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Spotlight: Clayton Burch Discusses West Virginia’s Early Learning Initiative

Spotlight on the States explores innovative practices through the eyes of state leaders. For this Spotlight, we spoke with Clayton Burch, Associate Superintendent of Schools for the West Virginia Department of Education, to learn more about West Virginia’s early learning initiative, and the state’s work with ARCC.

The West Virginia Office of Early Learning, of which Clayton Burch was formerly director, has created a comprehensive system of support for early learning in West Virginia through a process that stretched from 2012 through 2017. The Office of Early Learning adopted a logic model as an organizing principle that has continued to guide the work and managed a collaborative process that has involved hundreds of people.

As Mr. Burch recalls the beginning of the current initiative:

"Several years ago we decided to partner and collaborate with the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center in what originally started out as facilitation for some meetings we wanted to have to expand our early childhood network and some ideas around literacy. We’ve been successful in early childhood and universal pre-K for years—continually ranked in the top five in the nation. And lo and behold, we had a governor who really wanted to push the envelope and expand that universal pre-K system and really look at the impact it was making on the state and, in particular, third-grade literacy. We know that’s not the end-all of a target, but it is a major milestone. And in order to do that, we had to devise a plan that brought all the players together, just like we’d done for early childhood."

It was the necessity of engaging the entire state in the initiative that coincided with the beginning of the partnership with the ARCC: