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New and Refined Directions for Early Education at Barr

A 2011 strategy review of Barr’s approach to early education led to new and refined directions for this work in 2012 and beyond.

In 2011, Barr took a fresh look at its early education strategy. We did this with help from The Philanthropic Initiative, which interviewed thirty-five leaders, both locally and nationally, working to close opportunity and achievement gaps for our youngest children. While elements of Barr’s prior work will continue and be deepened, our early education portfolio will also be different in four important ways:

1. Goal: Historically, Barr expressed its early education goal as “all children have access to quality.” Going forward Barr’s goal will be that “Boston’s children enter school ready to learn and are reading proficiently by third grade.” This change recognizes the need to focus not only on quality, but on outcomes for children.
2. Outcomes: We will track outcomes of early language and literacy development, with a particular focus on first-grade literacy and third-grade reading scores.
3. Target population: With a goal of school readiness and third-grade literacy, Barr will expand its target population from children ages three to five to children from birth to age five. Within this larger age range, we will prioritize low-income children, in particular those living in Boston’s “Circle of Promise” and English Language Learners.
4. Focus areas: Barr will invest in public policy and advocacy, and in demonstration projects focused on 1) strengthening parents and caregivers as their children’s first teachers; and, 2) bridging early and elementary education to limit the “fade out” effect, where gains from high-quality pre-kindergarten programs are lost in the early elementary grades.

As we work to deepen our understanding of the needs of children from birth to age three and explore potential investments, 2012 will be a year of research and development for Barr. Some additional detail about these emerging directions is already on our website. As we further develop our thinking and approach through logic models and strategic narratives, we will post those as well.

As always, we welcome reactions and ideas for continually improving our strategies and advancing these goals. If you wish to share insights, experience, and creative ideas, we invite you to e-mail us at info[at]

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Kimberly Haskins

Senior Program Officer, Sector Effectiveness