stand-alone program or be incorporated into existing
programs, such as Early Head Start, Healthy Families, and
Even Start. All programs have core services, including personal
home visits by trained parent educators; parent
group meetings; developmental health, vision, and hearing
screening; and parental access to available state and
local resources. Evaluations show positive impacts on children’s
language, social development, and problemsolving
and other cognitive skills as well as increases in parents’
knowledge about child development. Local PAT programs
are now operating in all 50 states, and several states,
including Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma,
provide support to local programs. For more information,
visit http://www.patnc.org.
Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters
(HIPPY) is a parent involvement, school readiness program
that combines home visits and group meetings. Currently,
167 HIPPY program sites in 26 states and the District of
Columbia are serving more than 16,000 children and their
families. In several communities, HIPPY programs are
offered in partnership with other local programs, including
Head Start, Even Start family literacy programs, and
parent information and resource centers. The goals of
HIPPY are compatible with those of the federal No Child
Left Behind Act, and Title I is a major source of funding
for local HIPPY programs. For more information, visit
http://www.hippyusa.org/.
The Parent-Child Home Program (PHP) is a literacy and
parenting program that emphasizes the parent-child verbal
interaction critical to early childhood brain development.
Trained home visitors visit the families of two- and
three-year-olds twice each week for two years. They
demonstrate parenting and verbal interaction techniques
through play sessions with the parent and the child using
carefully chosen books and toys. Rigorous studies of PHP
have found significant positive impacts on parent-child
verbal interaction, above-norm scores on standardized
tests in math and reading in grades two, five, and seven,
and higher high school graduation rates among children
participating in the program. The Parent-Child Home
Program costs approximately $2,000 per family per year
and currently operates in 138 sites in California,
Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey,
New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and
Washington. For more information, visit http://www.
parent-child.org/home/.
The federal Even Start Family Literacy program, modeled
after a successful family literacy program in Kentucky,
provides grants to all states to plan and implement
statewide family literacy initiatives that integrate parenting
education, early childhood education, and adult literacy or
adult basic education. In 2003 the U.S. Department of
Education allocated $250 million to state departments of
education, which then awarded competitive subgrants to
local partnerships of public and/or private entities. Priority
must be granted to programs that are located in
low-income areas. States must match the federal funds
dollar for dollar with a nonfederal contribution. For more
information, visit http://www.ed.gov/programs/evenstart
formula/index.html.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 23
Offering Family Support Services
Many states are focusing on connecting families to
resources through a single point of entry close to
home. The Oregon Commission on Children and
Families allocates funding to local commissions to
support programs for children and families, including
local family resource centers. These centers aim
to promote easy access to educational information
and community resources and seek to serve infants,
children, youth, teens, students, seniors, jobseekers,
families, new parents, and other adults. They may
offer advocacy; special education; parenting education;
mental health; substance abuse assessment,
counseling, treatment, and support; family
strengthening and preservation; and criminal
involvement prevention programs and services.
Family resource centers are supported by local
investments from churches, schools, businesses,
service clubs, law enforcement agencies, and onsite
service agencies. For more information, visit
http://www.ccf.state.or.us/pageoccflinks.html.
Family resource networks in 18 West Virginia counties
offer Starting Points family resource centers that
bring together the community’s existing early childhood
services and programs in one location. These
centers provide families with young children better
access to support, services, and education. They
help link families to early learning opportunities in
the community and offer parent education, resource
coordination, health and nutrition services, home
visiting programs, developmental screening and
referral, and family intake and assessment services.
They also make parent referrals to counseling, literacy
programs, housing assistance, mental health
and substance abuse services, or other support
services. The resource centers are supported with
state funds, private foundation funds, and the federal
Community-Based Family Resource and
Support Program. For more information, visit
http://www.wvchildrenandfamilies.org/startingpoints/.
Conclusion
States recognize the primary role of parents in the
lives of their children. Education and outreach efforts
help place information directly into parents’ hands.
For families facing significant obstacles, states can
play a more direct role by offering additional supports
and services to improve family stability, address
risk factors, and promote good parenting skills.
A burgeoning issue is the challenge of supporting
non-English-speaking, first-generation American
families. Immigrant parents, while working hard to
support their children, face language and cultural
barriers that can often place their children at
increased risk of school difficulties. Research to
investigate this issue is ongoing, particularly on the
ramifications for children’s language, cognitive, and
social development. States continue to partner with
experts in the research, practice, and policy fields to
identify best practices to support all families with
young children.

A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 25
SUPPORTING READY CHILDREN
Years of research on child development and early
learning show that several interrelated domains of
development define school readiness—physical wellbeing
and motor development, social and emotional
development, approaches to learning, language
development, and cognition and general knowledge.
11 School readiness hinges on children’s stable
relationships with parents and caring adults in safe,
nurturing, and stimulating environments throughout
the first years of life.12 Although the family plays
the most important role in a child’s life, state policies
can support parents and other caregivers in promoting
children’s development. In its final report,
the NGA Task Force on School Readiness identifies
strategies that governors and states can pursue to
promote Ready Children, including:
ensuring that all children from birth to age five have
access to high-quality care and learning opportunities
at home and in other settings;
providing comprehensive services for infants and
toddlers;
expanding high-quality, voluntary preschool opportunities
for three- and four-year-olds; and
addressing the school readiness needs of children
with special needs and children in foster care.
