Improving our kids’ kindergarten and third grade readiness keeps them academically and developmentally on track, can sustain the benefits of high-quality early care and education, and goes a long way toward mitigating long-term negative outcomes that come with poor literacy or low educational attainment.

Developing the Early Care and Education Landscape

Effective, positive adult-child interactions that focus on language acquisition, literacy, and social-emotional development can ensure that children are prepared to enter kindergarten on track.39 These interactions occur when a child is in high-quality early care and education, whose benefits have been well-documented. To improve kindergarten readiness citywide, Detroit must develop a landscape of high-quality early care and education providers.

What Can We Do?


Expand equitable access to high-quality early care and education through:

▶ Expanding provider access to affordable capital and supporting technical assistance intermediaries

▶ Investing in early childhood and early elementary talent through professional learning supports and workforce incentives

▶ Streamlining finance and administration through shared facilitation across the city


Align the transition from early childhood to early elementary through:

▶ Implementing a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and longitudinal data system

▶ Curricular alignment across literacy, numeracy, and core capabilities such as social-emotional development

▶ Aligned teacher preparation, responsive professional development and coaching, and rapid intervention and remediation in early elementary


The struggle to identify, acquire, and license an early care and education facility is prohibitive for many quality providers, and it’s stunting Detroit’s kindergarten readiness. First, expanding access to affordable capital through capital subisides such as debt service support (including in the leasing and sale of publicly-owned buildings) can make the cost of facilities acquisition and renovation more affordable. Second, supporting technical assistance intermediaries who can offer guidance through the facilities development process can give providers critical additional capacity to navigate the complexities of facilities design, construction, permitting, and licensure.40


Detroit must improve the quality of its early childhood educator talent pool, and it can do so by providing professional learning supports and improving workforce incentives such as compensation and benefits. These levers can improve educator quality, retention, and wellbeing while professionalizing the workforce. According to the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, “appropriate income, resources, support, and opportunities for career development are essential for bringing excellent candidates into the workforce, retaining them as they further develop their knowledge and skills, and ensuring that they advance their knowledge and skills through professional learning opportunities.”41

In Detroit, professional learning supports should include both high-quality pre-service training and credentialing (with significant student-teaching time42) aligned to the birth to eight continuum and ongoing professional development focused on improving child outcomes. The quality of these supports should be measured immediately through instructor performance on tools like the CLASS assessment and downstream through student performance on tools like a kindergarten readiness assessment. California is providing these learning supports through teacher preparation reform and alignment and through incentives for participation in high-quality, on-the-job coaching and professional development.43

To both attract and retain these high quality educators, though, Detroit must make more attractive early learning workforce incentives such as compensation and benefits. This begins with addressing low compensation by raising wages to parity, at minimum, with those of early elementary educators without passing that cost on to families. In Washington, D.C., blended and braided funding stabilizes compensation across the field while inclusion in the K–12 salary schedule improves retention and professionalization.44 Between 2012–2022, turnover in early care and education is expected to be 28% nationally; we must ensure that there are enough high-quality educators to meet demand.45

It is illogical to pay the least to the teachers of children whose age of development is the most critical.

▶ New America46


Complicated and disjointed finance regulations burden providers, lower quality, and complicate the application and enrollment process for families. Local incentives and tools for blending and braiding funding streams (such as shared facilitation of finance across the city) could expand supply, raise the bar on quality, and allow centers to focus on educating children.47

National Best Practices

Washington, D.C.: A Head Start waiver allowed for more innovative distribution of federal Head Start funds across Title I districts, which raised quality in participating programs and eased eligibility verification burdens on providers.48

Seattle and Tennessee: Sound Child Care Solutions (WA) and Chambliss Child Care (TN) share administrators, finance, purchasing, and professional development across respective consortia of private and Head Start child care licenses, streamlining administration and freeing up funds for greater investment in teacher professional development and compensation.49

Connecting and Aligning Transitions

An aligned transition from early care and education to kindergarten and early elementary—from data to instruction—can help to mitigate fade-out, strengthen social-emotional skill development, and identify any gaps that kindergarten and early elementary teachers should target for intervention.

Data and Communications

Michigan must develop a kindergarten readiness assessment to fulfill the requirements of its Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant. The Michigan Department of Education piloted a Kindergarten Entry Assessment, but after discontinuing its scale-up, several education leaders are choosing to pilot the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment used currently in Ohio and Maryland. Implementation of a tool that assesses kindergarteners’ literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional skills is critical to benchmarking the state of school readiness in Detroit. Communicating these results across the birth to eight continuum through a longitudinal data system would allow providers and teachers to tailor interventions to specific local contexts and improve readiness. Further, a connection to Michigan’s existing K-12 data system could open doors for deeper evaluation of early care and education program quality and could drive efforts for quality improvement.

Curriculum and Instruction

Detroit must remove the barriers at kindergarten and third grade that isolate segments of the birth to eight continuum and stunt child development. To bridge these transitions, Detroit should build a shared curricular emphasis on academics and core capabilities across these years and should deploy developmentally-appropriate, immediate interventions for students at risk of falling behind. Aligned teacher preparation and compensation ensures teacher familiarity with standards and benchmarks along the continuum, cements quality instruction, and improves teacher retention and wellbeing. Finally, responsive coaching and adaptive professional development can help teachers to customize their instruction to each class and mitigate the fade-out often associated with gains made in high-quality early education.50 In San Francisco, district leadership committed to this alignment of mindset, administration, instruction, and professional development through phased strategy implementation and emphasis on participant and stakeholder buy-in, resulting in both improved outcomes and lower costs citywide.51

It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.

▶ President Barack Obama, 2015 State of the Union Address52

It is our fundamental responsibility as residents of Detroit and Michigan to ensure that Detroit’s students are ready for each year of education they face. To arrive at high school graduation ready for college, career, and life, this process must begin well before the hurdle of third grade literacy and preparedness. We call on Detroit’s policymakers, advocates, and other stakeholders to develop and implement these proven ideas—when we start early and provide the supports necessary for a child to succeed academically and socially, we give our city’s children a chance at success.

  1. Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2016).

  2. Sussman, C. (2007). Building early childhood facilities: What states can do to create supply and promote quality. Preschool Policy Brief. Issue 14. National Institute for Early Education Research.

  3. Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC). (2015).

  4. Mader, J. (2016). The promise of teacher-residency programs. The Atlantic.

  5. Jackson, S. (2015). Not golden yet: Building a stronger workforce for young children in California. New America.

  6. U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education. (2016).

  7. Limardo, C., Sweeney, T., & Taylor, L. (2016). Early learning career pathways initiative: Credentialing in the early care and education field. U.S. Department of Education.

  8. Jackson, S. (2016).

  9. A provider blends funds by using two or more funding sources to pay for one set of services for one group of children. A provider braids funds by using two or more funding sources to pay for services for one child.

  10. [Chung, HyeSook. (2010). Blended pre-k: a quiet revolution for DCPS. DC Action for Children.(

  11. Schilder, D. (2016). Early childhood teacher education policies: Research review and state trends. Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes.

  12. Jenkins, J. M., Watts, T. W., Magnuson, K., Gershoff E., Clements, D., Sarama, J., & Duncan, G. J. (2016). Do high quality kindergarten and first grade classrooms mitigate preschool fadeout? Irvine Network on Interventions in Development.

  13. Nyhan, P. (2015). The power of a good idea: How the San Francisco School District is building a pre-k-3rd grade bridge. New America.

  14. Obama, B. (2015). Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address. January 20, 2015.

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