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Duke Endowment Invests in Birth-to-Eight, Whole-Child Approach to Third Grade Reading with Award to NC Early Childhood Foundation

Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from the NC Early Childhood Foundation.

Raleigh — The Duke Endowment has awarded a $325,000 grant to the NC Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) to advance policies and practices that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth.

“A good start for children bodes well for lifelong success, but it’s critical that we focus our efforts on only the most effective programs,” says Rhett Mabry, president of The Duke Endowment. “This grant will help NCECF develop a strategic path toward promising outcomes for North Carolina’s children.”

With The Duke Endowment investment, NCECF will establish a Birth‐to‐Eight Policy Center to serve as a reliable source of information on birth‐to‐eight policies for North Carolina policymakers, business leaders, philanthropists, early childhood professionals, community leaders and others. The most rapid period of development occurs from birth to age eight. What happens in these first eight years sets the foundation for all of the years that follow. Third grade has become a focal point because it is when children go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Research has shown that this transition is so important that end of third grade outcomes can predict academic achievement and career success. For optimal development and a strong foundation, children need health and development on track starting at birth, supportive and supported families and communities and high quality birth-to-eight education.

Through the Policy Center, NCECF will advance the work of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways). Pathways focuses on aligning policies and advancing coordinated strategies that are proven to make progress on shared birth‐to‐eight measures of success. It is driven by collaborative action and is based on the recognition that together we can realize greater outcomes for young children than any one organization can produce on its own. It Pathways is powered by the NC Early Childhood Foundation in collaboration with NC Child, The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and BEST NC.

Since launching in November 2015, the state’s early learning and education, public agency, policy, philanthropic and business leaders engaged in the Pathways have accomplished the following:

  • Shared Measures of Success. A Data Action Team of 30 experts from NC’s leading universities, research institutes, government, businesses and think tanks, along with more than 85 leaders representing government agencies, nonprofit organizations, the private sector, foundations, and research institutions engaged in a 6-month process that resulted in shared measures of success.
  • Legislative Recommendation. In its 2016-2017 budget, The General Assembly mandates departments and organizations that administer, support or study early education to develop a comprehensive approach to early childhood education, birth through third grade, including creating cross agency accountability with a comprehensive set of data indicators, including consideration of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading, to monitor and measure success of the early childhood education systems.

NCECF has a bold vision that each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for lifelong success and reading proficiency, supported by the nation’s best birth-to-eight system. To achieve that vision, NCECF builds public will, promotes practice and policy solutions and is a catalyst for aligned action. It serves as the state lead for the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Learn more at


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.