OEL February Newsletter

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               News & Resources from the Office of Early Learning
                                         February 2014 Issue


Message From the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett


I was on the edge of my seat hoping to hear the President of these United States discuss, for the second time, the importance of early learning in his State of the Union Address.  And he didn’t disappoint.  I’m sure you felt the electricity that I did when President Obama challenged our country to “make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old.”

The President is not alone in encouraging legislators to do more for our youngest children. Governors Patrick (MA), Snyder (MI), Bentley (IN), Abercrombie (HI), and others have called for preschool expansion in their State of the State addresses. Lawmakers in California have proposed to expand the state’s current “Transitional Kindergarten” program to all four-year-olds, which would make it the largest voluntary, universal preschool program in the country. And local leaders are not waiting for Congress or their State leaders to act:  Mayors and Council Leaders in Seattle, San Antonio, Chicago, and New York are pushing to expand preschool in their communities.

The public momentum is growing too. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that “63 percent of Americans say ensuring all children have access to preschool education should be a priority this year.” And initiatives - such as the recently announced partnership between Univision Communications Inc. and Too Small to Fail, the 140 community-strong Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Network, or the launch of Preschool Nation- are snowballing across the country. And speaking of snow, even Sochi Olympic athletes like six-time U.S. champion and freestyle skier Emily Cook are speaking up for preschool.

The omnibus spending bill that President Obama signed on January 17th clearly demonstrates that the members of Congress recognize the importance of early learning.    Funding to address the severe sequestration cuts to IDEA Part C for infants, toddlers and their families, Head Start and Child Care was restored. Congress also provided $500 million for new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships and $250 million to help States develop, enhance, or expand high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income families, for which we are seeking comment on our Homeroom Blog.

Thanks to the 1200 plus people who joined us on a call where Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius expressed their appreciation for all you have done to secure these early learning funding increases and support the introduction of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act by Senator Harkin and Representatives Miller and Hanna.  To date, your hard work has resulted in 98 cosponsors (96D, 2R) in the House and 27 (26D, 1I) in the Senate.  And the hearings last week with both the Senate and House committees continued the momentum we see at the local, state and national levels. This is a great start and I know we will do even better so that all our children have a just and equitable start in life.

Strong Start for America's Children

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“Roses are Red, Violets are Blue every child deserves Pre-K Congress, we’re counting on you!”

--Helen Blank, Director of Child Care and Early Learning, National Women's Law Center (NWLC)

NWLC is urging Congress to find it in their hearts this Valentine month to provide additional early learning opportunities for our youngest and most vulnerable Americans. NWLC points out that only about half of all three- and four-year olds in the U.S. are enrolled in public or private preschool programs. Children from low- to moderate-income families are less likely to be enrolled in high-quality programs than children from higher-income families.  The Strong Start for America's Children Act creates new partnerships between states and the federal government to improve and expand high-quality preschool and other early education programs.


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Assessor Management and Inter-Rater Reliability Systems Webinar

This webinar, hosted by the Early Learning Challenge Technical Assistance (ELC TA) program focused on an overview of approaches to assessor management / inter-rater reliability systems. Three states (Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania) shared approaches to their individual assessor management / inter-rater reliability systems and both their successes and challenges.

The link to the recorded presentation can be found at http://elcta.adobeconnect.com/p40nvkz70k1.

Webinar-related materials can be downloaded from https://elc.grads360.org/#program/events/1725:


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Supporting Infants and Toddlers through Early Achievers

From the Washington State Department of Early Learning

2014 is shaping up to be a great year for young children in  Washington.The Legislature is pursuing improvements to our early learning system and signaling its support for creating a high-quality early learning system that supports all children, prioritizing our most vulnerable children. Currently, bills are under consideration that would expand instructional time in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP),  and better integrate ECEAP and the Working Connections Child Care subsidy program under Early Achievers  Early Achievers as the quality framework.

With all the focus on preschool-aged children in early learning, Washington leaders have been wise to continue ensuring infants and toddler are well-served. After all, those first three years of life are an unparalleled time of brain growth.  

The quality of care in the infant and toddler classrooms is often the lowest, and we want to better support these classrooms through Early Achievers. Ensuring a strong alignment with the consultation work that’s been build through the infant/toddler initiative will help promote quality improvements for infant and toddler classrooms across Washington.

