In late September, we hosted the K-3 State Policy Academy, bringing together state teams, partners and other experts in the early education field to develop short- and long-term K-3 goals for each state, and an action plan to achieve them. Attendees also collaborated to learn from their experiences supporting K-3 policies and third-grade reading proficiency. Teams came from four states — Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts and Mississippi — where we provide extensive, collaborative technical assistance to help strengthen early learning in their states.
To guide this peer-to-peer learning exchange and action-planning, we facilitated discussions within each state team on alignment across the P-3 continuum, workforce development and leadership, curriculum, instruction and assessments, and policies to leverage K-3 reform at scale.
Given the unique context of each state’s policy agendas, early learning structures and policy academy participants, states tailored presentations and planning to fit their state needs. In Arizona, this project has led to a partnership between the governor’s office and Helios Education Foundation — as well as Read On Arizona and others stakeholders — to develop a K-3 quality framework. This framework will help to align efforts to increase third-grade reading proficiency in the state and support Arizona’s Education Progress Meter, as well as state postsecondary attainment goals. During their time at the state policy academy, Arizona team members examined systems already in place to support their framework and gaps to address moving forward. They will continue their work with a larger state team and additional technical assistance support.
Other state teams focused on how to implement state legislation specific to including early learning strategies in schools with turnaround plans, strengthening early learning systems, addressing teacher preparation courses that support early childhood education, and increasing school principal trainings with more emphasis on developmentally appropriate practices. Within each of these areas, states identified policies to leverage change and examined existing opportunities to support their goals.
The work from the policy academy is part of our K-3 Quality Initiative, a project focused on improving state K-3 policies to strengthen the early learning continuum. The academy builds off the K-3 Policymakers Guide to Action: Making the early elementary years count and a previous K-3 Thinkers Meeting, in which content experts addressed policy levers that support high-quality K-3 education. Our national partners in this work include the National Conference of State Legislatures, New America, National Institute for Early Education Research/Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes and the National P-3 Center at the University of Washington.
Since leaving the policy academy, state teams have been working on next steps to strengthen their K-3 education systems.