Ensuring High-Quality Care and Learning
Opportunities for Young Children
Children receive early care and education experiences
through formal and informal settings, including
parental care, center-based care, family and neighbor
care, and prekindergarten classrooms. Regardless of
the setting, the quality of care children receive
directly impacts their development.13 High-quality
care is associated with warm and responsive adults,
language-rich environments, and ample opportunities
for learning and exploring.14 In formal group
settings, quality also hinges on small classes, wellprepared
teachers, close teacher-child relationships,
and family involvement.15 Traditional market forces
are insufficient to support a healthy supply-anddemand
relationship that ensures high-quality,
affordable early care and education options for all
families. States can help close the market gap by providing
incentives and assistance to providers to meet
high quality standards, building comprehensive early
care and education professional development systems,
and offering innovative financing strategies to support
quality care environments.
Tiered Strategy Systems for Child Care Quality
More and more states are following the lead of
Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and
Pennsylvania in pursuing tiered strategy systems to
improve the quality of early care and education
options for families (see Links for State Tiered
Strategy Systems on page 27).16 Such systems typically
include some combination of three strategies intended
to inform parents, support providers, and positively
impact the quality of care. Tiered reimbursement is a
funding policy under which a state pays a higher
child care subsidy reimbursement rate to providers
meeting higher standards of quality beyond those for
basic licensing. Tiers are typically based on curriculum,
child-staff ratios, staff compensation, teacher
training and credentials, and other criteria. Tiered
reimbursement can be voluntary or mandatory for
child care providers receiving state subsidy payments.
In its simplest form, a quality ratings system is a consumer’s
guide to child care quality. States match an
identifiable symbol (e.g., a gold, silver, or bronze seal
or one to five stars) with established criteria indicating
the level of quality that a child care setting
achieves. The aim is to give parents an easy identifier
of high-quality care options in their communities.
Quality ratings systems may be voluntary and open to
both subsidized and private for-profit care providers,
at the state’s discretion. They can also be linked to a
tiered reimbursement system, so payment levels correspond
to the quality rating. Under a rated licensing
system, the state embeds criteria for successive levels
of quality into the requirements for obtaining a child
care license. The license issued reflects the level of
provider quality, as defined by the state’s quality criteria.
States can use these three strategies independently
or in combination to promote quality.17
Most tiered strategy systems are voluntary and
include separate criteria for center-based and familybased
care settings. States have learned that quality
ratings systems that involve more than two levels and
that incorporate attainable increments of improvement
encourage greater provider uptake rates. For
example, Oklahoma recognized that the requirements
of its three-level Reaching for the Stars quality
ratings system were too stringent for many
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 26
providers to achieve, so the state added a “transitional
rating” to recognize providers actively
engaged in quality improvements and encourage
them to meet the higher requirements.
States have also found that financial incentives are
helpful to encourage providers to participate in a
quality ratings system. Kentucky’s STARS for KIDS
NOW quality ratings system links ratings to a tiered
reimbursement system and provides a one-time cash
award to providers for reaching each successive level
of quality. Pennsylvania’s Keystone STARS program
is not linked to a tiered reimbursement system, but
providers receive annual merit awards that increase
with each successive quality rating achieved. Many
centers are using these merit awards to increase
compensation.
Several states have adopted a wage supplement
model that rewards providers for seeking higher levels
of education. The Child Care WAGE$® Project, a
national model developed by the nonprofit Child
Care Services Association, helps boost worker retention
by providing wage supplements for educational
achievement every six months, so long as the
provider remains employed in the child care program.
WAGE$® was first implemented in North
Carolina, and the model is now licensed in a handful
of other states. For more information, visit
http://www.childcareservices.org/TEACH/TEACH_Project.
html. Some states have independently implemented
similar wage supplement programs, such as Georgia’s
INCENTIVE$ program.
States have found that technical and financial assistance
is also necessary to encourage participation and
support providers in reaching higher quality ratings.
Stipends and professional development scholarships
encourage providers to seek higher levels of quality.
North Carolina’s Star Rated License program offers
financial assistance and incentives for training and
professional development to providers through the
T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation
Helps) Early Childhood® Project. T.E.A.C.H., another
project of the Child Care Services Association, provides
scholarships to help pay the cost of books, travel,
and tuition as well as supports child care center
administrators who encourage their employees to seek
training. Several other states have adopted T.E.A.C.H.
or similar models (visit http://www.childcareservices.org/
TEACH/TEACH_Project.html). Oklahoma’s Reaching
for the Stars program offers a Child Care Improvement
Grant that provides awards to help child care
providers meet licensing requirements, extend hours,
improve quality, or expand services.
Several states also offer free technical assistance and
pay for environmental assessments for providers
choosing to participate in a tiered strategy system.
Partnerships with resource and referral agencies and
institutions of higher education can increase capacity
to conduct outreach to parents and providers and
conduct rating assessments. (Some states have found
that using outside evaluators lends a sense of objectivity
and fairness to the rating process.) For example,
care providers participating in Kentucky’s STARS for
KIDS NOW are eligible for free technical assistance
from regional child care resource and referral agencies
and local health departments, which have on
staff child care quality coordinators and infant and
toddler specialists. In Oklahoma the Center for Early
Childhood Professional Development at the University
of Oklahoma’s College of Continuing Education
coordinates and conducts the environmental rating
assessment of providers.
