New Profit’s Early Learning Fund seeks a world where all children have a start in their earliest years of life that sets them on a course to fulfill their potential. Extraordinary advances in neurobiology and behavioral science, together with increasing public recognition of the importance of a strong start, have created a dynamic opportunity for transformative change in the early learning field.
Leaders in every vital sector—in business, philanthropy, education, health care, research science, government, and technology—have concluded that the early years are a critical period of human development. Yet today, more than a decade into the 21st century, our nation has not aligned its substantial resources and core values to ensure that every child gets a strong start in life. Nearly two million children from low-income families arrive in kindergarten every year already significantly behind their more affluent peers—in their health status, education, and social skills. The pathway to success for these kids is blocked by obstacles that have proven intransigent: inter-generational poverty and limited economic mobility, unequal educational opportunity, weaknesses in family supports, systemic bias in our criminal justice system, and social programs and interventions that have had only modest success. It is time to consider a new approach.
To that end, the Early Learning (EL) Fund is focused on the significant gap that exists between the extraordinary surge of research-informed innovation in the field of early learning and the dearth of models, leaders, and platforms needed to translate those innovative solutions into widespread practice. The EL Fund powerfully combines field building and collective action with grantmaking and strategic support to innovative leaders in the early learning field. The EL Fund seeks to shape our nation’s capacity to support children by pursuing the following goals:
The EL Fund will seek to have a direct impact on kindergarten readiness, which we define using a holistic lens: children should enter school ready to learn, families should be ready to support their children, and schools should be ready to teach them. Further, we believe academic outcomes are paramount for student success in kindergarten and beyond, and we know from learning science that those very outcomes are inextricably linked with social and emotional development. Therefore, we recognize the need to focus on academic, social, and emotional development to ensure academic and life success.
The EL Fund’s goals are deeply connected and reinforcing. The EL Fund’s direct impact work will help to illuminate new, effective ideas, as well as what systems are necessary to sustain them. Through our systemic focus, we will ensure leaders, communities, and systems work
In our efforts to directly impact the number of children entering kindergarten ready to learn, the EL Fund has prioritized three focus areas:
Support organizations creating high-quality pre-K experiences that reach children ages three to five from low-income families.
Support parent and family engagement organizations that leverage families as intentional agents of early childhood development. This includes two types of parent and family engagement models: 1) those that directly link parent engagement with learning outcomes for children, e.g., by directly supporting the relationship between parents and formal learning settings, parental training, parent leadership programs, etc.; and 2) those that empower parents to create the conditions required to be more effective as parents, e.g., supporting child outcomes by addressing families’ socio-economic conditions.
Support approaches that leverage technology to prompt changes in the R&D, engagement, organization, and scale up of early learning programs reaching children, their families, and the early learning workforce.
These focus areas are inextricably linked with one another. High-quality pre-K opportunities and strong family supports are critical in advancing children’s development as lifelong learners, and technology plays an integral role supporting pre-K and family engagement interventions and meeting the needs of modern families.