Supporting a child's early learning journey
Most of a child’s brain development occurs in the first 2,000 days of life—before they ever enter kindergarten. The years that a child spends in preschool are essential for their development. It’s where they learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills and jump start their learning journeys.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation believes that we can play a part in supporting communities, early learning leaders, and teachers in building a pre-K system in the U.S. that prepares every child to thrive. That starts with nurturing the important relationship between a child and their teacher.
Less than half of teachers report having sufficient time to plan their days and carefully observe children, which are both critical to helping them address the needs, skills, and interests of every young learner in their classroom. We’re focused on ensuring teachers have access to better tools that help them manage their schedules and better understand a child’s learning and development.
We’re also working to ensure state and local leaders have more comprehensive information on how pre-K systems are serving children and families so they can make evidence-based decisions that support teachers and drive success for all children.
We focus on solutions that will benefit all people navigating our early childhood education systems, but especially those who have been systematically excluded from opportunity, such as Black and Latino students and students from low-income communities.
Early learning focus areas
Pre-K assessments are typically observation-driven and led by educators. However, only half of pre-K teachers report having sufficient time each week to carefully observe children. We’re providing grants to help the field create or update assessments in ways that are less burdensome for teachers, giving them more time to ensure each child gets the support they need.
This work is intended to help teachers tailor learning to children’s diverse backgrounds and languages. These child-level assessments should feel like fun and engaging activities for children, and they should measure the skills that are most important for 4-year-old children to develop—such as critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance, and playing well with others.
We’re also partnering with existing classroom quality assessment providers to ensure teachers have better coaching and professional development support.
GRANTEE SPOTLIGHT: Explore more details on the MDRC website
Children are more engaged when they see and hear their lives and experiences reflected in their learning environments and instruction. That’s why classrooms that create positive learning environments are led by teachers who provide rich content and connect to the real experiences, interests, and backgrounds of young learners.
Our grantees are exploring ways to ensure teachers have comprehensive, whole-child curricula—where children learn through strong relationships, play, and hands-on exploration.
Only 42% of pre-K teachers report having paid planning time outside of classroom hours spent with children. To address this, we’re examining how pre-K systems can support diverse educators with more planning time that helps them tailor learning for each child.
GRANTEE SPOTLIGHT: Explore more details on the National Academies website
While the early learning field already collects data, what’s collected and how it’s used varies greatly. Without comprehensive insights that examine how children and families are being served, pre-K systems can’t target their program improvements where they are needed most, and states don’t have adequate information to make greatly needed investments in early learning.
Engaging with educators and experts, we’re supporting the field in developing a data framework that helps pre-K systems make sense of data. This data framework will help system leaders identify and address equity issues around access and outcomes, protect a child’s privacy, and provide a holistic picture to help educators, families, and policymakers drive success for all children.
GRANTEE SPOTLIGHT: Explore more details on the Child Trends website
News and insights
Webinar: High-quality instructional coaching in pre-k
Recorded June 22, 2023
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a webinar on high-quality instructional coaching in pre-K. We were joined by 2020 National Teacher of the Year Tabatha Rosproy, SRI International, Substantial, and Teachstone, who shared details on how they are working to improve instructional coaching so that it’s done in partnership with teachers, supports a teacher’s growth, and ensures all children in a classroom have joyful learning experiences. View the recording and explore additional resources mentioned during the webinar.