First Lady Pamela Northam, Secretary of Education host summit on early childhood education
First Lady Pamela Northam and the Office of the Secretary of Education hosted a summit on Tuesday with education leaders, policymakers, and academic researchers at the University of Virginia to discuss early childhood education in the Commonwealth.
Sponsored by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Human Development, the Virginia Department of Education, the UVA K-12 Advisory Council, and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the day-long event was aimed at addressing critical issues in early childhood education across the state.
“Every child in Virginia is capable of success in school and beyond if they have access to the resources they need during those critical first five years of life,” said First Lady Northam. “We are bringing our leading early childhood experts and policymakers together to align our priorities and make scalable and sustainable improvements to better serve Virginia’s littlest learners.”
The Early Childhood Education Summit was an opportunity for superintendents and school leaders from around the Commonwealth to hear from education experts, engage in conversations with state officials about statewide policies, and learn from local communities collaborating creatively to improve access to and quality of early childhood education programs.
The policy summit was the third to be hosted as a collaborative effort between the UVA K-12 Advisory Council, the Curry School of Education and Human Development, the Virginia Department of Education, and the Office of the Secretary of Education. This is the first time the summit has been focused on early childhood care and education.
“The synergy that is created when Virginia education leaders, researchers, and policymakers gather at this annual summit has resulted in meaningful improvements to education in our state,” said Bob Pianta, Dean of the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development. “It is a critical time to focus our attention on our early learning systems and I am exceedingly optimistic of what will come of our time together at the summit.”
In August, Gov. Ralph Northam announced the completion of a statewide Early Childhood Education Needs Assessment and draft Strategic Plan that were produced through the $9.9 million federal Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) that the Commonwealth was awarded in January. The Needs Assessment identifies gaps in Virginia’s early childhood system and the draft Strategic Plan outlines the goals and priorities for unifying and strengthening early childhood care and education in Virginia.
Earlier this summer, the governor signed Executive Directive Four, which establishes the Executive Leadership Team on School Readiness. The Team will be responsible for developing a plan to ensure all at-risk three-year-olds and four-year-olds in Virginia have access to a publicly-subsidized care and education option by 2025.
The group recently delivered their preliminary findings to the Governor. At the Early Childhood Summit, the First Lady and Chief School Readiness Officer Jenna Conway will discuss the Executive Leadership Team’s findings and vision for the future.
“Too many of our youngest learners in Virginia need greater access to high quality preschool options, and I am thrilled that so many champions for early childhood have gathered today to chart a course for expanding preschool opportunities across the Commonwealth,” said Doug Shuch, President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.