May Newsletter

Early Learning heading

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


Message From the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett


"Ultimately, we are all here because we care about kids," Secretary Duncan reminded over 250 of us in attendance at the third annual Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) meeting a couple of weeks ago. Teams from 20 RTT-ELC States attended the action-packed meeting that began with Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle joining the social-media fun by tweeting out, “Little kids need big hearts to care for them--thanks RTT ELC grantees!”  Over the two-days,  participants heard presentations on the “Evidence Base on Early Education” from Dr. Hirokazu Yoshikawa, and innovative strategies to close the word gap and reach busy families from several sources, including Jackie Bezos of Vroom and Ann O’Leary of Too Small to Fail.  Special Assistant to the President for Education Roberto Rodriguez and Urban Institute Senior Research Associate Justin Milner discussed two new White House Initiatives respectively: My Brother’s Keeper and Bridging the Word Gap. But the real excitement was hearing from State leaders about how they are building strong systems and putting early learning reforms in place to improve family engagement, workforce development, and the quality of early learning and development programs.  Later this summer, we’ll share some of these amazing State stories.  Another highlight of the meeting was HHS Secretary Sebelius who received a standing ovation as she charged State leaders to “ratchet up the pressure” on policy makers to expand early learning opportunities for our children who need it most.

I want to thank the ED and HHS staff and our partners at AME for putting on a great event!  You are an awesome team.  And a special shout out to the Office of Early Learning team – Tammy, Deborah, Miriam, Becky, Katie, Tammi, Sheila, and Steven –who were honored recently with Secretary Duncan’s Collaboration Award.

Last week, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released their State Preschool Yearbook profiling state-funded preschool programs in the nation. Although much of the very recent progress in the funding and expansion of preschool in States has not been captured in these reports, it is a sobering reminder of how much more we need to do to ensure our children get the kind of preparation they need to be successful in school and later in life.  For the first time in more than 10 years, the number of children enrolled in State-funded preschool nationally declined from the previous year--nearly 9,000 fewer 4-year-olds. That’s why now, more than ever, we need the early education investments called for in the President’s FY 2015 Budget request.  Fortunately, there are some bright spots around the country, such as in New York, where both the Governor and the Mayor have pledged their commitment to expand preschool, and in Vermont, where the governor has promised to sign legislation passed to provide universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. But, more often, new initiatives are coming from local communities, as mayors respond to the public’s demands for early education—such as in Salt Lake County, UT; Cleveland, OH; San Francisco, CA: and Boston, MA. 

Thank you to those who submitted comments on the draft executive summaries in the new $250 million dollar Preschool Development Grants competition.  All States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will be eligible to apply, if they wish, for one of two proposed types of grants: States with small or no State-funded preschool programs will be eligible to apply for Development Grants.  States that have more robust State-funded preschool programs or that have been awarded a RTT-ELC grant will be eligible to apply for Expansion Grants.  But much of the work will happen in—and the funding will go to—local communities – in cities, towns, counties, neighborhood, districts, rural or tribal areas, and other communities in need.  We will consider this public input as we develop competition requirements, priorities, and selection criteria for a notice inviting applications, which will be published in the Federal Register later this summer.

And finally, last week, the Senate HELP Committee approved the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. The unprecedented and historic drumbeat continues for historic opportunities in early learning!

Preschool for ALL

EPI logo

A new report, Building High Quality Early Support Systems for Children and Families, produced by Broader Bolder Approach at the Education Economic Policy Institute encourages States to build on the strong Section 619 programs as they expand early learning.  An under-appreciated preschool resource: IDEA Section 619 Part B Section 619 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or the Preschool Grants Program, helps states to provide special education and related services to all preschool-aged children with disabilities. This resource which ever state has should become a key part of States’ efforts to expand preschool.

children and families
president and little girl

 The President’s Early Learning Initiative Takes the Next Steps

I recently had someone comment that 2014 has been an amazing year for the early childhood field. I would agree that this is indeed true! As I reflect on the President’s Agenda over the last five years, I want to acknowledge that this has been true throughout this administration.” By Linda Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood To read more, click here.  

little kids

For Early Childhood Education, Tulsa, Okla., Stands Out

In light of President Obama’s remarks on the importance of high quality preschool programs, NPR’s education team set out to determine what exactly constitutes “high quality” and what places are meeting these benchmarks. Their research led them to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the public school system has been making great strides in supporting high quality early childhood education. Deborah Phillips, a developmental psychologist and professor at Georgetown University, has determined four pillars that are critical to Tulsa’s success. The first is related to the rich curriculum that not only integrates play, but revolves around it. Second, the program is well-resourced as it spends approximately $7,500 per child per year. Additionally, there is a low student to teacher ratio of one teacher for every ten students. The last pillar of the Tulsa program is that all the teachers are highly qualified as all preschool teachers must have a BA degree and be certified in early childhood education. To read more click here.


