Back-to-School: Closing the Achievement Gap through High-Quality Preschool

Posted by Kate Hovde

AppleTreeCH-49As the dust settles on this back to school season, many low-income families have struggled to access high-quality daycare and preschool, which predict better outcomes in school and later in life. Here’s one high-impact model that closes the achievement gap by providing high-quality preschool in neighborhoods that need it.

Every Child Ready is a preschool instructional model developed by AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation (AppleTree) based in Washington, DC. Every Child Ready is designed to close the achievement gap between “at-risk” three- and four-year-old children and their more advantaged peers. AppleTree opened its first preschool in 2005 and spent six years developing the Every Child Ready model that officially debuted in 2011. As of 2016-17, AppleTree educates approximately 1,200 children at ten charter preschools in high-need neighborhoods. It has reached an additional 1,000 children through nine partner schools and community-based organizations throughout the District of Columbia, as well as one in New York City.

How it Works:

Developed and tested with support of a highly selective federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, Every Child Ready draws from existing research on effective early childhood education as well as AppleTree’s own on-the-ground experience in running preschools for children from low-income families. The model’s comprehensive approach provides a thematic preschool curriculum as well as resources to improve instruction, coaching, teacher professional development, and assessment. The three main components cover what to teach, how to teach, and how to tell it’s being done.


Exposure to the Every Child Ready model diminishes the achievement gap in early vocabulary, literacy, and math skills for at-risk children in AppleTree schools, according to data from AppleTree’s 2011-2013 i3 evaluation study. Ninety percent of these children completed preschool scoring within “normal” ranges on commonly used tests of key language, vocabulary, or literacy skills and, as a result, are much less likely to be assigned to special education or held back a grade level. In the long term, according to other longitudinal studies, early success in these areas has been linked to lower rates of high-school dropout, behavior issues, crime, and unemployment, among other outcomes.

How you can help:

If you’re passionate about providing high-quality preschool for at-risk children, consider supporting AppleTree by:

  • Donating to them directly. Your donation can help fund a child’s preschool experience in an AppleTree school.
  • Funding the adoption and further evaluation of the Every Child Ready model in additional partner schools and districts. Partner schools purchase a set of supplies and services related to the implementation of Every Child Ready which your donation can help underwrite.

See our full profile of AppleTree here. For more opportunities to support high-impact early childhood models, see the rest of our Early Childhood Toolkit.

AppleTree will be one of the high-impact opportunities featured in our 2016 High-Impact Giving Guide, coming November. Next week, we will be launching weekly spotlights of some of the organizations we feature in the guide. Follow us on Twitter and sign up for our listserv to stay updated.