News and Resources from the Office of Early Learning: June 2014 Issue

Early Learning heading

                    News & Resources from the Office of Early Learning

                                                   June 2014 Issue

Message From the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett


President Obama’s vision of a high-quality early learning system for all children – from birth through school entry took a big leap forward last week with the announcement of a new $500 million funding opportunity for the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership.  These competitive grants from the Administration for Children and Families  will expand the availability of high-quality infant and toddler care by supporting partnerships between Early Head Start and child care providers. Almost any organization is eligible to apply for competitive partnership or expansion grants, including territories, community organizations, non-profit or for-profit organizations, and state and local governments. So no excuses accepted!

In a few months, another part of the President’s vision will be realized through the release of the Preschool Development Grants applications.  Your 600+ comments from our posting of the Executive Summaries have made the applications much stronger. Every State, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will be eligible to apply.  While States must be the applicant, this is a real opportunity for communities –cities, towns, counties, neighborhood, districts, rural or tribal areas—to partner with their State to provide universal, high-quality preschool for all 4 year-olds from low and moderate-income families. 

By getting more children off to a great start in life we hope we can fulfill the President’s charge: “…I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.”  

Preschool for All

White House

My Brother’s Keeper

The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force has released its Report to the President. My Brother's Keeper is a new initiative that was launched to help build ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color and help put them on the path to success. In developing its recommendations, the Task Force identified six key milestones:

 1. Getting a healthy start and entering school ready to learn;

 2. Reading at grade level by third grade;

 3. Graduating from high school ready for college and career;

 4. Completing post-secondary education or training;

 5. Successfully entering the workforce; and

 6. Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.

Recommendations focus on areas of action including:

1. A Healthy Start and Ready for School

  • Eliminate suspensions and expulsions in preschool and other early learning settings
  • Implement universal early health and development screenings

2. Reading at Grade Level by the End of Third Grade

  • Close the word gap by launching a public and private initiative to increase joint and independent reading time outside of school and build a reading culture in more homes


New Poll Reveals Strong Support for Early Learning

Gallup released a poll on legislative priorities for Washington to focus on. The poll found very strong support (65% of the public) for “Passing new legislation providing access to high-quality preschool to every child in America.” Read more about it in this article



Program Spotlight: Wisconsin’s RTT-ELC Team Uses Porch Chats and Parent Cafés for Parent Engagement

In many communities, the front porch has always been a gathering place where family, friends and neighbors actively engage with each other about issues that impact the neighborhood and its families. The Wisconsin YoungStar Front Porch Chats will involve 1-2 parents facilitating discussions about quality childcare, exchanging stories and experiences with the YoungStar program and listening for compelling stories that might contribute to the collection of YoungStar testimonies and the identification of YoungStar ambassadors.

Parent cafés are structured as groups of approximately 25 targeted participants and 5 parent hosts held in community spaces. To be mindful of parents’ schedules, each parent café series is held once per month for 3 months. Each session focuses on some of the Strengthening Families protective factors and allows the group to come together for reflection, closing needs and questions from the participants. The parent café includes dinner for every participating family and quality childcare while the parents are engaged in the actual café. Other states, including Maryland and Illinois, are also using these approaches to reaching families of young children and engaging them in conversations about quality early learning.


Technical Assistance

 The ELC TA Program recently hosted a webinar on using data on technical assistance and coaching efforts to support quality improvements as part of your tiered quality rating and improvement systems. Webinar slides are available here. Find this story and others in the ELC TA newsletter Spotlight on ELC TA. Past issues and a subscription button can be found on our site.  Visit us at for new resources and information related to early learning.