Pennsylvania Keystone STARS offers unique community
engagement grants to organizations or
provider groups providing local leadership for early
care and education. The grantees link providers to
information about Keystone STARS. Some grantees
have also created ties with public prekindergarten
programs in local school districts and have fostered
collaboration with Head Start programs. They have
enabled local communities to leverage private-sector
funds and connect with nonprofit initiatives such as
United Way Success by Six. The grantees also connect
state administrators to information and input
from community voices.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 27
Professional Development Systems
States are working collaboratively with institutions of
higher education and early care and education professionals
to develop and maintain comprehensive
professional development systems that support a
high-quality workforce. Key features of such systems
include financial support and incentives for professional
development; qualification and credential
requirements, in addition to clear pathways for
obtaining them; quality assurance features, such as
standards, evaluation processes, and registries for
trainers and training; and access and outreach components.
Professional development systems can complement
and strengthen state quality ratings systems.
For example, the Pennsylvania Keys to Quality initiative
seeks to align the state’s professional development
system with its Keystone STARS quality ratings
system to help providers coordinate quality
improvement and educational attainment efforts.
The state intends that all professional development
and technical assistance be aligned with, as well as
support the goals and requirements of, Keystone
STARS. For more information, visit http://www.papath
ways.org/Default.htm.
Kentucky’s Early Childhood Professional Development
Framework includes core content describing
what early childhood professionals should know
and be able to do at entry through attainment of a
master’s degree across all learning domains. The
framework encompasses training and education
pathways toward three early childhood professional
credentials and outlines articulation agreements
among training programs and among courses at
different higher education institutions. Kentucky
also offers scholarships to encourage providers to
pursue professional development opportunities.
For more information, visit http://www.education.ky.
gov/KDE/Instructional+Resources/default.htm and click on
the keyword Early Childhood Development.
Arkansas operates a similar professional development
system that incorporates training, financial assistance,
and a formal curriculum framework. The Arkansas
Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education
has awarded a contract to an institution of higher education
to coordinate training programs, provide information
and resources, and host a training registry for
practitioners and trainers. Arkansas offers a 60-hour
course leading to a child care specialist certificate in
an area of concentration—infant/toddler, preschool,
family day care, or school-age. The state has established
a formal curriculum framework, offers professional
development scholarships, and provides quality
enhancement grants of up to $7,500 to providers.
Arkansas also offers business management sessions to
promote good business practices among early care
and education small business professionals. Most
recently, the state has begun offering a 30-hour
training program, Pre-K ELLA (Early Literacy in
Arkansas) statewide to child care professionals in
registered homes, licensed homes, and child care
centers. The training seeks to support professionals
in providing developmentally appropriate
experiences that promote emergent literacy skills
Links for Information on State Tiered
Strategy Systems
Smart Start Georgia (INCENTIVE$, WAGE$ programs)
http://smartstartga.org/educators_and_professionals/
programs/
Georgia Standards of Care (quality enhancement
program)
http://www.osr.state.ga.us/QI/SoC/about_SoC.html
Kentucky STARS for KIDS NOW
http://www.education.ky.gov/KDE/Instructional+Resources/
Early+Childhood+Development/default.htm
North Carolina Star Rated License
http://ncchildcare.dhhs.state.nc.us/providers/pv_sn2_ov
_sr.asp
Oklahoma Reaching for the Stars
http://www.okdhs.org/childcare/ProviderInfo/provinfo_
stars.htm
Pennsylvania Keystone STARS
http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/child/childcare/keystone
starchildcare/default.htm
The National Child Care Information Center offers a Webbased
resource with information and links to state tiered
strategy systems throughout the nation. See “Tiered
Quality Strategies: Definitions and State Systems” at
http://nccic.org/pubs/tiered-defsystems.html.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 28
for children ages three to five prior to their entry
into kindergarten. For more information, visit
http://www.uark.edu/depts/awecc/index.html.
Support for Informal Care Providers
Nationally, family, friend, and neighbor care, also
referred to as kith-and-kin, informal, or licenseexempt
child care, serves two-fifths of children below
age seven, most of whom are below age three.18
Historically, state government has played a very limited
role in regulating this form of care. Yet, with so
many young children in their care, family, friend, and
neighbor providers are a largely untapped source to
support children’s early learning experiences. States
and communities can offer these providers information,
materials, equipment, and training on nutrition,
early learning, child development, and health and
safety. States can also include family, friend, and neighbor
care representatives in state and local planning
and policy bodies. Moreover, they can develop early
learning standards that are applicable to informal care
settings and offer providers training, guidance, and
resources on how to apply these standards in daily
activities with children (see Supporting Ready Schools
chapter for examples). In addition, states can integrate
family, friend, and neighbor care providers into
state professional development systems and subsidy
reimbursement systems and encourage stronger connections
to local and state child care resource and
referral networks.19
The Nevada Children’s Cabinet offers free self-guided
training modules addressing all domains of child
development to informal care providers. Additional
resources include newsletters, tip sheets, technical
assistance, a literacy calendar, and grants for licensure
and equipment. For more information, visit
http://www.childrenscabinet.org/CabinetFrame.htm.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Early
Childhood Program at Cornell University partnered
with the New York State Office of Children and
Family Services to study effective strategies to support
continued education for informal providers.