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


map of colorado

Departments of Human Services and Education Provide New Scholarships for Future Teachers in Early Childhood Education. 

The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) Office of Early Childhood and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) provided up to $400,000 in scholarships for students in Colorado’s community colleges who want to teach young children.

Through a combined effort from CDHS and CDE, Colorado’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant is contributing $200,000. Colorado’s Community College foundations are matching those funds with an additional $200,000. The scholarships will be awarded to students who intend to work in early childhood education and are studying at one of the state’s 16 community colleges.

“This partnership is a strong example of innovative programs being supported through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant efforts,” said Stacey Kennedy, director, Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, CDHS Office of Early Childhood. “We are especially happy to partner with our sister agency, the Department of Education, and the state’s community college system to help educate the state’s next generation of child care providers.”


ELC TA has partnered with the Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) and The National Early Childhood TA Center (ECTA) to host a Forum on May 19-20 in conjunction with the 2014 National Inclusion Institute in Chapel Hill, NC.  The purpose of the event is to provide a forum for targeted discussion and problem solving around effective strategies to better integrate IDEA programs and services into State Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (TQRIS).  The Forum will bring in several national experts on inclusive practices to provide content knowledge and assist with state strategic planning.   Notes from the forum will be shared on the ELC TA website at after the event.


ideas that work

The Early Childhood Personnel Center (ECPC) provides products and services to support States in implementing an integrated and comprehensive early childhood system of personnel development for those serving infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities and their families.  ECPC serves as a national resource on personnel standards and competencies and State certification and licensure requirements; recommended professional development practices; and alignment of pre-service and in-service professional development.  ECPC has a searchable database of all State personnel standards for personnel serving infants, toddlers and preschool children with disabilities and their families.  The database can be found at here.


Formative Assessment- A detailed report by CEELO staff member Shannon Riley-Ayers serves as a guide and framework for early childhood policy makers considering formative assessment. This guide and accompanying blog provide a practical roadmap for decision-makers, by offering several key questions to consider when selecting, supporting, and using data to inform and improve instruction. For more information and resources, see CEELO’s Formative Assessment Peer Learning Community page.

State Maps- CEELO has collected information on each state, related to early learning guidelines for infants and toddlers, prekindergarten, and K-3. Start with the state map to find this online information. Each state page includes links to state program standards for early childhood education, along with teacher and family guidance documents related to the standards and each state's office/s of early learning. 

E-Newsletter- In April, CEELO distributed their inaugural online newsletter, describing technical assistance and policy resources available on the CEELO website and elsewhere. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

ies national center for education statistics

State of Preschool 2013: First Look

This report presents findings from the State of Preschool 2013 data collection from the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences. This brief report presents data about state supported preschool enrollment and funding to support enrollment. The report presents the data at the state and national levels for the 2012-13 school year. Enrollment information is shown by children’s year of age. Information about funding is shown for state provided support and then by support from all sources.


office of head start

The National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (NCPFCE) has a new video “Learning in Partnership: Using Data and Reflective Practice in Programs.”  The video is part of NCPFCE’s Best Practices in Family and Community Engagement  video series, created to show innovative approaches to engagement that foster strong relationships with families and lead to positive outcomes for children and families.  So far, the series has highlighted programs in San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Morganton, N.C.; Brattleboro, Vt.; and Atlanta, Ga. 

Part of the Office of Head Start's Training and Technical Center, NCPFCE’s goal is to identify, develop, and disseminate evidence-based best practices associated with the strengthening of families and communities in order to support the positive growth and development of young children.

children and families

Making the Link Between Health and School Readiness

The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) are designed to ensure that every child who enters head starts is giving every opportunity to reach his or her peak developmental potential.  Children enter head start at different levels of development and with a variety of health needs.  These health and development issues are identified and treated prompting, contributing to the success of each child.  To lean more click here.

national academies press

Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood:  Pathways towards Excellence and Equity


The Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the Center for Education at the National Research Council recently established the Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics in recognition of the increasing importance of mathematics. The purpose of the committee was to examine existing research in the hopes of developing appropriate mathematics learning objectives for preschool children, provide evidence-based insights related to curriculum, instruction and teacher education for achieving these learning objectives, and determining the implications for the findings for policy, practice, and future research. The committee found that for most students the potential to learn math in the first few years of school are not currently realized. This has largely to do with the lack of opportunities to learn math either in early childhood settings or through experiences at home. This is a problem because math in later years of schooling not only builds on early childhood education math, but truly depends on it as a foundation. It is so important for students to have this content introduced to them at an early age in order to more effectively learn elementary and secondary math concepts. Unfortunately, an examination of current standards, curricula, and instruction in early childhood education shows that adequate learning experiences in mathematics are lacking in early childhood settings. To read more click here.


