Bright Start TN to accelerate early learning

Jay FitzOur Town Youth

Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE) announced Tuesday that United Way of Greater Knoxville will lead one of six Tennessee community partnerships of the Bright Start Tennessee Network – a new statewide initiative to accelerate early learning and close achievement and opportunity gaps for Tennessee children birth through third grade. Research has repeatedly shown that the first eight years of a child’s life are a critical development period, and third grade is widely acknowledged as a benchmark year that determines future academic success. Yet more than two-thirds of Tennessee’s third graders are not proficient in reading or in math.

“Bright Start TN is an important extension of the work TQEE does to advance smart state policies and practices that support young children’s success,” said TQEE President and CEO Blair Taylor. “But state policies are only as successful as their local implementation. Through Bright Start TN, we’ll tap the power of local community members – civic and business leaders, child care providers, nonprofits, schools, families and other stakeholders – to create and implement local plans for early childhood success that leverage both state and community assets and resources. These teams will also inform TQEE’s state policy agenda and expand our advocacy network.”

The United Way of Greater Knoxville will coordinate the Bright Start TN Knoxville partnership through the leadership of CEO Matt Ryerson and Director of Childcare and Early Education Systems Ellie Kittrell. Ryerson and Kittrell will work alongside a steering committee of community leaders, including co-chairs Hope Denny, associate professor and program coordinator for Early Childhood Education at Pellissippi State Community College; and Beth Lackey, Knox County Schools early childhood supervisor.

Bright Start TN partnerships are each awarded an initial $300,000 over three years from TQEE and matching grants, with philanthropic investment expected to grow. TQEE is providing significant in-kind technical assistance support through state and national experts in early childhood care and education. State government leaders from departments of human services, education and health are also involved as critical partners to help ensure communities are optimizing existing state assets and resources. Info: here

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