April Newsletter

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

Message From the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett


I want to congratulate my colleagues in the Office of Civil Rights for their new Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) which has revealed startling opportunity gaps across America.  This report, which includes data from all 97,000 schools, 16,500 school districts, and 49 million students in America is the first time the Department has collected system-wide data on school discipline, access to preschool, teacher equity, and access to college- and career-ready coursework.  Secretary Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released the data and four documents at a press event in March.  “The real power of the CRDC,” said Duncan in his speech at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, DC, “lies not just in the numbers themselves, but in the real-world impact they can have when coupled with courage and the will to change.”   

The data had a lot to say about our youngest learners:

·       Public preschool access not yet a reality for much of the nation: About 40% of school districts do not offer preschool programs.

·       Part-day preschool offered more often than full-day: 57% of school districts that operate public preschool programs offer only part-day preschool.

·       Limited universal access to preschool: About half of the school districts that operate public preschool programs limit access by family economic level or other categories.

·       Kindergarten retention disparities: Native-Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Native-Alaskan kindergarten students are held back a year at nearly twice the rate of white kindergarten students. Boys represent 61% of kindergarteners retained.

·       Suspension of preschool children (new for 2011–12 collection): Black children make up 18% of preschool enrollment, but 48% of preschool children suspended more than once. Boys receive more than three out of four out-of-school preschool suspensions.

“These data are providing—and will continue to provide—important markers and starting points for discussion at our Department,” promised Secretary Duncan. “Our work is motivated by the belief that all students, regardless of race, gender, income, disability, and English Learner status, need and deserve a world-class education.” While there is no magic bullet that will fix the opportunity gap crisis in America, the CRDC creates urgency for us to find multiple ways to address lack of preschool access and alarming news on suspensions and expulsions.  Director of Yale's Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy Walter S. Gilliam provides guidance to help policy makers and others help reduce these disparities.

As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stood with Secretary Duncan, he predicted that …America’s future will be defined, and our progress determined, by the doors we open and the support we offer to our nation’s young people. From bolstering early childhood education to promoting youth literacy; from increasing mentorship to reducing juvenile violence; from extending access to social services to expanding employment opportunities – I’m convinced that, so long as we work together, we’ll be able to empower millions of students to pursue their dreams, to achieve their full potential, and to forge the better, brighter futures they deserve.”

Preschool for All

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N.C. Pre-K Program Show Great Gains

Scientists from University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development Institute have released their new study of North Carolina Pre-K, the state’s program to prepare four-year-olds for success in kindergarten. According to FPG’s report, students enrolled in NC Pre-K show significant gains across all areas of learning

RTT-ELC Program Spotlight/Technical Assistance

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Rhode Island

The new Center for Early Learning Professionals is open and ready for business. Launched with Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funds, the Center is designed to give early childhood programs and providers the tools, support, and resources they need to provide high-quality care and education to Rhode Island's youngest children. Managed by the Education Development Center and Ready to Learn Providence, the Center is located at 535 Centerville Road in Warwick, Suite 201 (downstairs from the BrightStars office) and can be reached at 401-736-9020.


New pages have been added to the ELC TA website

GRADS 360 to give users easier access to key resources such as information on grantees and webinars. Use the "Quick Links" to navigate to the following information:

Grantee Profiles: Brief abstracts for each RTT-ELC grantee. (More detailed grantee profiles will be coming soon.)
Webinars: Access links to written webinar summaries, recordings of the webinars, and additional resources.
Upcoming National Conferences: Get information about upcoming national conferences into an easy-to-read PDF document. View events by month or at a glance, and click internal links to view more detailed information.

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

Early Learning at ED

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IDEA SPP/APR Packages in the Federal Register/Comment Period Open

The IDEA Parts B and C FFY 2013-2018 State Performance Plan (SPP)/Annual Performance Report (APR) packages were published in the Federal Register (FR) on March 25, 2014 and are available for the 30-day OMB comment period until April 24, 2014.  As you know, IDEA Part B includes the preschool special education program and IDEA Part C covers the program for infants and toddlers with disabilities, from birth to age three.  The SPP is the performance plan that each State must create to evaluate their efforts and describe their improvement activities in implementing the requirements of IDEA.  States must report annually to the public on the performance of each local program on the targets in the SPP.  In addition, States must submit an APR to the Secretary of Education each year to report on the performance of the State under their SPP.  New to the SPP/APR process for FFY 2013-2018 is an indicator that describes the creation of a comprehensive, multi-year State Systemic Improvement Plan, focused on improving results for infants, toddlers, and students with disabilities.  Information about this plan can be found under Indicator 17 in the Part B materials and Indicator 11 for Part C.  The FR notices and supporting materials can be viewed by using the following links:

Part B:  Federal Register 3/25/2014

Part C:  Federal Register 3/25/2014

Partner Agency Work


Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Builds Local Early Childhood Partnerships

The vision for Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s participation in the Early Head Start for Family Child Care (EHS FCC) demonstration project was to increase both the number of providers and quality of infant and toddler care for the tribe’s children and their families.  Click here to read more.