Sarah Watson

Interview with Sara Watson, National Director for ReadyNation/America's Edge, a project of the Council for a Strong America


Steven: Can you talk a little bit about how you began your career in early learning?


Sara: Well I have always worked in policy and I started off working in the area of disability rights. That was a great passion of mine, and then I decided I was most interested in children and families issues. I was fortunate enough to find somebody that understood that my experiences in the disability policy area could translate to broader children and family issues, and they took a chance on me. So I moved over to that organization and got to work on a whole variety of children issues from child abuse and neglect to juvenile justice etc. and it became very clear from working on all of these issues that the earlier you started the better off you were. Then when the opportunity to work at Pew came along it was a chance to get at the root causes of lots of children and families issues I have worked on previous in my career.


Steven: ReadyNation just moved to Council for a Strong America. Can you talk a little bit about why you made that change and what does this mean for ReadyNation going forward?


Sara: ReadyNation and America’s Edge have had a similar mission of mobilizing the business community to support improving the economy through smart investment in kids. We just had a different set of strategies that we pursued and so when the director of America’s Edge left it was a great opportunity to come to David Kass [President at Council for a Strong America] and say, “What do you think of combining these two groups?” In about fifteen minutes, it was obvious to both of us that this was the right thing to do for kids; it was a right thing for the field; and fortunately it was the right thing for me and the organization.


So we are all really pleased that the merger has gone swimmingly. I think it helped obviously that I was familiar with Council for a Strong America since they were our largest grantees at Pew. And so I’m just excited for getting to work with all the members, all the business leader members that they’ve pulled together, as well as expanding our toolbox to engage the business community to include things like our National Business Summit and our CEO task force on Early Childhood that ReadyNation has created.


Steven: Great, that’s terrific. Why is the President’s proposal to provide high-quality preschool for all four-year olds important to the business community? What are some of the challenges, and how do you see the role of the business community in this?


Sara: The business community is becoming more familiar with the research on the benefits of early education to prepare the workforce of the future, as well as to build up a customer base that can buy their goods and services. So we have found business leaders all the way from executives of fortune 500 companies to people who are local business owners, active in their community who are now starting to get this message. So they really are seeing early education and preschool as being the foundation for later success.


I think the challenges are that there are certain principles that our business leaders feel strongly about in terms of expanding public spending. They want to see strong evaluation and accountability structures. They want to know that money is going to effective programs and accomplish the goals that taxpayers expect and children need. They want to see a strong state, as well as a federal role in this and they want to make sure that existing money is used effectively as the co-chairman of our CEO Taskforce, John Pepper, the former CEO of Proctor and Gamble testified in front of the Senate HELP Committee in support of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. At the same time, he believes that we want to make sure that we are spending public dollars very carefully.


We also recently worked with the CEO’s of the four major chambers of commerce in Tennessee-- Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga –who signed a letter to Senator Alexander asking him, before his bill was introduced, to emphasize high-quality standards as well as providing sufficient funding to reach the children in need of high-quality programs. I see the business community as continuing to play this role to convince policymakers to invest in high-quality programs.


The importance of early education is spreading to other countries, and America needs to pay attention to the fact that it’s competitor nations are doing this and we’re [ReadyNation] going to be working in other countries as well—Brazil, Netherlands and Uganda.


DEC division of early childhood

The Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children is excited to release its revised set of DEC Recommended Practices. DEC Recommended Practices are designed to provide guidance to practitioners, families and administrators regarding the most effective ways to promote the development of young children from birth through five years of age who have or are at-risk for developmental delays or disabilities. They identify evidence-based strategies and interventions designed to facilitate the development of young children with special needs.  The new set of Recommended Practices is comprised of 66 practices organized into eight topic areas including: Assessment, Environment, Family, Instruction, Interaction, Teaming and Collaboration, Transition and Leadership.  A copy of the updated DEC Recommended Practices is available here.

center for the study of social policy

Strengthening Families   is a research-informed approach to increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. It is based on engaging families, programs and communities in building five protective factors:   •Parental resilience   •Social connections   •Knowledge of parenting and child development   •Concrete support in times of need   •Social and emotional competence of children.   Using the Strengthening Families framework, more than 30 states—including many of the RTT-ELC grantees—are shifting policy and practice to help programs working with children and families focus on protective factors. Learn more about Strengthening Families and how it is being implemented in states and systems, and share this Overview document with others who are just learning about the Protective Factors Framework.  To learn more click here.

