What's the Urgency?
Tennessee is facing a threat to the future growth and prosperity of our state.
Nearly two-thirds of Tennessee’s 3rd-grade public school children aren’t proficient in reading and math.
 Yet 3rd grade is a critical benchmark year for future academic success. Like bricks and mortar in a house, learning is layered on top of prior learning. If the foundation is weak, later achievement will falter. That’s what’s happening in Tennessee.
Deficits in early literacy and math begin well before kindergarten with skill gaps widening along family income lines from as early as 9 months of age and growing exponentially by 24 months.  
Research has clearly demonstrated that early literacy and math skills as well as early workforce skills (such as cooperation and paying attention) at kindergarten entry predict future academic success.   
Early brain development plays a critical role.
In the first 3 years of life, a child’s brain is the most impressionable, forming one million new neural connections every second to create the “wiring” that becomes the foundation upon which all later learning is built. 
Adult responsiveness is the key driver of young child brain development. When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain. This is known as “serve and return” interaction and is critical for early brain growth. But children who face adversity, like poverty, often don’t get appropriate adult responsiveness. In these cases the developing brain is disrupted, and the child is at far greater risk for subsequent physical, cognitive and emotional impairment. 
How does Tennessee address the early learning gaps?
TQEE is committed to effective policy that improves and expands access to quality early education programs — broadly defined as education programs that serve children from birth through third grade. For young children, the reality is that every environment — whether home, preschool, childcare or elementary school — is a learning environment. They key is that whatever the context, children are getting the emotional and cognitive development and critical foundation necessary for success in school and life.
For young children, the reality is that every environment — whether home, preschool, childcare or elementary school — is a learning environment. They key is that whatever the context, children are getting the emotional and cognitive development and critical foundation necessary for success in school and life.
Tennessee can make a giant leap forward in early education outcomes by choosing policies that:
- Support parents to be their child’s first effective teacher;
- Expand access to high quality childcare and preschool;
- Improve instructional quality PreK- 3rd grade; and
- Build strong accountability and continuous improvement systems for all early education programs.
READ MORE about TQEE policy solutions.