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Promise Neighborhoods Early Childhood Solutions Launched in Promise Neighborhoods Implementation Sites in Year 1.  This is one in a series of issue briefs highlighting exemplary innovation and practice in the first round of Promise Neighborhoods implementation sites.  Click here to read more.

Growing Young Minds

The Growing Young Minds report, from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Institute of Museum and Library Services calls upon policymakers, practitioners, and parents to make full use of libraries and museums, and the skills and talents of those who work in them, to close knowledge and opportunity gaps and give all children a strong start in learning.  Learn more about our partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Learn more about our partnership with Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

Institute of Museum and Library Services

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Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive!

Secretary Sebelius announced on March 25 the launch of Birth to Five:  Watch Me Thrive!-- A coordinated effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families, and the providers who care for them.  It involved a partnership of several Federal offices including HHS' Administration for Children and Families and Office of Special Education Programs at the Department of Education.  Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! seeks to:  Celebrate milestones; Promote universal screening. Identify possible delays and challenges early; and Enhance developmental supports.  To do so, Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive!  includes:  1. A compendium of research-based screening tools.  2. “User’s Guides” for multiple audiences.  3. An electronic package of resources for follow-up and support.  Click here to read more.

Administration for Children and Families

Crosswalk of National Early Childhood Program Standards

The Office of Child Care’s National Center on Child Care Quality Improvement (NCCCQI) provides an online National Standards Crosswalk Tool that allows people to pull up standards that have been developed by a national organization and compare (up to three at a time). This tool is designed to help States that are developing and aligning program standards for licensing, tiered quality rating and improvement systems (TQRIS), and/or prekindergarten programs to search and compare the content of several sets of national early childhood program standards (e.g., Head Start, accreditation, Caring for our Children). 


10 Things to Know About New Autism Data

1 in 68 children were identified with autism spectrum disorder. New data from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to rise, and the picture of ASD in communities has changed. These new data can be used to promote early identification, plan for training and service needs, guide research, and inform policy so that children with ASD and their families get the help they need. CDC will continue tracking the changing number and characteristics of children with ASD, researching what puts children at risk for ASD, and promoting early identification, the most powerful tool we have now for making a difference in the lives of children. Learn the 10 things you need to know about CDC's latest ADDM Network report.  You can also read the full report here.

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New Case Studies on Educational Alignment for Young Children

The Youth Education, and Families Institute published a new case study highlighting an emerging city strategy for ensuring that more young children are poised for educational success "Educational Alignment for Young Children:  Profiles for Local Innovation" identifies five cities that are on the leading edge of efforts to create a seamless educational pipeline for children ages 0-8.  Innovative alignment strategies in Boston, Hartford, San Antonio, San José and Seattle aim to ensure that more children are succeeding in school and reading at grade level by the end of third grade.  Read more here.

Voice from the Field

Voices from the Field by Steven Hicks

Interview with Kris Perry, Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund

Q:   How did you begin your career in early learning?

A:    It wasn’t intentional, I was a social worker and I went directly into child abuse investigation when I finished grad school. For several years I was removing children from their families and taking parents to court and living in this really, really difficult end of our system. It was apparent that there was a whole bunch of missed opportunities for families that resulted in these terrible outcomes. I was fortunate to be in government around the same time that the Clinton administration came in and there was welfare reform and more focus on family preservation, and slowly but surely there were policies being developed. I was always jumping to the prevention program that was being piloted. Then in 1998, when Reiner helped pass Prop 10 in California, which resulted in this big birth to five funding stream that funded a number of these programs, I jumped out of social services, into the world of first five. So you could say it was the result of Prop 10 in California, but also I had been looking for something more positive and around earlier intervention, and by being there and having those resources I helped develop the first universal preschool program in the state which was later adopted by the state.

Q:   Why is ensuring access to high-quality early learning programs important for our communities and nation?

A:    Well the evidence is unequivocal. There are multiple studies showing the earlier you invest in kids the better they do--particularly if they are from low-income families. And it’s nice to think that those investments mature over the person’s entire lifetime, it’s not a kindergarten investment, it’s not a third grade reading investment, and it’s a lifetime investment. And the results we are seeing, recently from Heckman are also about health outcomes. It’s just really powerful to think of these early education interventions changing the entire trajectory of an individual and not even on an economic basis, just from an individual development. What a gift and what an important thing to do for everybody, versus like winning the lottery. We shouldn’t be doing it like that. You shouldn’t have to win the lottery to go to preschool. And we have basically gotten ourselves into that particular jam, where we have got so few slots and now so many kids that need them and we don’t have a place for them to go. We need more access.

Q:   What is the role of FFYF in supporting the President’s proposal for early learning?

