Office of Early Learning Newsletter

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                News & Resources from the Office of Early Learning
                                        December 2013 Issue

Message From the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett

Doggett Libby

2013 will undoubtedly go down as the Year for Early Learning.  I don’t remember a time when so many sectors of our society have jointly called for greater investments in early education.    At least 27 governors— from both parties and every part of our country —highlighted early education as a priority in their State of the State addresses.  Fifteen of these Governors – 6 Democrats and 9 Republicans—passed budgets in 2013 with increased early learning funding. President Obama upped the ante in his State of the Union Address by advancing a bold proposal for significant new early education investments.  His FY 2014 budget included an historic $1.3 billion request ($75 billion over 10 years) for three major parts of an early learning continuum: home visiting, Early Head Start/Child Care Partnerships and Preschool.


In March, the early learning initiative was spotlighted on the Daily Show, and in May 30,000 letters and colorful pieces of art—created by children, parents and teachers from across the country—were delivered to the White House by the Strong Start for Children campaign. In June, Hillary Rodham Clinton launched “Too Small to Fail,” and the next month, the First Five Years Fund and the Grow America Stronger Campaign released a national poll showing that 70% of American voters support efforts to expand early childhood programs that prepare children for Kindergarten. In early fall, lawmakers could be seen on the east lawn of the Capitol playing Chutes and Ladders while proclaiming their commitment to early learning.  October saw a government shutdown, but that didn’t prevent 16 States and the District of Columbia from submitting applications for the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge competition, even if we did have to chase down a few delivery trucks!


These efforts culminated in November, when Secretary Duncan and actress Jennifer Garner joined Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Representatives George Miller (D-Calif.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) to introduce the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. More than 400 senior retired military leaders and  1,000 law-enforcement officials support this landmark bill, and 360 business executives and companies signed an open letter with recommendations consistent with several of its major provisions. I have never seen the advocacy community so united—and effective.  They have built a movement that will not be stopped until all our nation’s children have the educational and economic opportunities they deserve. I can’t wait to see what is in store for 2014! Stay tuned and stay involved.

Strong Start for America's Children

Dr. Heckman Sends a Letter:   Professor Heckman recently submitted a letter to the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction outlining why investments in early childhood development increase productivity and reduce deficits. To read more about Professor Heckman’s original letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction click here.


 Secretary Arne Duncan joined members of Congress, business and military leaders, law enforcement officials, educators and parents last week, to voice support for a landmark early learning bill. Introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), the Strong Start for America’s Children Act would improve and expand high-quality early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed a new partnership with states that would provide universal, high-quality, full-day preschool for 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families. The new bill, if signed into law, will accelerate the progress that states already are making to implement high-quality preschool programs and ensure that these programs are accessible to children who need them the most.

Landmark Federal-State Pre-K Partnership Bills Introduced

Clare McCann and Laura Bornfreund of New America Foundation write about two bills, both called the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Reps. George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, and Richard Hanna (R-NY). Read More.


500+ State Legislators Sign Letter to Urge Investment in Early Learning

Over 500 state legislators from across the country have signed a letter to members of the Budget Conference Committee urging that federal investments in early childhood education become a priority in upcoming budget decisions. Click here. 


For information regarding Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge states and the FY11 Scopes of Work, please click here.

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Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) provides services to families of children with disabilities and developmental delays from birth to three years of age.  Washington state provides a contact directory  to assist parents in finding programs and resources in their area.   Go to these links to get more information about Early intervention for families, links to Information for early intervention providers and Early intervention information for community members.

Program Spotlight

North Carolina


North Carolina:  Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) North Carolina’s commitment to ensuring that children enter kindergarten ready to succeed is long-standing and proven, with several successful initiatives with strong statewide support, including state-funded prekindergarten, child care star-rated licensing, Smart Start, and pediatric developmental screening.

Click Here to Access North Carolina's Annual Performance Report.

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North Carolina Public Schools has a new Office of Learning that focuses on Pre-K – grade 3 which support children success in the early grades. It also partners with the First School initiative of the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  You will also find resources on the NC Early Learning Network and information on the Development of Pre-K- Grade 2 in NC.  To read more click here. 

Early Learning at ED

too small to fail

Earlier this month, Hilary Clinton’s Too Small to Fail campaign released a strategic roadmap for prioritizing early childhood development in the U.S.  The report outlines next steps for undertaking a public action campaign aimed at parents and recruiting businesses and community leaders to make commitments to action. As part of the campaign, the initiative anticipates creating a series of prizes for technology tools that help preschool-age children achieve critical learning gains. The full report can be found here

Partner Agency Work


The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders promotes the use of evidence-based practice for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Early identification of ASD and individualized interventions and supports are central to positive outcomes for children with ASD as they grow and develop. The Center has developed an online learning module on the Early Identification of ASD.  The goal of the module is to help increase early identification of ASD because the earlier children are identified, the earlier they can receive the necessary services and supports.  The module provides information on the early characteristics of ASD, screening and assessment practices, and national resources and initiatives committed to early identification of ASD.  To view the module, please visit:

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U.S. Department of Education Announces 31 Applications as Finalists for $120 Million Race To The Top – District Competition

31 finalists representing a range of districts, both rural and non-rural, from  both Race to the Top state and non- Race to the Top states were selected out of 200 applicants for the 2013 RTTD competition; but only 5-10 winning applications will be selected for four-year awards, ranging from $4 million to $30 million.  Awards will be announced no later than Dec. 31, 2013.   To read more click here.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Celebrates the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools

On November 19th, 2013, Secretary Duncan honored 286 schools public and private elementary, middle and high schools as the National Blue Ribbon schools in Washington, DC.  Over 7,000 schools have been honored with this award over the past 31 years for their academic excellence and program improving student academic achievement.  In addition to the schools being honored seven principals will be given the Terrel H. Bell Award.  To read more click here

White House Initiative Hosts Forum on High-Quality Early Learning

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans (WHIEEAA) hosted a recent discussion on the importance of high-quality early care and education opportunities in the lives of African-American children.   Click here to read more.