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


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I3 Grant: Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI/ The Milwaukee Community Literacy Project:

As grade-level reading concerns take center stage for elementary schools across the country, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee (BGC) and Milwaukee Public Schools see an increasing value in providing students with resources to improve their reading abilities. Several schools in the city now have what the organization is calling “SPARK rooms:” designated literacy rooms decorated with student art, meant to help struggling readers become more passionate about literature. Through their i3 grant, BGC offers students a fun reading environment in addition to tutors.  

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On February 4, 2014, President Obama visited Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland to announce major progress on the ConnectED initiative, designed to enrich K-12 education for every student in America. ConnectED empowers teachers with the best technology and the training to make the most of it, and empowers students through individualized learning and rich, digital content. In 2012, NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning published a joint-position statement on technology and interactive media use in early childhood programs. 

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 passed by Congress and signed by President Obama had a 4.5% increase for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C

infants and toddlers with disabilities program.  The $18.845 million dollar increase brings the total funding for IDEA, Part C to $438,498 million.  The IDEA, Part C program provides formula grants to States to implement a comprehensive, coordinated, statewide system that provides early intervention services to children with disabilities or at risk for disabilities from birth through age 2 and their families.

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State Advisory Councils Sneak Peak

 ACF is in the process of writing up a final report to describe SAC planning grant accomplishments and deliverables to be published later in 2014. See the SAC Progress Report ACF published earlier this year.

A new graphic highlights a few examples of State Advisory Councils’ efforts to advance early childhood systems beyond the legislative mandates.

Some of the highlights reported by 49 Councils in A Snapshot of State Advisory Councils questionnaire include:

67% SACs that changed CCDF priorities or indicate a potential change as a result of Needs Assessment.

80% SACs in states where child care and Early Head Start partnerships already exist.

90% SACs with Home Visiting or MIECHV program engagement.

41% SACs that influenced state legislative changes.

62% SACs that completed a workforce study or survey.

71% SACs with governor’s office represented at SAC meetings.


Helen Blank

Interview with Director of Child Care and Early Learning Helen Blank, National Women’s Law Center

By Steven Hicks

Q:   How long have you worked on early childhood issues?

A:    Well, I’ve worked over 30 years for families and children, beginning with anti-hunger campaigns with the National Child Nutrition Project.  After a stint working on child welfare legislation at the Child Welfare League, I started at the Children’s Defense Fund in 1978 where I began working on early childhood issues.  I have used multiple strategies to ensure that low-income children and their parents have access to child care and early learning opportunities that meet their needs.  Given the growth in the low-wage workforce that faces more and more unpredictable and non-traditional hour schedules, this is a complex task.

Q:   What is pushing this momentum for pre-k?

A:  One of the drivers is children and moms. The intent of early learning programs is to provide a strong start for children. I fully support pre-k as an essential building block to school success along with high-quality early learning opportunities for infants and toddlers.  Another driver is the importance of a strong  start for children to our current and future economy. The President’s given us an outstanding charge and is asking us to deliver. Access to high-quality preschool benefits children and parents.  It is important to ensure that children especially low-income children have a high-quality early learning experience and to provide their families with the supports they need to work. A full school day for pre-k can help to do this.

Q:   Do you think Congress will pass the Strong Start Act?

A:    Strong Start will pass.   It took over a three-year effort to enact federal child care legislation in 1990.  This is even a more challenging time. RTT-ELC helped, but Strong Start changed the conversation. The President ignited the debate. There were polls, news articles, and a social media explosion after he talked about his pre-k proposal in his 2013 SOTU – much of it in support of pre-k.  Both coasts are activated and in the middle of the country too. The President’s proposal is the subject of conversation everywhere. Advocates have really come together. The current hearings are part of going through the process –we’ll see more clearly what the challenges are. The research is solidly behind this.

Q:   The Obama administration has proposed a tobacco tax to fund Preschool for All. Is that the right-?

A:    Yes. I’m unabashedly for it, our report showed that an increase in federal tobacco taxes would provide millions of children with high-quality early education, and discourage over a million young children today from becoming adult smokers. It would also create a disincentive for their parents to smoke. . It’s a two-fer. Cigarette taxes have been successful in California, Arizona, and other places around the country as a funding mechanism for early childhood.

Q:   What’s happening outside of Washington?

