Lessons in Early Learning

Aug 27, 2010

Lessons in Early Learning: Building an Integrated Pre-K-12 System in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides an overview of how MCPS used local and federal dollars to craft, implement and improve a system-wide education reform strategy built on a foundation of providing high-quality pre-k education. Download the report. (PDF)

Over a decade, MCPS accomplished impressive results, including

  • • double-digit declines in achievement gaps between different racial and ethnic groups
  • • almost 90 percent of kindergartners entering first grade with essential literacy skills
  • • 90 percent high school-graduation rate

The school district achieved this by setting ambitious objectives for student achievement, providing more children with a critical early learning foundation and linking the skills gained in pre-k with the later grades. And these gains were realized even as the district’s population of English language learners grew 103 percent and the number of students receiving a free or reduced-price lunch increased 44 percent.

With specific goals, a clear and comprehensive plan, greater commitments and support from states and the federal government, more local communities can meet the needs of diverse populations, build a quality early education workforce, improve student performance and effectively reform publicly funded education for the 21st century.

The MCPS story offers important lessons on developing a comprehensive and integrated early learning strategy. MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast’s approach assumed all children could succeed academically. For Weast and his leadership team, it was more than just starting early; it was intentionally connecting early learning to primary and secondary education.

The evidence is clear. High-quality early learning, integrated into the broader public education system is vital to raising elementary reading skills, closing the achievement gap and preparing all students for college and career success. 

States can encourage greater district-level pre-k investment, cross-sharing of information, program coordination and rapid expansion of services across the P-12 continuum by enacting innovative early learning legislation and policies. With the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) due for reauthorization, the opportunity for the federal government to support the integration of high-quality early learning into the national school reform effort has never been more promising.

Media Inquiries

If you are with the media and would like additional information Lessons in Early Learning, please contact Krissi Jimroglou, communications manager, The Pew Center on the States, 202.540.6416.

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