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In the Nation's Interest

Business Champions for the Advancement of Early Childhood Education Spotlight: Jo Kirchner, Primrose Schools

by CED October 18, 2018

Jo Kirchner is a Business Champion for CED's Early Childhood Education initiative, which collaborates with business leaders and education experts to increase the quality, access, and affordability of early learning opportunities for all children across the country.

As CEO of Primrose Schools, Jo Kirchner leads strategic direction and external brand leadership efforts for the company, including the launch of Primrose on Premise℠ employer-sponsored schools. She joined Primrose in 1990 as Vice President and became President and CEO in 1999. Her lifelong mission is to deliver a nurturing environment and a quality early learning foundation to help children become confident adults who love who they are and what they do.

Below are some of her thoughts on the importance of early childhood education.

1. Why does early childhood education matter?

After 50 years of research, we know that vital learning happens before age 5. Brain science shows that the preschool years are critical – not only to build a strong academic foundation for future learning, but also to cultivate essential character and life skills and healthy habits for nutrition and exercise. The vast body of evidence shows that high-quality Pre-K is a fundamental catalyst toward improved school performance and life outcomes.

Forty years ago, America had the best high school graduation rates in the world, and today, we’re on the decline.

Only 11 million of the more than 19 million children in the U.S. under age 5 are enrolled in paid child care. Those 8 million children left behind literally fall behind. They can start kindergarten 18 months behind their peers and often never catch up.

High-quality early education and care is critical to preparing tomorrow’s workforce to be curious, collaborative, agile and resourceful – so they can be confident leaders in a world we can’t imagine today. We must make access to quality early education and care a priority to keep our country strong.


2. Why are the role and quality of teachers so important to early childhood education?

Small children spend almost as much time with their teachers as they do with their parents. Given that babies’ brains develop faster than they ever will again, it’s important that they are cared for by individuals who are passionate about using this highly impressionable time to nurture a love of learning. So much of early learning is interactive, which requires teachers who are energetic, committed and observant of each child’s learning style and progress. We don’t get a second chance to form the right foundation for learning and life, so it’s vital that we hire exceptional teachers to partner with parents on early childhood education.

At Primrose, we recruit top-notch talent and create excellent career paths for our high-quality staff. It’s not unusual to have teachers become directors and eventually for directors to invest as Franchise Owners. We know the important role teachers play in delivering an unparalleled early learning experience for our children and their families – and we strive to support them as much as possible. After all, they are nurturing our next generation of leaders!

3. How does Primrose Schools help ensure high-quality early education experiences for children?

Primrose was a pioneer in the child education movement and helped elevate the industry from “daycare” to early education and care. We also helped develop and pilot the early childhood education accreditation for AdvancED – paving the way for others to follow around the world.

Much of our success is rooted in our belief that who children become is as important as what they know. Our exclusive, time-tested and research-informed Balanced Learning® approach balances purposeful play with nurturing guidance from teachers to encourage curiosity, creativity, confidence and compassion in all students. We consistently teach the character and life skills that help children form healthy habits they can take into adulthood.

This Balanced Learning curriculum and approach is replicated across all of the independently owned Primrose schools across the country. Our consistency in service excellence and delivery is also an important differentiator – it distinguishes us as a premier brand.

We provide our Franchise Owners and their staff with robust opportunities for training and skills reinforcement, and do everything we can to ensure school excellence in our family of almost 400 schools across the U.S. As a result, we graduate students who consistently exceed school readiness measures and parents who are enthusiastic ambassadors.

4. How can we ensure that we have the best quality teachers for early education?

Collectively, we must recognize the critical role each early educator plays in a child’s future trajectory. Teachers at all phases in a child’s education journey should be valued and appreciated – and given the resources, training and support they need to deliver high-quality early learning experiences in their classrooms. Ensuring high-quality teachers everywhere starts with educating everyone about early childhood development and continuing to elevate the importance of the profession.

5. Primrose Schools has some compelling reasons for both the private and public sector to get involved in early education. What are some pieces of research or stories you’d like to highlight?

Access to high-quality early education and care for America’s children is a serious issue facing our country. It will require a collective focus from our elected officials, business leaders, educators and philanthropists to innovate for change.

A great example of positive and collective impact is Purpose Built Communities. They are an Atlanta-based company that takes a place-based approach to community development, which empowers vulnerable families to rise above poverty. They work with city leaders and others to create communities that give families access to safe living environments, quality education, job training and health services all in close proximity. This multi-use configuration makes it easier for residents to be proactive about education and wellness. Sharing development costs between public and private interests makes it all possible.

When I toured their first development, the award-winning Villages of East Lake community, I saw firsthand how one of the worst public housing projects in the state was transformed into a place of pride near the historic East Lake Golf Club. I saw the hope it created for families there. I’d like Primrose to be a part of these efforts and I hope we’ll be able to bring our proven approach to benefit the families who need it the most. 

CED's spotlights reflect the views of the individual and/or company spotlighted and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of CED.