Teams of community representatives in six sites conducted
focus groups with 40 local informal child
care providers. The focus groups informed the
development of six newsletters (in English and
Spanish) addressing such issues as caring for
children with disabilities, handling tax and
business issues, teaching good nutrition and
healthy habits, developing multicultural programming,
and creating stimulating environments
for children. For more information, visit
http://www.human.cornell.edu/units/hd/cecp/caregiver.html.
Facility Financing Strategies
The physical setting of the care environment is an
important, but sometimes overlooked, component
of quality early care and education. Connecticut and
Rhode Island are two states offering innovative facility
financing that combines public and private
resources to support high-quality physical settings.
Both states partnered with the Community
Investment Collaborative for Kids, a program of the
national nonprofit Local Initiatives Support
Corporation, to offer resources and services for the
renovation and construction of quality facilities. The
Connecticut Children’s Investment Partnership and
the Rhode Island Child Care Facilities Fund combine
public and private resources to offer innovative
financing packages and quality improvement grants.
They also offer specialized training workshops on
the design and development of child care facilities
for architects, early childhood professionals, leaders
of nonprofit organizations, and other key stakeholders.
For more information, see National Resources
for Quality Early Care and Education on page 29.
Similarly, Arkansas offers a guarantee loan fund
for child care facilities to assist with the development
of new facilities or expansion of existing
facilities, particularly in low-income, rural areas
that demonstrate a need for additional quality
child care. Guarantees are available up to $25,000,
and they may be used for operating capital as well
as capital outlay. For more information, visit http://www.
state.ar.us/childcare/guarloanfund.html.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 29
Promoting Programs and Services for
Infants and Toddlers
The first three years of life are a time of intense
brain activity and development. At this stage, infants
and toddlers are highly dependent on the adults in
their lives and strongly influenced by their surroundings.
20 High-quality, comprehensive birth-tothree
programs, such as the federal Early Head Start
(EHS) program, can be an important support for
infants and toddlers (see National Birth-to-Three
Initiatives on page 30). Yet, for most families, such
care and services are typically the most expensive
and the hardest to find in the private market.21
Notwithstanding the primary role that parents play
in the earliest years of a child’s life, states can play a
supportive role in informing parents and increasing
their options for affordable high-quality infant and
toddler care. States can also connect parents and
care providers to specialists in infant and toddler
health, mental health, and development; expand
developmental screening services; and provide parents,
caregivers, and early childhood educators with
easy access to information on child development in
the very early years.
Kansas has partnered with the federal government
to offer a state-administered Early Head Start initiative
to pregnant mothers and children from birth to age
three. The program seeks to increase the availability
and quality of community-based child care for
infants and toddlers and to improve professional
development opportunities for early child care professionals.
22 Kansas allocates nearly $8 million in
Child Care and Development Fund block grant
dollars to programs serving 32 counties, and the
federal EHS system provides funding for training
and technical assistance. Kansas EHS provides fullday,
full-year care to 825 children, but the impacts
of quality improvement efforts reach an additional
3,000 children in EHS-partnering programs (centeror
family-based). The program has resulted in
reductions in low-birthweight infants and more EHS
children meeting developmental milestones and
demonstrating age-appropriate language, according
to 2004 indicator data. For more information, visit
http://www.srskansas.org/ISD/ees/head_start.htm.
In addition to EHS, Kansas provides $1 million to
place infant and toddler specialists in all child care
resource and referral agencies across the state. The
National Resources for Quality Early Care
and Education
The National Child Care Information Center (NCCIC)
provides publications, conference and meeting support,
question-and-answer services, and technical
assistance and training to states. Supported by the
federal Child Care Bureau, NCCIC maintains an online
resource library and Web site at http://nccic.org/.
Child Care and Early Education Research Connections
(CCEERC) is a public-private effort to build a Webbased
infrastructure to support collaborative research,
analysis, and information-sharing among researchers,
policymakers, and other key stakeholders. The site
serves as a repository of child care research and data
through a Web-based archive at http://childcare
research.org/discover/index.jsp. CCEERC is a partnership
among the National Center for Children in
Poverty at the Mailman School of Public Health,
Columbia University; the Inter-university Consortium
for Political and Social Research at the Institute for
Social Research, the University of Michigan; and the
federal Child Care Bureau.
Community Investment Collaborative for Kids (CICK), a
program of the national nonprofit Local Initiatives
Support Corporation, works at the federal, state, and
local levels to develop sources of flexible and affordable
financing to support the development of child care facilities.
CICK has developed technical expertise in crafting
statewide programs that address the capital and technical
assistance needs of the child care industry in lowincome
communities. The collaborative also provides
project-specific technical assistance, resource materials,
and training programs for community development program
operators and child care providers on all aspects
of child care facility design, development, and finance.
For more information, visit http://www.lisc.org/what
wedo/programs/cick/funds.shtml.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 30
specialists provide training, consulting, and technical
assistance to regulated child care providers on
child development, health and safety issues, and best
practices in group care settings. They also work with
community partners to increase awareness of the
importance of brain development and the impact of
high-quality care on infants and toddlers. For more
information, visit http://www.srskansas.org/kidsnet/infanttoddler.
htm.
Similarly, New York allocates $1.1 million in Child
Care and Development Fund dollars to a statewide
Infant and Toddler Technical Assistance Network.
The network supports 16 technical assistance
resource centers and 23 specialists under contract
with seven lead child care resource and referral
agencies across the state. It provides training and
technical assistance to the child care provider community,
information on best practices for families
and providers, and assistance to the community in
expanding comprehensive service delivery for
infants, toddlers, and their families. For more information,
visit http://www.nyscccc.org/infant_center.htm.
To help parents afford the option of staying home
with their infants, Montana’s At-Home Infant Care
Program provides subsidies to parents with incomes
at or below 150 percent of the poverty level to stay
home with their infants for up to two years. Families
receive up to $384 per month—an amount equal to
the state’s child care subsidy payment. Since 2001
the Missouri Department of Social Services has
administered grants through community-based
organizations for the delivery of services and supports
to stay-at-home parents of children from birth
to age three whose household income is less than
185 percent of poverty. Selected contractors provide
comprehensive services and supports in an amount
equal to the average cost for subsidized child care
for that geographic area. Utah provides a $100 nonrefundable
tax credit to an income-eligible family
that provides full-time, parental care to an infant less
than a year old. For more information, visit
http://www.nccic.org/poptopics/stateathome.html.
National Birth-to-Three Initiatives
The federal Early Head Start program provides funding
directly to local programs to improve the early education
experiences of low-income infants and toddlers. It seeks
to promote healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant
women, enhance the development of very young children,
and promote healthy family functioning. Early
Head Start (EHS) programs have produced statistically
significant, positive impacts on standardized measures of
children’s cognitive and language development at age
three. The program is also associated with favorable
effects on children’s social and emotional development,
parent’s skills and behavior, and parental education and
job training activities. In addition, it has positive impacts
on teen parents and parents who are depressed, two traditionally
hard-to-serve groups.23 Early Head Start serves
more than 63,000 low-income families with infants and
toddlers—3 percent of those eligible—through 708
community-based programs nationwide. States can provide
additional resources to expand and supplement
local EHS programs (see the Kansas example on page
29). For more information, visit the Head Start Bureau’s
Early Head Start Web page at http://www2.acf.dhhs.gov
/programs/hsb/programs/ehs/ehs2.htm or visit the Web
page of the National Early Head Start Resource Center at
http://www.ehsnrc.org/.
Better Baby Care is a national initiative to encourage
and support state and local communities in promoting
the healthy development of babies, toddlers, and their
families. A partnership project of ZERO TO THREE:
National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families,
Better Baby Care is a comprehensive, research-based
effort. It aims to inform public policy, build public will,
advance professional education, and enhance practice
so all babies and toddlers will have good health, strong
families, and positive early learning experiences. The
campaign collaborates with existing national, state,
and local organizations to bring attention to the issues
and to improve the policies that govern the quality of
care as well as parent education, family support, paid
family leave, and related policies. For more information,
visit http://www.betterbabycare.org/index.html.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 31
Ensuring High-Quality Prekindergarten
Programs for Three- and Four-Year-Olds
Growing evidence that high-quality prekindergarten
(i.e., preschool) programs help close the achievement
gap and improve school readiness is driving
increased support for prekindergarten programs for
four-year-olds (and often three-year-olds) in many
states. Thirty-eight states now invest a total of $2.5
billion to serve nearly 740,000 children nationwide.24
The quality of a prekindergarten program depends
on different elements, including teacher training
and certification requirements, program standards
(e.g., class size and teacher-child ratios), curriculum
standards, and support services to families.25 Although
these programs vary among states, they all share
common policy elements related to program, quality,
eligibility, governance, funding, and delivery. (See,
also, National Resources on State Prekindergarten
Policies on page 33.)
Program Quality
Well-educated teachers, small classes and teacherchild
ratios, and an appropriate curriculum that is
linked to K–12 expectations are all critical features
of quality prekindergarten programs. Teachers with
four-year college degrees and specialized training in
early childhood development or education provide
stronger early literacy experiences and are more
actively engaged in children’s learning than are
teachers with lower levels of education.26 Requiring
prekindergarten teachers to have a bachelor’s
degree, however, could involve significant implications
and challenges for the existing early care and
education workforce and for the professional development
and compensation systems that support
them. Currently, 23 states require prekindergarten
teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree.27 New Jersey,
like several other states, has been successful in
rolling out a bachelor’s degree requirement over
time to address the complexities and challenges that
such a requirement entails.
Small class and group sizes encourage frequent and
positive teacher-child interactions and positively
affect children’s cognitive and social outcomes.28
Roughly three-quarters of states with state-funded
prekindergarten programs require teacher-child
ratios at or below 1:10 and/or group sizes of 20 or
fewer children, which experts recommend for fouryear-
olds. Comprehensive early learning guidelines
that are aligned with K–12 standards are critical to
guiding curriculum and instruction decisions (see
Supporting Ready Schools chapter). Arkansas’ Early
Childhood Education Framework includes program
components on family, learning, diversity, and environment
with developmental benchmarks for language,
physical development, social and emotional
development, creative and aesthetic learning, and
cognitive and intellectual learning. The framework
ties developmental benchmarks with specific strategies
and activities for children to help inform curriculum
and instruction.
High-quality programs also offer screening and
referrals for physical and developmental delays and
provide supplemental support services to families.
For example, Alabama’s prekindergarten program
offers screening and referral for vision, hearing,
general health, and dental health. The state also
requires two parent conferences each year and provides
services such as parenting support and training,
parent involvement activities, health services for
children, and transition-to-kindergarten activities.
Program Eligibility
The decision of which children a program will serve
drives program design, delivery, and financing decisions.
Most states target low-income or at-risk children,
though a growing number of states are pursuing voluntary
universal programs. Georgia introduced the
first statewide universal preschool program in 1995,
and Oklahoma soon followed. In 2002 Florida voters
approved a constitutional amendment stipulating that
all four-year-olds in the state be offered a free preschool
education by 2005. West Virginia legislation
mandates full implementation of universal voluntary
prekindergarten statewide by 2013. Age eligibility is
another consideration. Seventeen states offer enrollment
only to four-year-olds, while 22 states also include
three-year-olds.29
Program Governance
Who will govern program and policy decisions is also
a key question. In many states, the responsibility for
preschool programs lies with the state education
agency. In other states, this responsibility lies with the
department of human services or an independent
agency. In Connecticut joint governance between the
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 32
education agency and the social services agency helps
foster partnership, collaboration, and resource-sharing
across agencies. North Carolina’s More at Four
Program operates out of the governor’s office but is
overseen by an interdepartmental task force that
includes the departments of public instruction and
human services. Georgia’s newly established Bright
From the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care
and Learning is an independent state department
that houses all early learning and child care programs,
including the universal preschool program.
Program Funding
Funding is yet another key consideration. Many
states combine state general funds with federal
resources, such as Head Start, Title I, Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families, and the Child Care
and Development Fund. For Connecticut’s School
Readiness prekindergarten program, the state education
and social services departments combine
funding from several sources, including the Child
Care and Development Fund and Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families block grants. Kansas
and Maryland combine funds for Part B (Section
619) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
with additional state funds to create inclusive preschool
programs for children with and without disabilities.
Many school districts in Vermont have used
local Title I funds to pay for part-day preschool programs
for high-risk children. Some districts have also
used the funds to cover transportation costs or to
extend preschool through the summer.
Some states rely on revenue streams such as sales
taxes, gaming or gambling fees, “sin taxes” (e.g.,
on alcohol or tobacco), state lottery revenues, or
tax-exempt bonds. South Carolina began funding
preschool for at-risk four-year-olds in 1984 with a
one-cent increase in its sales tax. Arkansas enacted
a tax on beer to continue funding its preschool
program, which was originally funded through a
dedicated sales tax. In 1998 California voters passed
Proposition 10, a referendum to impose a 50-cent
tax on tobacco products to generate revenue for
early childhood programs and services, including
prekindergarten programs. Some states require
local revenue sources and/or parent fees, but other
states specifically prohibit parent fees. For North
Carolina’s More at Four Program, the state pays
startup costs in the amount of $500 per child as well
as a per-child operating amount for direct services
that varies across counties and is linked to the state’s
low-wealth formula for counties. The budget for the
program’s state office includes funds for teacher
training and scholarships, health insurance, technical
assistance, program administration, and evaluation
studies. There are no specific requirements regarding
the use of local operating funds for direct services to
children. However, other resources accessed at the
local level must cover approximately half of the direct
service operating costs. Communities may use Head
Start, Title I, or other funding sources.
Program Delivery
Still other issues for states are how prekindergarten
funds will flow to the local level and which local entities
will deliver the programs. In some states, such as
New York, the state education agency allocates funds
to school districts to deliver programs in schools or in
partnership with private preschool settings, including
Head Start programs, nonprofit child care programs,
and for-profit child care centers. Oklahoma’s legislation
requires preschool programs to be offered
through public schools, but districts have the option
to collaborate with Head Start programs and child
care centers. In a few states, including Maine, West
Virginia, and Wisconsin, school districts provide
prekindergarten programs for three- and/or fouryear-
olds and claim state K-12 education aid for those
children. States can also deliver programs by directly
contracting with individual local entities. Georgia’s
Bright From the Start: Georgia Department of Early
Care and Learning administers funding directly to
public schools, Head Start programs, military bases,
and private child care providers that apply for the
prekindergarten program.
Finally, states may require a local collaboration council
to coordinate services and make decisions on how
funds are used. The Massachusetts Community
Partnerships for Children program requires local
Head Start, child care, and public school programs,
as well as parents and other community members, to
form a community partnership council, develop a
proposal, and administer the program.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 33
Reaching Children with Special Needs and
Children in Foster Care
Children with special needs and those in the child welfare
system are at exceptionally high risk of physical,
emotional, and developmental delays and are very
likely to benefit from school readiness interventions.30
However, the systems that serve them are often not
well connected to early care and education services,
and these children are subsequently left out of the
school readiness equation. Governors can ensure that
all systems that serve young children, including
prekindergarten, child care, foster care, mental
health, early intervention, and maternal and child
health, are connected to one another and recognize
their collective role in promoting school readiness for
all children. States can align eligibility guidelines and
streamline in-take procedures, cross-train professionals
in child development, encourage cross-program
referrals, and conduct joint outreach and information
efforts to parents. They can also integrate service delivery
efforts, colocate programs, and partner with community
organizations to provide comprehensive services.
States can draw on the expertise of several entities
to support their initiatives (see National Resources on
Children with Special Needs and Children in Foster
Care on page 34).
Minnesota’s Early Childhood Health and Developmental
Screening Program is a model universal
screening program that supports early detection of
health, development, and other factors at age four
that may impede a child’s growth, learning, and development.
School districts are required to screen all
children prior to their enrollment in public school.
Children are screened for vision, hearing, height and
weight, and development in cognitive, social/emotional,
fine/gross motor, and speech/language
domains. The state offers $2.6 million in categorical
funding, and districts draw on other public and private
sources to cover additional costs. Of the approximately
60,000 children screened each year, between 17,000
and 18,000 new potential health or developmental
problems are identified for further health assessment
or education evaluation. The program refers children
and their families to Head Start programs, home
visiting programs, and adult basic education and
family literacy programs. Children identified as having
developmental delays are also given priority in the
School Readiness Program, Minnesota’s state prekindergarten
program. For more information, visit
http://education.state.mn.us/html/intro_screening.htm.
The Massachusetts Early Childhood Linkage Initiative
(MECLI) seeks to ensure that all children below age
three with a newly substantiated abuse or neglect case
in the child protection system are referred to the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part C early
intervention (EI) system. The objective is to maximize
early identification and intervention for young
children who are at heightened risk for serious
developmental problems. MECLI is a partnership of
the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at
Brandeis University, the Massachusetts Department of
Social Services (DSS), the Massachusetts Department
of Public Health (DPH), and EI service providers.
MECLI established three pilot sites in 2002.
Personnel in the local DSS area offices and the local
EI programs work together to generate and process
the referrals. DPH provides electronic administrative
data on EI cases, including eligibility, service plan,
service delivery, and billing data. Initial results show
that the program referred 70 percent of children
with newly substantiated abuse or neglect cases to
National Resources on State
Prekindergarten Policies
Governors’ Forum on Quality Preschool, proceedings,
video clips, and briefing papers from the 2003 national
event of the National Governors Association Center for
Best Practices are available at http://www.nga.org/center
/divisions/1,1188,C_ISSUE_BRIEF^D_5956,00.html.
State-by-state prekindergarten information is available
through these sources:
The State of Preschool: 2004 State Preschool Yearbook,
from the National Institute for Early Education Research
at http://nieer.org/yearbook/.
States’ Online Interactive Pre-kindergarten Database,
from the Education Commission of the States at
http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/27/24/2724.htm.
Quality Counts 2002: Building Blocks for Success, from
Education Week at http://counts.edweek.org/sre
ports/qc02/templates/article.cfm?slug=17exec.h21
.
EI programs; of these, 64 percent was deemed eligible
for services. For more information, visit
http://www.heller.brandeis.edu/welcome/research_family
_child_center.asp.
Recognizing the link between children’s social and
emotional development and school readiness, states
are increasingly developing strategies to better connect
young children and their families to mental
health services. They are supporting these efforts
with state funds as well as federal funding sources,
such as Medicaid, the Child Care and Development
Fund, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families,
and Part C (early intervention) of the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act. The Louisiana Early
Childhood Supports and Services (ECCS) program
is a multi-agency prevention and intervention program
that serves children from birth through age
five (and their families) who have been identified
as at risk for developing social, emotional, and/or
developmental problems. Developmental delays, incidences
of abuse or neglect, and exposure to poverty,
violence, parental mental illness, and parental substance
abuse are qualifying risk factors. ECSS joins
local agencies and organizations into networks that
provide coordinated, cross-agency screening, evaluation,
referral, and treatment. Services include infant
mental health screening and assessment, counseling,
therapy, child abuse and domestic violence prevention,
case management, behavior modification, parent
support groups, and use of emergency intervention
funds to purchase supports and services that
are not otherwise available. The program also
serves to build the infrastructure of the parishes
(counties) it serves by training human services professionals,
agency employees, and education and
child care personnel as well as family members and
advocates in the specialized area of mental health
assessment and intervention. For more information,
visit http://www.ecssla.org/ecss_frame.htm.
Conclusion
States are already providing numerous services and
supports to children below age five. The services, programs,
requirements, and funding sources are as varied
and complex as are children’s developmental needs at
this stage. There are multiple paths to improving the
quality of early care and education experiences for all
children in order to achieve school readiness goals.
States can use research and data to help inform
decisions and establish spending and policy priorities.
Even in the face of tight budgets, they can pursue
opportunities to partner with local leaders and privatesector
stakeholders in the business, higher education,
and philanthropic communities to leverage resources,
seed innovation, and pursue common goals. They can
also focus more intently on connecting programs,
policies, and services that have historically served children
and families independently from one another.
Setting research-based program standards and expectations
for child outcomes can help guide all decisions
and maintain a focus on the results for children.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 34
National Resources on Children
with Special Needs and Children
in Foster Care
National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center,
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, at http://www.
nectac.org/default.asp.
National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s
Mental Health, Georgetown University, Center for
Child and Human Development, at http://gucchd.
georgetown.edu/.
National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect
Information, Children’s Bureau, Administration for
Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, at http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov/.
Strengthening Families through Early Care and Education
is an initiative of the Center for the Study of Social Policy
that seeks to reduce incidents of child abuse and neglect
through early care and education programs. The
initiative is supported with funding from the Doris
Duke Charitable Foundation. For more information, visit
http://www.cssp.org/doris_duke/index.html.
A Governor’s Guide to School Readiness 35
CONCLUSION
School readiness is a complex policy issue. States are
pursuing multiple strategies to support families,
schools, and communities in ensuring that children
enter kindergarten ready to reach their full potential.
They are becoming more sophisticated in using
results to inform decisions and in building on and
integrating existing programs and infrastructure.
States are leading efforts to coordinate programs,
services, and policies, support evidence-based practices,
and seed innovation at the local level.