A:    Pre-k has gone viral in local communities. San Antonio has extended its investment in preschool. Seattle is considering a new ballot initiative. The mayor of New York is committed to universal pre-k for all four-year olds and the Governor has increased his proposal to expand prekindergarten. In Boston, they’re maximizing their use of Title I funds for pre-k. But for all our children to have a strong start, it will involve a state-federal partnership.  States can’t do it alone, either to reach all the children who need it or guarantee the highest quality. The federal government can help provide equity in access to high-quality pre-k. Many states have had longstanding investments in pre-k, and a few have universally available programs.  Now the federal government needs to jumpstart efforts to strengthen the quality of pre-k and expand access to pre-k in all states.  Over time, more states may include the financing as a part of their school funding formula, with mixed delivery systems that allow programs to be offered in schools as well as in child care centers and other community-based settings.

Q:   What’s the right approach?  Targeted?

A:    Everybody should have preschool to make it most successful.  Middle-income families have a hard time.  They often cannot afford high-quality child care and early learning programs without help. Pre-k offers an opportunity to reach these children. We should focus on serving poor kids first, but we should ultimately work toward enabling all families to have access. We need to develop broad, long-term support for preschool, and give all our children the opportunity to succeed.


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Take Action: Early Education Providers

Giving kids the best start to life is not just about ABCs – it’s about healthy habits too.  There are five simple steps to success for early education providers to help young children learn healthy eating habits, 1. Increase physical activity; 2.  Limit screen time; 3. Encourage healthy eating; 4. Offer healthy beverages; and 5. Support infant feeding. Visit the Let's Move! Child Care website to get started.

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Have you visited CEELO's website www.ceelo.org recently?  There you will find new resources posted weekly under

Selected Resources Selected Resources. Also, check Ceelo Products regularly.  Newly posted there, under the Policy Briefs tab is the Executive Summary Executive Summary  of Building Capacity Through an Early Education Leadership Academy (Full Report)  by Stacie G. Goffin, EdD.  Beneath the Fast Facts tab you will find recent short information briefs, including: Information and Resources on Developing State Policy on  Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA) --This Fast Fact provides information about KEA measures used by other states, the processes states have used to develop their KEA state policy, and how states are supporting the training and professional development of practitioners and administrators in various settings.

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New America Foundation-Subprime Education:  Early Education in American since the Great Recession

This study compares indicators from birth to eight-years old since 2009 to provide an idea of where the US education system currently is today. The study found that as a result of the financial crash of 2009, many children experienced subprime learning. Former top Education Department officials Jacqueline Jones and Joan Lombardi say much progress has been made, but challenges lie ahead. The two former Obama administration officials respond to New America's Subprime Learning report with their thoughts on the state of early education.

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The Foundation for Early Learning is a non-profit organization that supports the learning of children, birth through age five. The latest report states that one of every three children entering kindergarten is not prepared for school.


Reporting child abuse and neglect

Each State designates a specific agency to receive and investigate reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. To obtain the telephone number for your State, go to The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information website.

Greening Early Childhood Centers

The LISC Community Investment Collaborative for Kids created this guide in an attempt to spread green design to early childhood classrooms and inform teachers of how they can bring environmentally friendly practices into their classrooms while complying with state safety codes.

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The Joan Ganz Cooney Center-Learning at home:  Families' Education Media Use in America

Early in January 2014 the Families and Media Project released a report geared towards the amount of time the average 2- through 10-year-old spends on educational media. The survey included over 1500 parents and is the first comprehensive report of parents’ experiences with children’s educational media use. The study found that on average children spend just under one hour on media their parents believe “is good for their child’s learning or growth”.

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Gateways to Two Generations: The Potential for Early Childhood Programs and Partnerships to Support Children and Parents Together

Ascend at The Aspen Institute started the “Gateways to Two Generations” project in 2012-2013 as a program aimed at helping both students and their parents move forward together towards educational and economic success. The two-generation approach builds on previous fragmented approaches, which exclude either the parent or the child. The project guide features the program’s key.

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Although federal and state agencies fund an array of early care and education (ECE) services and collect data documenting those services, a report released today found that most states could do much more to link this data to guide decision-making for programs serving young children.

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The ED Pubs web site is intended to help you identify and order U.S. Department of Education products. All publications are provided at no cost (including shipping) to the general public by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Early Beginnings:  Early Literacy Knowledge and Instruction

This guide provides information to help early childhood teachers, administrators, supervisors, and professional development providers with the support and training needed to increase their knowledge base and refine current literacy practice.