TQEE launches Bright Start TN; Chattanooga 2.0 selected as inaugural community partnership

Tennesseans for Quality Early Education launches Bright Start Tennessee Network to accelerate early learning outcomes statewide

Six inaugural community partnerships selected to design and implement evidence-based early success plans

Nashville, Tenn. – Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE) announced today that it has launched the Bright Start Tennessee Network (Bright Start TN) – a new statewide initiative of TQEE to accelerate early learning outcomes 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. Our state is facing a crisis that the Bright Start TN Network will help fix.

“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 inaugural Bright Start TN community partnerships are:

  • Chattanooga/Hamilton County, coordinated by Chattanooga 2.0
  • Knoxville/Knox County, coordinated by United Way of Greater Knoxville
  • Memphis/Shelby County, coordinated by First 8 Memphis
  • Nashville/Davidson County, coordinated by United Way of Greater Nashville
  • Northeast Tennessee, coordinated by STRONG Accountable Care Community
  • West Tennessee, coordinated by United Way of West Tennessee

The partnerships were chosen through a selective process that considered their commitment to address learning and opportunity gaps in early care and education birth through third grade and their capacity to assemble community teams to accomplish the initiative’s goals. Each community will use data to better understand barriers to early learning, implement evidence-based and promising strategies, and share learnings with peer communities and state policymakers. The partnerships will create local plans by the summer of 2022, with implementation expected to be complete by 2025.

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.

“We know that skills and performance gaps take root long before third grade and are tied to opportunity gaps,” said Jonathan Scoonover, TQEE vice president of community engagement and director of Bright Start TN. “Unfortunately, a disjointed and insufficient patchwork of education and supports leaves many children vulnerable, resulting in poor academic outcomes for the children and our state. TQEE’s Bright Start TN Network aims to change that, and we’re excited to work alongside our backbone organizations and the community partners they’ve assembled in this urgent endeavor.”

For more information about Bright Start TN, visit tqee.org/bright-start.


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