Voice From The Field

Education’s Teaching Ambassador Fellowship is designed to improve education for students by involving teachers in the development and implementation of national education policy. High-school teacher Lisa Clarke and third grade teacher Cynthia Apalinski were Washington Fellows in 2012-2013.


How would you sum up your experience as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF) over the past year?

Lisa: The Teaching Ambassador Fellowship (TAF) has been a positive experience. I feel that having a teacher’s perspective in the Department of Education is meaningful. As a group we have traveled to 34 states and have reached out to over 4,000 teachers.  We are involved in many conversations with teachers and create a link between the Department and the teachers in the field.

Cindy: The TAF program also provides an opportunity for continued advancement within the teaching profession. We are able to bring real life classroom consequences to policymakers. We have conversations with multiple stakeholders and begin conversations in districts regarding different issues including the Common Core State Standards and teacher evaluations.

What is your view of the new Principal Ambassador Fellowship announced last month?

Lisa: It is important to get instructional leaders involved. Involving principals in conversations regarding education is a positive move with potential. My hope is that internal collaboration will stem out into local and state agencies.

Cindy: Teachers need an effective principal to educate the students in their classrooms. This program will give principals a voice and give guidance to principals on strategies to be effective instructional leaders.

What is your view of the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. document?

Lisa: The R.E.S.P.E.C.T. vision is one of the reasons why I applied to the TAF program. As a teacher it is hard to imagine where we can go from here, but this document simplifies how teachers can manage all of their duties. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. helps us look at teaching differently.

Cindy: R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is transforming the view of the teaching profession and changing the national narrative about education. The R.E.S.P.E.C.T. document moves the focus away from teachers as the only agent of change to viewing education as a system. This is a vision that gives concrete steps on how to elevate the teaching profession.

How do early learning experiences influence the students in your classrooms?

Lisa: I have never met a high school student who does not want to learn. However, I have met high school students who display behaviors that interfere with their learning. These behaviors, I believe, stem from the student being behind academically. Therefore, early intervention is important to a child’s development and could mean a difference for students in my high school classroom. I appreciate the marrying of early intervention with high school redesign. If we are to invest students and excite students about school, we should make school an exciting place to come.

Cindy: I am fortunate enough to be in a district that offers full-day prekindergarten. I can see in my own building the frontend interventions and learning early childhood teachers are doing with students. They are preparing students to be successful in kindergarten and beyond. Early childhood teachers are also building strong partnerships with parents. My district gives the parents the ability to work while their children are in a safe learning environment. This empowers our parents and creates benefited home environments.  I can see students in my own classroom who have benefited from prekindergarten, which is a state-funded program. Early learning has always been a part of my teaching career. Within my school building there is collaboration between prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers which benefits all of our students.

Links and Resources


Best Practices Highlighted in Early Childhood Videos

First 5 and the Teaching Channel have teamed up to film six diverse preschools across San Francisco using a grant from the Evelyn & Walter Hass, Jr. Foundation.   To watch these programs please click the following links: Developing Literacy Skills through Storytelling, Frontloading for English language learners, Developing Language Through Thematic Learning,  Science & Math:  Reasoning about Garden Observation, Hypothesizing About Bugs,  Making Playdough, Mix, Measure, Describe, Social-Emotional Literacy:  Building Emotional Literacy and  Identifying Feelings

Apple Tree

 13 Grant:  AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation:  AppleTree Institute’s mission is to close the achievement gap by transforming early childhood education through the research, development, and dissemination of an evidence-based, high-quality instructional approach that prepares children for success in school, work, and life.  Amidon Elementary School in Washington, DC is one of the AppleTree Campuses; it was recently renovated with the help of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).  Amidon now has a more inviting environment that encourages learning that highlight both learning and technology.   To read more about Amidon or any of the other AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter Schools.

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ELC TA Hosts Webinar

ELC TA recently hosted a webinar entitled Including Developmental Screening Data in an ECIDS. This webinar was designed for RTT-ELC grantees, who were joined by grantees of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems grant program. Representatives from Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, the DaSy Center and the Parent Support Programs Manager in Utah led a discussion centered around successes and challenges in integrating developmental screening data into early childhood integrated data systems and/or state longitudinal data systems, as well as national tools and services available to help facilitate these efforts. The recorded webinar can be accessed through this link.

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Cities Lead the Charge on Pre-K

 According the data from New America's Federal Education Budget Project, thousands of children are enrolled in both district based, state funded pre-k statewide.    Since 2006 there have been a number of cities that adopted the effort to support pre-k for all.  The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) spotlights these cities in an article   Why Cities Are Making Preschool Education Available to All Children  Click here to read more about Cities Lead the Charge on Pre-K.

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New Report on Young Dual Language Learners Released

The Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy profiles young Dual Language Learners (DLLs), who represent nearly one-third of all US children under age 6, outlining their school readiness and patterns of achievement in a new report, Early Education for Dual Language Learners: Promoting School Readiness and Early School Success. Click here.  

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The ED Pubs web site is intended to help you identify and order U.S. Department of Education products such as Funding Your Education and Shining Stars:  Toddlers Get Ready to Read:  How Parents Can Help Their Toddlers Get Ready To Read.  All publications are provided at no cost (including shipping) to the general public by the U.S. Department of Education.

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