Education Level: Early Grades


Early Grades
Grades 1-4

Decorative picture of a student walking.

Children must master building-block skills such as reading and math in the elementary grades so they’re fully prepared for the big move to middle school.

SREB’s Challenge 2020 goal for early grades education 

Student achievement for all groups in the early grades will exceed state standards and national averages – at rates that close achievement gaps between groups.

Track your state’s progress toward this goal in SREB’s State Progress Reports.


Early Grades: P-3 Alignment
SREB Annotated Bibliography, 2016

The early childhood years do not end when children enter kindergarten. In fact, experts agree that early childhood development is a continuous process that extends through third grade. During those first eight years of life, a child’s brain is most malleable and capable of learning. Thus, investments in the early years reap the largest returns. Education research mirrors science, supporting an aligned and high-quality education system from preschool through third grade.


Early Grades: Reading
SREB Annotated Bibliography, 2016

One of the most crucial missions of the early grades is teaching students to read. Third-grade reading proficiency predicts long-term outcomes, including high school graduation. Many state policymakers have set third grade as the key pivot point in the early grades and have enacted grade-level retention laws based on reading assessment results. Even so, about two-thirds of fourth-graders were not reading proficiently on a widely recognized national assessment in 2015. Development in the first years of life shapes a child’s ability to learn to read.


Early Grades: STEM
SREB Annotated Bibliography, 2016

While literacy has long led the early grades policy agenda, early math skills also are vital to success in school. In fact, these skills are more predictive of later achievement than early literacy or social development. Math skills are only part of a broader developmental equation. National attention has recently shifted to a set of competencies that economists project as key to future careers — science, technology, engineering and math. States must ensure more students graduate from high school ready for these critical jobs by promoting equitable access to high-quality STEM learning.

Publication June 201612 pages(16E06)

Challenge to Lead Goals for Education: Refreshed 2020

Challenge to Lead 2020 Goals for Education: Refreshed 2020 offers six critical goals. They were designed to help SREB state leaders connect measures of student achievement to essential state policies. Each goal includes background information and the steps states need to take to meet each goal in the years ahead.


Publication May 201212 pages(12E02R)

Smart Class-Size Policies for Lean Times

This policy brief summarizes class-size reduction policies across the region, reviews research on the issue, and offers recommendations on how states might make sensible adjustments without jeopardizing student achievement.


Publication 201226 pages(12E05)

SREB Goals for Education
Challenge to Lead 2020

Organized to address every major point in the education pipeline, the six goals are designed to help state leaders link outcomes to state policies that can make them happen. Each goal is outlined in detail, including  steps states need to take to meet that goal in the years ahead.

Publication Crystal Collins, Marilyn Thomas200840 pages(08E05)

Set for Success
Improving Reading and Mathematics Achievement in the Early Grades

This report documents the continued progress of SREB states in preparing early grades students for success in the middle grades and beyond. It analyzes scores on state assessments and the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and relates what states are doing to improve early grades reading instruction. It also presents intervention policies in SREB states and effective ways to meet the needs of students not yet achieving at grade level.