National Report Sounds Alarm on Failure to Invest in Early Childhood

Investments during Birth to Age 8 benefit all Children, Close Achievement Gaps

Contact: Tara Manthey
Title: Communications Director
Phone: (720) 256-1312

National Report Sounds Alarm on Failure to Invest in Early Childhood

Investments during Birth to Age 8 benefit all Children, Close Achievement Gaps


11/4/17 12:01 am ET

Denver, CO – Colorado has made significant strides toward the critical investments that a new national report recommends for children from birth through age 8, but more needs to be done to ensure all children are equipped with the skills they need to succeed. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation sounds the alarm that the nation is failing to invest enough in the early years—at the same time Colorado voters face an opportunity to make the most significant investment in young children in the state’s history.

The report, The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success, summarizes the decades of brain development research that demonstrates the importance of a child’s early years and details how states are failing to invest enough in the early childhood supports that help children get off to a strong start. About one in three American children lacks the cognitive knowledge and skills they need to succeed in school and beyond. Research shows that kids who enter kindergarten with below-average language and cognitive ability need significantly more support to develop social, emotional and learning skills.

“Colorado has made great strides in improving the quality and access of early childhood experiences, yet there are still thousands of children on waitlists whose families deserve that choice and opportunity,” said Chris Watney, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “Momentum has been building toward providing a quality early childhood education for every child who needs it, and now we have important opportunities in our state to help them realize that dream.”

Amendment 66 would provide full-day kindergarten to all families who want it, as well as open up access to quality preschool for more than 25,000 low-income children. According to data in the report, in 2011, the majority of Colorado’s low-income 3- and 4-year-olds were not enrolled in a preschool program of any kind. The ballot campaign is the latest effort by families, education advocates and community leaders to improve early childhood experiences for Colorado kids.

From the creation of the Office of Early Childhood to winning a federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, Colorado policy makers have moved toward research-based solutions for removing barriers to getting kids ready for kindergarten and reading by the end of third grade. In Colorado, the number of low-income children enrolled in preschool programs grew 16 percent between 2005 and 2011, compared to 3 percent nationally.

In Colorado, 20 percent of children under age 6 live in poverty and often face challenges and toxic stress that research shows can limit their ability to reach their full potential. The national report details how a child’s development across critical areas of well-being is essential to make the effective transition into elementary school. A new analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study for Kindergarten found that only 36 percent of all children—and only 19 percent of low-income children—were on track in their cognitive knowledge and skills by third grade. There is slightly better news that more were reported on track in the areas of physical well-being (56 percent), social and emotional growth (70 percent) and school engagement (74 percent).

“All children need nurturing and plentiful opportunities to develop during their crucial first eight years,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Foundation. “Today’s complicated world can strain families’ ability to ensure their children are receiving all the stimulation and care they need to develop to their full potential.”

The report asserts that for children to succeed, it is vital for classroom learning to be integrated with other aspects of child development to create opportunities for children to develop the full array of competencies they will need in life. Many states and communities have already begun the work of bringing the programs and services for young children and families into a cohesive system. To prepare children for success, the report sets forth three broad policy recommendations:

  • Support parents so they can effectively care and provide for their children. States and the federal government should make it easier for parents to navigate the array of programs that can help families by aligning and streamlining services. This is necessary because poverty presents challenges for families and their young children and access to income supports and opportunities for parents to gain education and skills are critical.
  • Increase access to high-quality birth through age eight programs, beginning with investments that target low-income children. As Colorado has done, states should adopt Early Learning and Development Guidelines that set clear expectations for child development. Effectively structured child care subsidies, tax credits, and investing in quality preschool represent promising strategies that can increase access to high quality early learning. They also should provide resources needed for all children to reach important benchmarks, such as grade-level reading proficiency by third grade. In addition to having high-quality care and education for all kids, states must ensure access to affordable and comprehensive health care with timely screenings that can catch disabilities or developmental delays in youth children.
  • Develop comprehensive, integrated programs and data systems to address all aspects of a child’s development and support their transition to elementary school and related programs for school-age children. States should use consistent measures of child development that provide broad assessments of well-being, including progress across key aspects of development. Coordinated educational efforts should use transition planning models that help children move successfully through their first eight years.

The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success includes data on children from birth to age eight for every state, the District of Columbia and the nation. The report will be available to the public Nov. 4 at 12:01 a.m. EST at Contact Tara Manthey at or 303-620-4544 for an embargoed copy.

Additional information is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.


About Colorado Children's Campaign

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private national philanthropy that creates better futures for the nation’s children by strengthening families, building economic opportunities and transforming neighborhoods into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and advocacy organization focused on improving the quality of and expanding access to child health, K-12 education and early childhood experiences. For more information, please visit

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Tara Manthey at (720) 256-1312 or email Tara at