Governors can provide leadership over efforts to
promote school readiness and focus the talent and
energy of public and private stakeholders on a clear
vision and common agenda for young children.
Specifically, they can focus on building Ready States
by supporting a coordinated and comprehensive
infrastructure for early childhood, integrating data
systems and supporting evaluation efforts to inform
decisions, and holding decisionmakers and stakeholders
accountable for measurable results. Finally,
governors can provide flexibility to local communities
to match resources with needs in exchange for
positive child outcomes. Through these combined
efforts, governors can continue to lead state efforts to
build the foundation for children’s bright futures.
uilding the Foundation for Bright Futures 36
1 Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood
Development, Board on Children, Youth and Families,
National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, From
Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood
Development, ed. Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips
(Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000), 5.
2 Sharon Lynn Kagan et al., Reconsidering Children’s Early
Development and Learning: Toward Common Views and
Vocabulary (Washington, D.C.: National Education Goals
Panel, 1995).
3 Nicholas Zill and Jerry West, Entering Kindergarten: A
Portrait of American Children When They Begin School Findings
from the Condition of Education 2000, NCES 2001-035
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001).
4 Shonkoff and Phillips, 5.
5 Robert C. Pianta and M. Kraft-Sayre, Successful
Kindergarten Transition: Your Guide to Connecting Children,
Families, & Schools (Baltimore, Md.: National Center for
Early Development and Learning, Paul Brookes
Publishing Co., 2003).
6 Catherine Scott-Little et al., Standards for Preschool
Children’s Learning and Development: Who Has Them, How Were
They Developed, and How Are They Used? (Greensboro, N.C.:
SERVE, 2003).
7 Rima Shore, Ready Schools: A Report of the Goal 1 Ready
Schools Resource Group (Washington, D.C.: National
Education Goals Panel, 1998).
8 Martha J. Cox and Kristina S. M. Harter, “Parent-Child
Relationship,” in Well-Being: Positive Development Across the
Life Course, ed. Marc Bornstein et al. (Mahwah, N.J.:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2003), 191-204.
9 Kristin Anderson Moore and Zakia Redd, “Children in
Poverty: Trends, Consequences, and Policy Options,” Child
Trends Research Brief, Publication No. 2002-54 (Washington,
D.C.: Child Trends, November 2002).
10 D. S. Gomby et al., eds., “Home Visiting: Recent Program
Evaluations,” Future of Children 9 (1999), 1.
11 Kagan et al.
12 Shonkoff and Phillips, 5.
13 National Institute of Child Health and Development,
Early Child Care Research Network, “Child Care Structure
to Process to Outcome: Direct and Indirect Effects of
Child Care Quality on Young Children’s Development,”
Psychological Science 12, 199-206.
14 Ibid.
15 L. Espinosa, “High Quality Preschool: Why We Need It
and What It Looks Like,” NIEER Policy Brief (Rutgers, N.J.:
National Institute for Early Education Research, 2002).
16 National Child Care Information Center, Overview of
Tiered Strategies: Quality Rating, Reimbursement, and Licensing
(Washington, D.C.: National Child Care Information Center,
2002), at http://nccic.org/poptopics/tieredstrategies.html.
17 Ibid.
18 Institute for a Child Care Continuum at Bank Street
College of Education, Frequently Asked Questions About Kith
and Kin Care (New York, N.Y.: Institute for a Child Care
Continuum at Bank Street College of Education, 2004), at
http://www.bankstreet.edu/gems/ICCC/FinalFAQ.pdf.
19 Ibid.
20 Shonkoff and Phillips, 5.
21 Joan Lombardi, Time to Care: Redesigning Child Care to
Promote Education, Support Families, and Build Communities
(Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 2003), 8-9.
22 Karen Mahler et al., Promoting the Well-Being of Infants,
Toddlers and their Families: Innovative Community and State
Strategies (New York, N.Y.: National Center for Children in
Poverty, 2003), at http://www.nccp.org/it_ index.html.
23 Head Start Bureau, Administration for Children and
Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
“Early Head Start Benefits Children and Families,”
Research Brief (Washington, D.C., June 2002), at
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/core/ongoing_research/ehs/
dissemination/research_briefs/4pg_overall.html.
24 W. Steven Barnett et al., The State of Preschool: 2004 State
Preschool Yearbook (New Brunswick, N.J.: National Institute
for Early Education Research, 2004). 5.
25 Ibid, 38.
26 Trust for Early Education, Teacher Education: One Strong
Step to Ensuring High Quality (Washington, D.C.: Trust for
Early Education, 2003).
27 Barnett, 40.
28 National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, Early Child Care Research Network, “Child
Care Structure-Process-Outcome: Direct and Indirect
Effects of Child-Care Quality on Young Children’s
Development,” in American Psychological Society, vol. 13, no.
3 (May 2002).
29 Barnett, 29.
30 Cindy Oser and Julie Cohen, Improving Part C Early
Intervention: Using What We Know About Infants and Toddlers
with Disabilities to Reauthorize Part C of IDEA (Washington,
D.C.: ZERO TO THREE Policy Center, 2003); and Linda
McCart and Charles Bruner, Child Welfare and School
Readiness: Making the Link for Vulnerable Children (Des Moines,
Iowa: State Early Childhood Policy Assistance Network, June
2003) 8-9, at http://www.finebynine.org/pdf/CWSR.pdf.
NOTES
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