We need to act early to ensure our youngest children are positioned for lifelong success. James Heckman’s research finds a 7-to-1 return on early childhood investment in reduced expenses associated with remediation, unemployment and incarceration. Yet in 2013, fewer than half (49%) of Dallas County students entered Kindergarten ready to succeed, setting a ceiling on subsequent achievement that plays out irrespective of socioeconomics.

The time for action couldn’t be better. With federal, state and city attention zeroed in on children’s earliest years, diverse community members are mobilizing together to address challenges in quality, access, awareness and alignment. A recent convening on September 17 drew more than 70 actors to begin aligning in key areas of 0-5 education. Thank you to United Way Metropolitan Dallas, Zero To Five Funders Collaborative, Dallas Early Education Alliance and The School Zone for their leadership in bringing together this group. More updates to come!

Two recent accomplishments are worth highlighting:

  • A community awareness campaign to support early pre-K registration: Motivated by the opportunity to close the 37,000 3- and 4-year-old enrollment gap in Dallas County, more than 45 partners—ranging from healthcare providers to nonprofits to faith-based communities —mobilized across neighborhoods to distribute more 45,000 flyers encouraging families to register eligible 4-year-old children for pre-K. Supporting Dallas ISD’s own efforts leveraging utility bills, mass media and other channels, the community’s collective efforts led to a more than two-fold increase in early registration and a ~1,000 student increase in 4-year-old pre-K enrollment by the start of school. Grand Prairie ISD also innovated to increase awareness and early registration through “human billboard” campaigns, movie theater spots and activation of a ministerial alliance. A big thanks goes to Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas and the Dallas Regional Chamber for championing these recent campaign efforts. We look forward to expanding these efforts in 2015 to further close the pre-K gap and place more children on a path to academic and life success.
  • Multiple partner districts align behind a common multidimensional Kindergarten readiness assessment: This Fall, Dallas, Grand Prairie, Irving and Richardson ISDs will be screening a sample of more than 13,000 Kindergarteners on the multidimensional, nationally-normed Brigance readiness assessment. For the first time, common data will help provide a consistent data point on our children’s school readiness and the relation to early education, as well as support a case for directing more funding towards quality early education.

To support the work ahead, we’re delighted to announce that Jaime Hanks Meyers, formerly the Managing Director of Children At Risk North Texas, has joined the Commit! team as Director of Early Education Initiatives! You can welcome her aboard at jaime.meyers@commit2dallas.org.