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Early Education

While most of Mayor Karl Dean's education initiatives are focused on improving K-12, he recognizes the critical role early childhood education plays in the long-term success of our children, particularly for those who are economically disadvantaged.

Several studies have shown that student achievement gaps, which are often first measured in the third grade, are already evident in disadvantaged children at the time they are enrolled in Kindergarten. And if a child cannot read with a reasonable degree of comprehension at the end of the third grade, the odds of that child later becoming a dropout is over 90 percent.

"We cannot forget the first years of our children’s development while we work to reform and strengthen our traditional K-12 public education system. It is my hope and belief that we can do both,” Mayor Dean has said.

Mayor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council

In 2010, Mayor Karl Dean formed an 18-member Advisory council on Early Childhood Development and Early Education to specifically identify and address needs and gaps in services for Davidson County’s youngest children. The advisory council is led by Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, who has spent her career in early childhood education and is currently the Director of Vanderbilt University's Child and Family Centers. The committee delivered a report to the mayor in 2011.

View a copy of the Early Childhood Development and Early Education report

Report Summary

The Mayor’s Advisory Council on Early Childhood Development and Early Education developed its report working in three subgroups: Public Access, Public Awareness, and Economic Development Strategies and Models. The advisory council analyzed local, state and national data; consulted international research and best practices; interviewed local practitioners and policy makers; and identified key needs of Nashville families. The advisory council also received technical assistance from the National League of Cities.

While acknowledging that a number of successful programs and supports exist in the public and private sectors for early childhood development, the advisory council’s report identifies a lack of a comprehensive, aligned strategy in Nashville to ensure the healthy development and success of all children during their early years of life. To address this, the report establishes a city-wide vision where all children from birth to eight-years-old are “healthy, well-adjusted and ready for sustained life and academic success,” and recommendations to achieve that vision.

The advisory council made a series of recommendations in the report to improve access and consistent quality of early care and education. Currently only 27 percent of Davidson County’s zero to five-year-old population participates in high-quality formalized care programs.

The report also recommends:

  • supporting business efficiencies for providers who struggle with day-to-day operations, which ultimately affects programming and quality outcomes for children;
  • engaging the business community as partners in the early child education and development landscape to benefit their current and future workforce;
  • improving coordination and transitions between early education and Nashville’s public school system;
  • and increasing public awareness about the importance of early childhood development, specifically for parents who choose not to use structured programs.