Families foster their children’s development within the context of neighborhoods and communities. Ideally, this occurs with the support of a strong web of schools and services to provide optimal development.

To ensure that children are healthy and well prepared to begin kindergarten and be successful in both school and life, it is essential that we have information to guide our interventions and support systems. Virginia’s School Readiness Report Card provides an opportunity to examine and assess the capacity and effectiveness of the state’s system supporting the comprehensive school readiness of young children.

In this document, we have identified a succinct set of data indicators, organized into sections, that begin to help us address the needs outlined above:

When we refer to a young child’s school readiness, we refer to his or her holistic development, including health and nutrition, and social and emotional, self-regulation, language, and cognitive skills. In this school readiness report card, rather than attempting to focus at the child level, we are examining the readiness of Virginia’s system to support the healthy development and learning of young children.

The reader will find that data appearing in the appendix are reported both in aggregate state level and by locality. While data are often reported from an assets perspective, we have chosen here to emphasize the areas where the system may not be working adequately, and where cracks in the system may allow children to fall through. The report highlights gaps in access, accountability, and in our knowledge. Gaps may be evidenced as inequities – whether they are based on geography, race, gender, ethnicity, demographics, or philosophical differences.

Virginia has unique characteristics:

  1. Virginia boasts many resources as well as distinct challenges, with broad regional variation.
  2. Virginia is the only state in the union with a one-term governor rule, which means a regular pattern of transition of leadership and management, elevating the importance of strong and persistent public private partnerships to forge an ongoing vision and implementation of systemic strategies.
  3. Virginia is locally-driven, with extensive control given to communities, which means localities are responsible for the challenging job of knitting together various programs and funding streams to make a cohesive system for families and young children.

Children are born into a set of characteristics that have an impact on their opportunities for good health and educational outcomes. Utilizing federal, state, local, and private resources, communities offer various programs and services to help support their healthy development and school readiness and to reduce the challenges. As best we can, we must create and utilize appropriate measures to highlight strengths and gaps in the system and ultimately to more effectively target precious resources.

The stakes are high. The learning and development that children experience before they reach school age is critical to their future education, success, and contribution to society. This is a significant period in which the architecture of the brain is shaped by interactions with adults and the surrounding environment, laying a strong or weak foundation for future cognitive, language, social-emotional, and physical development.1 As Nobel-prize-winning economist James Heckman says, “Learning begets learning, skills beget skills.” Investing in young children’s school readiness doesn’t just pay off for children and their families; it benefits communities, the workforce, and Virginia’s economic prosperity.

It is our hope that this report can bring sharper vision as Virginia’s leaders work to provide a clear path and upward trajectory for all young children in Virginia.

PDF version of official printed report.

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