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High-impact giving
Children raising their hands in class.

Ready to learn

Closing the achievement gap in preschool for low-income kids.

Many vulnerable children from low-income households lack access to high-quality early childcare or preschool programs. Yet, a strong body of research shows that such programs can improve the trajectory of disadvantaged young children's education, health, economic, and life outcomes, while significantly reducing the use of social services. Here we profile one nonprofit with an evidence-based, comprehensive, and replicable educational approach to diminishing the learning gap for preschoolers.

AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation (AppleTree)

What it does

To close the achievement gap between "at-risk" three- and four-year-old children and their more advantaged peers, this Washington D.C. based organization has designed a comprehensive instructional package. Called Every Child Ready, the package includes curriculum as well as resources to improve instruction, coaching, teacher professional development, and assessment.

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 effective it is

All children attending AppleTree preschools, regardless of family income levels, advanced their learning and skills leading up to kindergarten. At-risk students, in particular, showed greater rates of growth in literacy and math skills, performing close to national averages on commonly used tests. Exposure to the Every Child Ready curriculum diminishes the achievement gap in early vocabulary, literacy, and math skills for at-risk children in Apple-Tree schools, according to a 2011-2013 external evaluation.

How you can help

You can support AppleTree directly, or fund the adoption and further evaluation of the Every Child Ready model in additional partner schools. Any amount is helpful, but a philanthropic investment of approximately $3,600 to $4,200 provides an at-risk child with two years of exposure to the Every Child Ready model within AppleTree’s own schools. For partner schools, AppleTree offers a set-up package of Every Child Ready books, supplies, and online services for $5,000 for a classroom of 20 to 25 children. In subsequent years, the cost is $2,500 per classroom and includes the curriculum, assessment and reporting, and year-round support for professional development. Implementation costs vary depending on school size and the degree to which the partner school will need to supplement or upgrade its current level of staffing and resources.

Personalize this project

You can help Every Child Ready continue to expand to additional partner schools and districts. Alternatively, you can support access to other high quality preschool and early care models nationally or within your own community. For example, Educare runs evidence-based early care centers that serve as quality models in 18 communities across the U.S.


Exceptional preschool models share some key characteristics. Look for programs that have: lead teachers with at least a bachelor's degree and prior classroom experience; low teacher/ child ratios, ranging from 1-5 to 1-10; full day coverage with time for naps, outdoor play, and meals; if available, a high grade from your state rating system; ongoing use of self-evaluation tools coupled with teacher professional development; and screening and support services for children and families, including the availability of social workers.

As of 2016-17, AppleTree educates approximately 1,200 children at ten charter preschools in high-need neighborhoods.

Please note that this article does not represent all the organizations that address gaps in education. Fidelity Charitable does not endorse these organizations and provides this list for reference purposes only. All grant recommendations are subject to review and approval by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees.

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