A:    And so many other proposals. The administration’s leadership during last year and this year by elevating this discussion to the state of the union and putting it in the budget as a new proposal, and making new connections with foundations and business and local leaders, has been invaluable in raising the profile in early childhood and bringing new partners to the table. But I also think, whether it seems possible or not, it has also prompted others to make proposals. Even though we don’t always agree, it’s nice to be in a situation where there are multiple solutions being offered to the problem which is better than none, because for a long time we were just surviving with the programs we had for generations and we hadn’t seen anything new come along. I love that it spurred a series of other proposals and new programs being implemented throughout the Department of Education. In states and in counties and cities we are seeing leaders step up and make proposals and take on early learning as a priority. It’s great.

Q:   What are the challenges you see over the next few years in First Five Years Fund fulfilling its mission?

A:    I think there’s this partisanship that can impact policy ideas or policy illusion. Before we even look at all the options and look for compromise and look for a solution everyone can get behind, partisan platforms sort of collide, and we can’t get a real solution. Our goal here at First Five is to keep the center and look for a way to bring in as many people into that conversation as possible. It’s very challenging because so much of what’s going on in Washington is partisan and it’s hard to get people to stop that long enough to talk about early childhood and where there are good options. So we tend to look outside of Washington and towards many governors, superintendents and people that just solve problems regardless of party affiliation because they are so close to it, because they see families every day, they run school districts, and they have to balance their state budgets. So that’s our big challenge - maintaining the center of the movement, so there is room for compromise.

Links and Resources


Helping Your Preschool 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. En Español | More "Helping Your Child" publications


CEELO Tackles Teacher Evaluation – State Practices for Early Childhood Teachers

One of the most challenging issues facing state education agencies is how to fairly and validly assess the effectiveness of early childhood teachers.  Lessons learned, challenges, and recommendations for policy makers are discussed in the recently released policy report “How Are Early Childhood Teachers Faring in State Teacher Evaluation Systems?”.  The report draws on findings from teacher evaluation systems in 11 states.     An additional resource for policy makers, “FastFact: Inclusion of Pre-Kindergarten Teachers and Other Early Childhood Staff in State Teacher Evaluation Systems” provides specific information on 24 states' regulations or policies regarding the inclusion of prekindergarten teachers and other early childhood staff serving children before kindergarten entry in state teacher evaluation systems. 

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Programs, to build the capacity of state education agencies to lead sustained improvements in early learning opportunities and outcomes. 

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High-Quality Early Learning Produces Economic and Social Outcomes for Disadvantaged Children

New findings from Nobel laureate economist James Heckman and colleagues build upon existing evidence that disadvantaged children who attend high-quality early childhood programs that include health and nutrition have significantly improved health as adults, make healthier lifestyle choices and experience fewer illnesses as adults.

Click here  to view or download the research paper, a two-page summary and other resources.

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Supporting Immigrant Families’ Access to Prekindergarten

Gina Adams and Julia Gelatt recently published a report on promising practices for increasing prekindergarten access for children of immigrants and ELLs.  This detailed report draws on interviews conducted with over 40 prekindergarten directors and staff, directors of early childhood education programs, and other specialists to present strategies for improving prekindergarten enrollment among immigrant families and English Language Learners.  Their report Supporting Immigrant Families’ Access to Prekindergarten is now available online.   

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Ten Simple Way to Encourage Learning booklet is a free information guide to help support families and their children during the earliest years of learning. This booklet is designed to support the learning experienced by children from birth through age five and is available for download in English, Spanish and Tagalog. Printed copies can also be requested through our request form below.

Newsletters Across the Department

International Matters

Maryland Pairs World Languages with STEM to Increase 21st-Century Skills

Cumberland, Maryland – In this quiet mountain town in western Maryland, a classroom of first-graders at West Side Elementary School sings a cheerful song in Mandarin and then seamlessly transitions into a lesson on subtraction—also taught entirely in Chinese.  West Side, in rural Allegany County, is one of about 19 schools throughout Maryland that are part of the State’s innovative World Languages Pipeline program, which helps elementary-school students gain vital skills and knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as a solid foundation in key foreign languages. To subscribe to International Matters, click here.

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Early Exposure to Complex Mathematics Helps Learning

A recent study published in the American Educational Research by Claessens et al. found that kindergarteners learned more when they were exposed to complex, mathematic concepts. In addition, researchers found that elementary school students who were taught challenging mathematics in kindergarten made greater strides in mathematics. Researchers recommend kindergarteners maintain a balance between play and formal learning by substituting sophisticated math concepts for simplified ones while maintaining time allocated to discovery and play.

Literacy Begins at Home

Literacy Begins at Home

This booklet provides information about the Shining Stars booklet series for parents of children in preschool through grade three who are getting ready or learning to read. This brochure provides checklists for parents of toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners to third grade.

Big Dreams

Big Dreams:  A Family Book About Reading:  Preschool through Grade Three

The publication informs parents about the importance of reading and teaching their young children to read. The brochure provides this information in the format of a story that the family can share together.