The Cox Trust’s grants in the field of education have expanded access to underserved populations and supported public school reform, and they continue to shape opportunities for young children to get the best possible start. In its final years, the Trust chose to put its resources into organizations working to establish and expand high-quality universal PreK in Boston, Massachusetts and Vermont —an effort that will transform educational equity as it continues to grow.

Early Childhood Education

Guided by brain-science research showing the effectiveness of early childhood interventions, the Cox Trust and other funders across the nation increased their investment in early childhood education in the 1990s and 2000s.

Their success attracted federal attention and in 2013 President Obama made history by calling on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to all children in the United States. Capitalizing on this ripe moment, the Cox Trust chose to join two large-scale ongoing efforts in New England, one in a rural state and one in the region’s largest city, both serving general populations of more than 600,000 residents.

United South End Settlements, Boston, Massachusetts. photo: © Howard Kang

Universal PreK: Boston

The City of Boston has an ambitious plan to create a universal preK mixed-delivery system in which the Boston Public Schools, community-based providers, and federally funded Head Start programs work together to improve school readiness across economic and neighborhood boundaries.

Although 75 percent of Boston children receive some form of early childhood education, bringing a citywide program to a universally high level of quality is a large-scale and costly effort. In concert with other funders and the federal government, the Cox Trust funded a pilot project in which Head Start early childhood education centers receive Boston Public School’s math and early literacy curricula and assessments, professional development alongside the district’s early childhood teachers, monthly one-on-one teacher coaching, and staff salary increases.

Studies have shown these interventions lead to significant improvements in elementary school readiness. Preliminary results include a dramatic increase in quality across the classrooms and a deepening relationship between the public and private systems.

Universal PreK: Vermont

The passage of Act 166 in 2014 makes Vermont the first state in New England, and one of a handful in the United States, to implement universal preschool. It aims to create preschool openings for over 2,000 children by the end of the 2017–18 school year. Thousands of young children, especially those in underserved rural and low-income areas, will have high-quality learning experiences for the first time.

The state has committed to quality early care in all communities and settings. Act 166 requires specific quality improvements, such as bachelor’s-level teachers, and partnerships between public schools and private providers.

The Cox Trust has worked closely with other funders through the Permanent Fund for the Wellbeing of Vermont Children to make sure that things go smoothly during the often bumpy road of policy implementation. While the state’s mixed-delivery model of public schools, community-based centers, and Head Start is being rolled out, program quality is improving, and hundreds of families are enrolling their children.


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