Early learning helps build a stronger education system and a more competitive workforce for the future.
Our goal: to ensure that every child has high-quality early learning opportunities that support kindergarten readiness and elementary school achievement.
At A Glance
Early learning is a smart investment that helps our economy prosper with a more competitive workforce.
Research shows that high-quality early learning can make a big difference—especially for low-income children—by closing the achievement gap that starts before kindergarten.
The most significant gains for young children are achieved by improving the quality of instruction and teacher-child interactions.
The Early Learning initiative is one of the foundation’s top priorities in Washington State.
The path to a good education and a successful career starts early. High-quality early learning from birth to age 5 helps children enter kindergarten ready to learn and prepared to thrive in elementary school and beyond. Positive early childhood experiences also build the foundation for a skilled workforce, a responsible community, and a thriving economy.
Thanks to broad support from elected officials, businesses leaders, and philanthropic partners in Washington State and across the country, access to pre-K for 3- and 4-year-old children has increased over the past two decades.
However, a growing body of research shows that the quality of these programs varies and has a significant impact on student outcomes. To help all children succeed, investments in pre-K must support high-quality programs that produce measurable, lasting gains.
Education can help break the cycle of poverty. In Washington State, we focus on promoting successful educational outcomes for all students through a holistic approach, starting at birth and culminating in a college degree or certificate. We call this effort Education Pathways because we aim to support every child on the path to success. We focus on expanding opportunities for low-income children and children from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds.
Early learning is crucial to this strategy. Since 2005, we have worked with public, private, and community partners in the state to ensure high-quality early learning opportunities that help children enter school ready to learn and succeed. These include home visiting services, which support parents in their role as their children’s first and most important teachers, and efforts to improve early learning environments.
A woman and her four-year-old daughter read books together at their apartment in Tacoma, Washington.
In all of our work, we believe in following the evidence. How high-quality pre-K programs succeed is not a mystery. Recent research shows that they consistently focus on improving the interactions between teachers and children. They also share a set of common features that foster high-quality instruction, support educators and young learners, and benefit from state and local policies that create a positive enabling environment. Lessons from high-quality programs should inform efforts to expand pre-K and help all children enter school ready to learn.
We believe that by successfully supporting and scaling up the elements of quality that result in greater school readiness and sustained academic achievement, more young children will enter school prepared and will achieve ongoing academic success. We also know that children need healthy, stable families and strong communities, and we are committed to viewing education as a pathway from birth through college, and to strengthening all aspects of the support systems for children and families.