Voqal Education: Closing Opportunity Gaps through Early Childhood Development

June 2, 2017

The following is the latest post from Voqal Education Program Director Vinny Badolato sharing his thoughts on one way Voqal can help address the opportunity gap.

Voqal Education is focused on measurably reducing educational opportunity gaps so that every child can reach their full potential and thrive. We target interventions that have demonstrated significant measurable and scalable impact on reducing these gaps. I wrote previously about one investment strategy we employ, namely cultivating non-cognitive skills. A second key investment strategy is early childhood development.

The positive educational and lifetime benefits of a number of early childhood interventions have been well documented. The well-known cornerstone programs that have demonstrated strong evidence are: the Perry Preschool Project (PPP), the Abecedarian Project and Nurse-Family Partnership. PPP and Abecedarian were well-designed, random control trials (RCTs) that served children primarily in a school setting in the 1960s and 70s and collected longitudinal outcome data well into adulthood. The Nurse-Family Partnership has undergone several RCTs on the efficacy of home visiting on early childhood outcomes and studies were carried out with different populations and locations. These and other high-quality programs and studies have provided a wealth of information on the impacts of early interventions through school years and into later life that are still being studied and utilized in research today.

In addition, a lot of what we are currently learning about the efficacy of early childhood development comes from the expansive field of cognitive science (a great new book that synthesizes a lot of this research and provides a roadmap for nurturing essential skills early is The Toddler Brain by Laura Jana, MD). Technological advances have allowed our understanding of early brain development to grow exponentially over the last decade or so. All of this research combines to make it increasing more universally accepted that providing better interventions and resources to children from birth to five can have enormously beneficial effects on educational opportunity and outcomes later in life.

Recognizing this, Voqal Education is taking a two-part approach to helping advance early childhood development. The first is investing in promising early-stage companies that provide rich learning and development opportunities during early childhood through the Education Venture Fund. The second is our nascent policy initiative that seeks to help advance sustainable public funding of early childhood programs through highly targeted grant-making. Our goal is to take calculated risks with modest funding to hopefully generate outsized impacts. Watch this space as we report on investments and share our learnings along the way.