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With support from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation and PNC Foundation, the tool will help early childhood educators address pre-K students’ academic needs.

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 22, 2021 —High-quality early childhood education has proven to close early gaps in academic outcomes based on race and family income. But while Indiana has expanded pre-K funding in recent years, more needs to be done to maximize its power.

That’s why a group of early childhood education leaders and philanthropists today announced the launch of a new tool in Marion County – Getting on Track (GoT) – in an effort to improve academic outcomes for all pre-K students, including Black and Hispanic students and students from low-income families.

The independent research organization, NORC at the University of Chicago, will implement GoT at eight Early Learning Indiana sites within Indianapolis over the next two school years, starting in the current 2021-22 school year. The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation contributed $879,469 and PNC Bank contributed $30,000 to launch the tool in Marion County.

“The pandemic has shown us the critical role that quality early childhood education plays. It is not only key to supporting working parents, but also to ensuring children get a strong start in life by helping them to develop the foundational academic skills that are key to success in kindergarten and beyond,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president & CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “As we work to ensure more students have access to high-quality early learning opportunities, we also must ensure early childhood teachers have the tools and training they need to help every student succeed. That’s what Getting on Track is designed to do.”

Through GoT, early childhood education students are tested three times annually to assess math, oral language and emergent literacy skills. Through these assessments, GoT helps early childhood educators determine where pre-K students need to make academic progress and gives them the knowledge and tools they need to intervene. GoT aims to reduce inequality in math and literacy skills at kindergarten entry and equip students with a foundation for academic success beyond pre-K.

“At PNC, we recognize that education is a powerful means for economic and social mobility. That’s why 17 years ago, we launched PNC Grow Up Great® to help children from birth through age five develop a passion for learning and help set them up for success that lasts a lifetime,” said Connie Bond Stuart, PNC regional president for Central & Southern Indiana. “Getting on Track makes perfect sense for us because it helps build upon the impact that early childhood education is making for students of color in our state and provides a targeted tool to enhance their academic outcomes.”

Over the last decade, NORC and the University of Chicago have worked to develop and evaluate GoT’s effectiveness in Chicago, Northwest Indiana, and Oakland, Calif. It has shown impressive results in these pilot cities: students attained a 48% increase in verbal comprehension in one school year and students from low-income families demonstrated a significant increase in math skills, reducing the disparities in outcomes with their higher income peers by at least 45%.


A recent report from Early Learning Indiana shows that Indiana lacks sufficient program capacity, quality and affordability to meet the early learning needs of the state’s population. There are only enough early childhood education seats to serve 55% of the population under age six who might need care, and fewer than 20% of programs meet state benchmarks for high-quality. Ensuring early childhood educators have the tools and training they need to serve students well is among the strategies needed to increase the number of high-quality seats.

“The first five years are critical to a child’s growth and development,” said Maureen Weber, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana. “Getting on Track is an important assessment tool that will help educators ensure children are developing the essential, foundational skills they need for success in kindergarten and for the rest of their lives.”

NORC will collaborate with Early Learning Indiana to implement GoT at eight sites across Indianapolis and train Early Learning Indiana educators in the system. NORC will measure the impact of GoT on student learning during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years and assess whether the system can be expanded to additional providers.


Since 1986, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation has strived to advance the vitality of Indianapolis and the well-being of its people by addressing the city’s most significant challenges and opportunities. Through strategic grantmaking, research and evaluation, and cross-sector collaborations, the Foundation aims to improve outcomes across its three focus areas: Education, Health, and the Vitality of Indianapolis. Learn more at

Early Learning Indiana is Indiana’s oldest and largest early childhood education nonprofit, providing leadership, advocacy and early childhood education services to continually improve the early learning landscape in Indiana. Today, Early Learning Indiana operates eight high-quality Day Early Learning centers, a network of premier community-based lab schools used to advance the science of early learning, train the next generation of teachers and leaders, and instill essential skills in the children we serve. Through regional and statewide programs, the organization enables early learning providers to build capacity, transform operations and improve learning outcomes. Learn more at

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (, actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.

NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.

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