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

Early Learning at ED

Parents as Teachers

i3 Grant Improves Outcomes for American Indian Children

Through the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant, Parents as Teachers is working to improve school readiness and increase parent engagement among Native American children and families. This $1.3 billion investment in school reform supports innovative programs that help close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for high-needs students, including Native American children. The funds allow recipients to expand and develop successful innovative practices that can serve as models for the nation. Read more here


Upcoming Implementation Support for State Systemic Improvement Plans (SSIPs)

 The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has begun an initiative to provide support to States as they begin the first phase of development of their SSIPs. The SSIP is a comprehensive, multi-year plan focused on improving results for infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities.  It is a critical component of Results Driven Accountability (RDA), OSEP’s revised accountability system under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  RDA shifts OSEP’s accountability efforts from a primary emphasis on compliance to a framework that focuses on improved results for children with disabilities, while continuing to assist States in ensuring compliance with the IDEA’s requirements.  In developing the SSIP, States will use data to identify gaps in child outcomes, analyze State systems, and then implement targeted, evidence-based reforms to address the gaps.  Over the next several months, OSEP will be providing support to States on the SSIP development process through site visits and conference calls with State staff and stakeholders.  OSEP will collaborate with other Department of Education offices, when possible, as it conducts this work.  States will submit the first phase of their completed SSIPs to OSEP in April 2015.   


Report on Opportunity Gaps

A new report for CEELO by Milagros Nores, PhD, and W. Steven Barnett, PhD, Access to High Quality Early Care and Education: Readiness and Opportunity Gaps in America, describes readiness and opportunity gaps in access to high quality early education. The report describes the “readiness gaps” at kindergarten entry as of 2010, and examines the extent to which there are “opportunity gaps” in early care and education services that may be associated with those readiness gaps.

FastFact on Reading Proficiency

Lori Connors-Tadros, PhD, produced a CEELO FastFact brief on Definitions and Approaches to Measuring Reading Proficiency.  The item provides definitions of reading proficiency and selected resources about national and state approaches to measuring proficiency. 

Webinar on Research Related to Child Care, Head Start, and Preschool

Diane Schilder, EdD, was featured in a Webinar for Ounce of Prevention called Child Care, Head Start, and Pre-K Partnerships: Research Findings.

Keynote Presentation

Lori Connors-Tadros, PhD, presented the Keynote speech Every Day, Every Year of a Hoosier Child's Life is Important! to the Indiana Department of Education Early Learning Summit.

Annotated Bibliographies

CEELO has added two annotated bibliographies to resources this month, one on Early Childhood Assessment, and another on Financing Early Care and Education. Both provide a detailed list of resources with a brief description of each item.

Partner Agency Work


New Grant Opportunity

The Maternal and Child Health Bureau at the Health Resources and Services Administration at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services has announced that a new funding opportunity is now available. The application due date is July 7, 2014.

Bridging the Word Gap Research Network supports the creation of an interdisciplinary research network for scientific collaboration, with a focus on research designed to improve our understanding of early language exposure and vocabulary acquisition for children from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds and of effective interventions to address them. The Network should include researchers across a range of disciplines reflecting attention to the health and development of the child and family. 

Voices from the Field


Voices from the Field by Steven Hicks

Interview with Tonja Rucker, Principal Associate, Early Childhood Success, Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, National League of Cities

Steven: How did you being your career supporting early learning?

Tonja: In graduate school, my advisor had procured a Head Start transition evaluation grant so I was able to do my dissertation work in Head Start in Baltimore. After graduation, I was so grounded and so impressed with the Head Start program, and I knew it was a place we could connect with families and educators across the spectrum. My first job out of grad school was with the city of Baltimore. We had the Head Start grantee and I served as their transition coordinator for the city. I had a wonderful opportunity to work with Head Start directors, the school district in Baltimore city, and a number of partners across the city to ensure that kids were transitioning from Head Start to public schools with all the support that they needed. 

Steven: The National League of Cities has an initiative with ED and part of that is to support early learning. What are some of the things around early learning that mayors and other city leaders are doing to which we should pay attention?