foundation for child development

Investing in Our Future:  The Evidence Base on Preschool Education

Recently, teams from RTT-ELC States gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Annual Grantee Meeting. One speaker at the meeting, Hirokazu Yoshikawa of NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, spoke about the Evidence Base on Early Education.  His talk drew upon a research brief called “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education” which notes, “When taken together with earlier foundational studies, the growing body of research on preschool both confirms but also extends the previous evidence in important directions….Recent meta-analyses drawing together the evidence across decades of evaluation research now permit us to say with confidence that preschool programs can have a substantial impact on early learning and development.”

national league of cities

On April 24, 2014 in New York, NYThe National Urban League – along with other leagues across the country such as the Los Angeles Urban League, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee –  announced the launch of an education campaign, Put Our Children Put Our Children 1st: Common Core for Common Goals, designed to inform parents about Common Core State Standards.  Learn more here.

anne casey foundation

Race and Results

The Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the intersection of kids, race and opportunity in a new report, which compares how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state level. The report also makes four policy recommendations to help ensure that all children and their families achieve their full potential.


Early Childhood Education Teaching Videos

The Teaching Channel has 134 videos that show teachers implementing Early Childhood Education strategies in pre-K classrooms.  The video in the library is 3 minutes long and is sortable by subject and topic.

A sampling of videos offered:

·  “Frontloading for English Language Learners” ·  “Hypothesizing about Bugs” ·  “Attention Getting Games” ·  “Visual Cues” ·   “Seating Options” ·  “Improve Participation with Talk Moves” ·   “Learning Numbers in Multiple Ways”  

ERIC logo

Assessment and Stability of Early Learning Abilities in Preterm and Full-Term Infants across the First Two Years of Life

It is known that children born preterm are at a greater risk for learning disabilities; however, accurate assessments to detect these disabilities in infants and children may not be readily available or used. The availability and use of accurate assessments is critical because early intervention can allow children to move past developmental barriers and delays. In a recent publication in the journal of Research in Developmental Disabilities, Michele Lobo and James C. Galloway followed 23 full-term and 29 pre-term infants from birth to age 2 in order to assess differences in learning ability assessment. Researchers found that even in the earliest years of a life, poorer performance in cognition and learning could be measured for preterm infants, and that these early learning differences for preterm infants detected during the first few months of life continued through infants’ second year. To read more click here.

Early Edge California logo

Polls Show Overwhelming Support for PreK in California

A new poll conducted in California has found that a majority of voters approve extending public schooling to 4-year-olds, even if it costs the state an additional $1.4 billion. A 57 percent majority - including 56 percent of those without children under age 6 - responded that the state should offer all 4-year-olds free preschool.

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NIEER released its  2013 State Preschool Yearbook  at CentroNía/DC Bilingual Public Charter School    in D.C. This newest installment of the Yearbook series covers policies, enrollment, and funding for state-funded pre-K programs in the 2012-2013 school years. This blog highlights key findings of the report as well as the Yearbook’s release event.

Newsletters Across the Department

Hispanic Newsletter logo

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics recently released a newsletter, “Nuestra Iniciativa”, highlighting some of the progress the Initiative has made to improve education outcomes for Hispanics in the US. Among these successes, the newsletter notes that the number of Hispanic students enrolled in college increased by more than 50% from 2008 to 2012. In addition, a record 69% of Hispanic high school graduates in the class of 2012 enrolled in college that fall. The Initiative also announced its release of the ¡Gradúate! Financial Aid Guide to Success, which is a guide that consolidates important information for Hispanic students to have in their efforts to enroll and afford college. Additionally, the newsletter detailed some of the challenges still facing the Hispanic community. In particular, it noted that achievement test scores suggest that the average Latino child is about two grades behind the average white child by age 9. The Initiative takes the opinion that preschool participation is extremely important to remedy these differences. The newsletter also mentions the lack of diversity in the current teacher workforce where only 7% of teachers are Hispanic. Consequently, the Department of Education will lay out a plan to strengthen America’s teacher preparation programs for public discussion by this summer and move forward on schedule to publish a final rule within the next year. While there have been some major successes in this Initiative, they are still working hard to ensure that Hispanic students in the US are achieving educational excellence!  For more information subscribe here.

ED Pubs logo
helping children learn math cover

Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics

Our increasingly technological world demands strong skills in mathematics, not only in the workforce but also in everyday life, and these demand. To download the PDF, click  here.

helping your preschool child

Helping Your Pre-School Child

How well children will learn and develop and how well they will do in school depends on a number of things, including their health and physical well-being, social and emotional preparation, and language skills and general knowledge of the world. This booklet highlights techniques parents can use to encourage their children to develop the skills necessary for success in school and life by focusing on activities that make learning fun.  To download the PDF, click here.