Report highlights role of philanthropy in driving school readiness

Last month, J.B. Pritzker, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and investor, joined with Jeff Bradach and Katherine Kaufmann of the Bridgespan Group to issue a white paper:  “Achieving Kindergarten Readiness for All Our Children.”  The paper notes the importance of the early years to a child’s brain development, and the importance of both high-quality early childhood programs, particularly to low-income children, who are more likely to miss out on the healthy development opportunities that lay the foundation in the brain for future learning.

As a result, they report, one in four low-income children in our country are not ready for kindergarten and are at risk of falling behind before they even get started in school.  Compounding that risk is the fact that early education programs are under-invested in the U.S. by both government and philanthropy.

But there are also promising solutions that the public and private sector can invest in to help ensure all children enter school ready to learn and succeed.  In the article “The Early Childhood Challenge for Philanthropists,” recently published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the authors offer five areas where philanthropy can play a role.

They include:

  • Supporting and strengthening Quality Rating and Improvement Systems;
  • Improving the training, professional development and compensation of early childhood staff;
  • Expanding access to early childhood programs that have proven results, such as home visiting and mental health programs; and
  • Supporting public-private financing for programs that work, such as “Pay for Success” models where private investors front the initial program funding, and government repays the investors only when the agreed-upon outcomes are achieved.

The fifth recommendation calls for “scaling health and development screenings.  Most early childhood screenings take place at the program, or local level.  Screenings with a tool such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, programs can assess a child’s development, determine whether they are on track, and refer them to early intervention services when appropriate.  Authors Pritzker, Bradach and Kaufmann recommend that philanthropists “support community efforts and agencies that aspire to conduct population-wide developmental screenings and connect families to effective early childhood-development programs.”

This is what our new partnership with the Private Equity and Venture Capital Leadership Council is aiming for in the City of Boston.  Learn more about  DRIVE  and how we are pioneering a new effort in Boston to screen and identify infants, toddlers and preschoolers who are most-at-risk of falling behind and connect them to early intervention services.