Why Birth to 3rd Grade?

A child’s early experiences profoundly shape their potential to succeed in school and life. To ensure all children are on the path of college and career readiness, we must lay the foundation early, focusing on children’s learning starting at birth, getting them ready for kindergarten and building on their progress in early elementary. These high-quality early learning experiences must also be connected and focused on a common goal of college and career readiness.

As demographic shifts take place across the country, California is ahead of the curve with the richness and strength of our diverse population, including our dual language learners. The Golden State can create a significant competitive advantage in the 21st century global economy by laying a strong foundation for California’s youngest learners. What We Can Do>>

Why It Matters


According to decades of developmental and educational research, the first eight years of life are critical because they are when children acquire three distinct types of skills and knowledge:

  • Developing a strong foundation in cognitive skills such as early reading and math
  • Building social and emotional capabilities that allow children to interact productively with both peers and adults
  • Establishing engagement in school and learning1

During a child's first three years of life, their brains are being wired for future success. Brain development is more rapid during this period than at any other, with more than 700 neural connections created each second.2 Children are learning everything from smiling, walking and speaking, to making choices, exploring and developing relationships. Learn more>>

In the pre-kindergarten years, young children not only develop core academic knowledge in pre-literacy and early math, they develop critically important learning skills, such as paying attention, managing emotions and completing tasks. That is why study after study, over a hundred in the U.S. alone, show that quality preschool significantly benefits children’s school success. Learn more>>

The early elementary grades are when children learn to understand foundational math, reading, and reasoning skills that allow them to tackle more complex subjects in fourth grade and beyond. Educators often say that up until 3rd grade, students are learning to read, and after 3rd grade, they’re reading to learn. Learn more>>

How We’re Falling Short


Unfortunately, California is failing to meet the needs of all its children. Far too many of California’s children do not have access to the high-quality early learning experiences they need and deserve. Our students are not getting a strong start when it matters most. Fifty four percent of our 3rd graders test below proficient in English-Language Arts and one-third are not proficient in Mathematics. For our low-income students and those of color, significant barriers exist and the findings are much worse.3 Research shows that students who start out behind too often stay behind – those who aren’t reading proficiently in 3rd grade are four times more likely to not graduate from high school.4

What We Can Do>>

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