The Importance of Early Learning

ACT is committed to helping people achieve education and career success, and the path to college and career readiness starts well before high school. In a series of reports on the importance of early learning, we underscore the importance and explore the challenges of getting students on track to college and career readiness and having them stay on track.


The report Catching Up to College and Career Readiness (PDF; 12 pages) examines how many “far off track” fourth and eighth graders catch up to college and career readiness before they graduate. Using information on the percentage of students reaching college and career readiness targets over a four-year period as an indicator of the difficulty of doing so, the report focused on students who start out far off track—well below the achievement level that those with average growth trajectories need to reach college and career readiness targets in a specified later grade. The findings indicate that it is exceptionally difficult to close academic preparation gaps.


The second report, College and Career Readiness: The Importance of Early Learning (PDF; 12 pages), reaffirms the importance of early learning and addresses the growing need of a system to support early learning in schools, as well as the obligation of educators and policymakers to promote public awareness of the advantages of early learning. We discuss components of a strong preschool and elementary school education. In addition, we draw from the ACT Core Practice Framework to describe ways that school and district leaders can support improvement in early-grades learning.


The third report, College and Career Readiness: The Challenge is Greater for At-Risk Students (PDF; 16 pages), expands on the problem of getting students on track by focusing on at-risk demographic groups. This report shines a light on the need to identify and provide instructional supports early, particularly to students from at-risk demographic groups, to ensure that all students are able to achieve education and career success.


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