Chattanooga 2.0 leaders announced Wednesday the launch of a three-year action plan for early childhood in Hamilton County. The Early Matters 2025 Early Childhood Action plan outlines strategies to improve the local early care and education system and is the culmination of one year of research and community engagement to determine what young children need to thrive in Chattanooga-Hamilton County.
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. Early Matters members engaged community and young families to understand the needs leading up to that benchmark, and then identified evidence-based strategies that will now be piloted to see if they work well locally.
The steering committee invites community members, service providers, and businesses to learn how they can impact the early childhood system by visiting www.chatt2.org/brightstart to review a summary of the plan and download a copy.
The plan describes community strengths in the systems that serve families with young children, as well as barriers families face when they try to access quality education, health, and family support services. Also included in the plan is local early childhood data, the results of a Spring 2022 early childhood survey of young families, and a list of current state and local policies that are not serving families well.
For the last year, Chattanooga 2.0 has led one of six inaugural partnerships of the Bright Start Tennessee Network – a new statewide initiative of Tennesseans for Quality Early Education to accelerate early learning outcomes and close achievement and opportunity gaps for Tennessee children birth through third grade.
A letter signed by the Chairs of the Hamilton County Children’s Cabinet (Hamilton County Schools superintendent, Justin Robertson, Hamilton County mayor, Weston Wamp, and City of Chattanooga mayor, Tim Kelly) is included in the plan and encourages community members to work together to ensure children have the supports needed to be successful in third grade and beyond.
“With the support of some top officials in our county, we’re signaling to the community what parents and grandparents have known for decades – early childhood is important and children are a worthy investment,” Jennifer Andrews, Chattanooga 2.0 director of early childhood strategies says.
“Children need access to quality health and education services. Parents need reliable, quality child care to attend work. We’re talking about a two-generational approach to ensure that we have a thriving economy in Hamilton County.”
The steering committee put this charge to Hamilton County residents on the plan website: “We all have a vested interest and stake in supporting our youngest residents. Whether or not children live in your home, if you live in Chattanooga-Hamilton County, you are a part of this community and you play a role in the early childhood system.”
“We are extremely impressed with the dedicated efforts and hard work of Chattanooga 2.0’s Early Matters team and their many community partners to champion early care and education,” Blair Taylor, president and CEO of Tennesseans for Quality Early Education says.
“The strategies they have outlined in their plan as part of Bright Start TN will no doubt positively impact young children birth through third grade and their families. We look forward to seeing the ways in which the plan will accelerate outcomes for Hamilton County’s youngest learners.”
Chattanooga 2.0 is the collaboration of dozens of cross-sector partners, who began work in 2015 with the goal to transform education and workforce outcomes. The Chattanooga 2.0 backbone organization supports partners in creating proof points, driving collaboration, measurement, and alignment of policy and practice to ensure all children and youth in the county receive a quality education and career opportunities that help them realize their full potential. To learn more visit www.chatt2.org.
Early Matters Chattanooga is an action team of Chattanooga 2.0 made up of 35 local early organizations invested in positive early childhood outcomes. The group was formed in 2016 with the vision that Chattanooga-Hamilton County will be the best place in the nation for a child to be born and raised. To achieve this, the organizations are working together to build a coordinated early childhood system focused on equitable access to quality early care and learning resources. For more information visit www.chatt2.org/earlymatters