Start with Early Childhood.

Make preschool available to all three- and four-year-olds to get them ready to learn.

Brain research reveals that early learning critically impacts the future development of a child. Therefore, attending to the three dimensions of executive function—working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive or mental flexibility—is key for the social and cognitive development of a child.

Reallocate state funding and alter educational policy to position programs for measurable success at raising oral language, reading and numeracy skills.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

Research shows that by the time children enter kindergarten, there is already an achievement gap between middle-class and low-income students. This discrepancy in part stems from the difference in oral literacy among different groups of children. Researchers estimate, for example, that children from professional families are exposed to 45 million words by the age of four, while children from working-class families only hear about 22 million. Children in poverty, however, are exposed to a scant 13 million.1 Furthermore, more than two-thirds of poverty-stricken households do not possess a single book developmentally appropriate for a child under age five.

Actions Needed

To ensure that all children in Connecticut benefit from their educational experience, the state should:

  • Provide or reallocate sufficient funding so that all children, ages three to eight, receive appropriate early education.
  • Create a simplified, coordinated system for supporting early childhood education.
  • Support families with training for literacy and educating young children.
  • Reduce the achievement gap.
  • Establish standards to raise the quality of all learning centers, e.g., daycare, preschool and home.
  • Designate a single agency to set standards and regulate early learning.
  • Require all early childhood service providers to assess children’s reading and language skills as part of developmental screening to identify children in need of additional services.
  • Strengthen professional development for all early educators and caregivers so they can support language development.
  • Bring challenging, engaging and developmentally appropriate reading and mathematics curricula into early education and childcare settings.

Make quality preschool education universally available in Connecticut.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

The availability of preschools and the quality of the preschool experiences are critical factors. They can help reduce the achievement gap in Connecticut and ensure that all children benefit from their educational experience.

Actions Needed

  • Ensure fiscal support for high-quality programs for all three- and four-year-olds.
  • Provide challenging all-day kindergarten for all children.
  • Support local communities in developing birth-through-age-eight local councils for planning and monitoring early childhood services.

Ensure a simplified, coordinated system for supporting early childhood development and education.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

The primary purposes of early childhood education are to support social and emotional competence, and improve a child’s oral language, numeracy and literacy development. Providing early childhood education as early as possible in a child’s life will best prepare him/her for success later in school, the workplace and the community.

Actions Needed

  • Eliminate overlapping oversight and support of early childhood education at state and local levels.
  • Provide parents and the community with transparent and understandable information about the quality of services and programs.
  • Provide models and training to local communities on effective transitions to kindergarten.
  • Provide guidance and support to local communities in raising the quality of early childhood programs and services.
  • Provide greater capacity for coordination and support services for parents and children.

Strengthen partnerships with families to reinforce children’s learning with a particular focus on language development.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

Although research shows that families play the most important role in young children’s lives, responsibility for school readiness lies with the adults who care for them and the systems that support them. Supportive relationships and positive learning experiences should be provided, not just at home but also through a range of services and by a variety of adults.

Actions Needed

Childcare settings, preschools and public schools should:

  • Support family efforts to improve children’s language, emerging literacy, reading and numeracy skills.
  • Capitalize on and strengthen the role of community libraries in promoting family literacy.
  • Provide continuing education to parents to support their child’s language, literacy, numeracy and executive function skill development.
  • Use community leaders as conduits for helping families build children’s language, literacy and numeracy skills.

Require programs, providers and professionals that serve babies and young children to assess language and reading development as part of screening processes. Identify those in need of additional services. 

Why This Recommendation Is Important

Reading is the cornerstone of academic success. There is a limited window of time to prevent reading difficulties and promote reading achievement. For most children what happens (or doesn’t happen) from infancy through age nine is critical. By third grade, reading struggles are strongly linked to later difficulties in school as well as to behavioral problems, depression and dysfunctional and/or negative peer relationships.1 What’s more, research indicates that 74 percent of children whose reading skills are less than sufficient by third grade have a drastically reduced likelihood of graduating from high school.2 As a result, these children are unlikely to develop the skills essential for participating fully in a knowledge-based economy and for experiencing life success.3

Actions Needed

  • Require healthcare practices and early education programs to initially screen and continually assess language and reading skills.
  • Outfit school districts with a pre-K to grade three early literacy (including language), numeracy and executive function skills assessment system.
  • Modify the information-sharing limitations of privacy regulations (HIPAA) so that the state can create a database to track a child’s history of development, including program enrollment.

Enhance professional education to increase adult capacity to assess and support a child’s language development.

Why This Recommendation Is Important
Strong oral language skills are essential for young children to have in order to learn how to read. Experts recommend that greater effort be given to improving the quality of infants’ and children’s language environments.

Actions Needed

  • Provide early educators, care providers and healthcare professionals with training on how to support language, reading, numeracy and executive function skill development.
  • Provide a multiyear professional development plan for the workforce to comply with state law and national certification requirements.
  • Provide health, mental health and education consultation to preschool programs to enhance the skills of directors and teachers for meeting the comprehensive needs of children.
  • Bring challenging, language-rich, developmentally appropriate reading and mathematics curricula to early education and care settings.

Why This Recommendation Is Important
Extensive research shows that the first five years are a critical developmental period in a young child’s life. The quality of a child’s early environment and experiences has long-term effects on the brain, building the foundation for important outcomes, including academic achievement.

Actions Needed
The state should:

  • Provide ongoing guidance on curriculum selection and implementation in early education and care settings, as well as in pre-K to grade three classrooms.
  • Require principals and program administrators to increase their knowledge of children’s language, reading, numeracy and executive function skills.
  • Develop a system of accountability for providing language-rich, challenging, developmentally appropriate and engaging reading and mathematics curricula.
  • Require school districts to provide supplemental instruction that matches the curriculum for children who are not making sufficient progress.


1 Gregg, N., Hoy, C., King, W.M., Moreland, C.M. & Jagota, M. (1992). “The MMPI-2 profile of individuals with learning disabilities at a rehabilitative setting.” Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 23, 52-59; Snow, C., Burns, M.S. & Griffin, P. (1998). “Preventing reading disabilities in young children.” Washington, D.C.: National Research Council. Waldie, K., & Spreen, O. (1993). “The relationship between learning disabilities and persisting delinquency.” Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26, 417-423.

2 Fletcher, J.M., & Lyon, G.R. (1998). Reading: A research-based approach. In W.M. Evers (Ed.), “What’s gone wrong in America’s classrooms” (49-90). Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

3 Fletcher, J.M., & Lyon, G.R. (1998). Reading: A research-based approach. In W.M. Evers (Ed.), “What’s gone wrong in America’s classrooms” (49-90). Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.