Tonja: We are so thrilled to be partnering formally with the Department of Education, with a formal MOU, and to host these community conversations around the country to learn about how local, state and federal leaders are all coming together around education. As you noted, a number of those community conversations are focused on early childhood. Our membership has an option to look at afterschool, postsecondary, early education, and the whole continuum, and a number landed on early learning. We have mayors and leaders across the country who are focused on early learning, and it’s a great time to be working in the field. We know that we can’t do it alone, so the ability to partner with federal government and state colleagues are important. Certainly at the local level, there are a number of things city leaders are doing.  I think one of the things that comes to mind is the role mayors and council members can play as conveners, bringing together key policy makers, stakeholders, and leaders across the spectrum.  We’re just so impressed with the numbers of mayors that are formally reaching out to their K-12 counterparts for the first time. Even though a lot of school districts are not under mayoral control, mayors recognize that they can play a really big role and be supportive of school districts. So we see these true, authentic partnerships that are emerging across the country, where mayors are engaging and asking their school district counterparts, “How can we help, and what resources to bear can the city bring and work with the school district to accomplish some mutually agreed upon goals?” 

Steven: Why is the President’s proposal to provide high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds important to city leaders, what are some of the challenges you see, and how do you see the role of the cities in this effort?

Tonja: I can’t tell you the number of mayors for whom – just to hear the President talk about high-quality preschool in some of the state of the union speeches and just his everyday speeches – it has given the support they need. To be able to point to the President and say that at all levels of the government, from the President all the way down, is something we have to pay attention to. It’s been so important, and I think that “high quality” is the key. Mayors want to ensure that the quality of these early education programs is there, and that parents have choices and they know about the importance of quality. What we’re seeing is that a number of mayors are looking at universal pre-k and thinking how they get that effort underway. I think they realize that usually the mayors and communities that have been at this for some time have worked to build up parent engagement and professional development for early educators.  Those that have got that groundwork done are certainly in a position to make this happen.  I think financially, the sustainability and the long term funding for high-quality, universal pre-k is certainly a challenge. But I know some mayors have done their due diligence and have built partnerships and put together infrastructure.  A number of mayors have an office for early childhood, and out of that office there’s a great body of work that’s been done and data to show that this has had an impact. There’s a lot of desire to have this in a number of cities, and they’re taking the necessary steps to lay that foundation. Having the President and Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education so vocal and so out in the front and willing to support local municipal government is a key factor to how this work is going to spread across the country and we’re just so grateful for the partnership at the federal level.

Links and Resources


FPG Launches National Pre-K and Early Learning Evaluation Center

To meet the growing need for guidance from researchers with experience in early childhood education and program evaluation, UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) is launching the National Pre-K and Early Learning Evaluation Center. 


Building Leadership Capacity in Early Childhood Pre-Service Teachers

Building leadership capacity within the early childhood profession is a key concern for many early childhood instructors and policymakers. This qualitative research study analyzed early childhood teachers’ perceptions of leadership and how they could use their role to generate change and build family and community partnerships. The full text of this study is available on ERIC. To find other peer reviewed, full text articles on early learning in ERIC, click here

National Policy Digest

National Policy Digest

The National Policy Digest offers a summary of what is occurring in education policy, particularly in early childhood education. For example, the Division of Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children has released the 2014 edition of the DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education. This document is intended to provide guidance to practitioners and families about the most effective ways to improve student outcomes and facilitate the development of young children who have or are at-risk for developmental delays or disabilities. Furthermore, NIEER has recently released the latest edition of its annual publication, “The State of Preschool Yearbook,” which provides information on the preschool programs of all 50 states. There has also been research conducted by the University of Chicago, which finds that home visiting programs can increase healthy infant feeding practices. 


NAEYC Initiative

NAEYC is excited to announce a new initiative funded through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  During this four-year grant period NAEYC will work to expand the coverage and complexity of existing higher education opportunities for those who are becoming early childhood professionals.  A full description of the initiative can be found here.

Child Care Early Connections

Hispanic Immigrant Children's English Language Acquisition: The Role of SES and Early Care Arrangements

Results show significant, positive main effects of early care arrangement and socioeconomic status (SES) on English proficiency. However, results also reveal that the association between early care education (ECE) and English proficiency differs by SES. Among 1st- and 2nd generation Hispanic children from very low-SES households, the odds of being proficient in English for children who attended ECE is more than double the odds for children who did not attend ECE. Learn more about the study here.  

Journal of Educational Psychology

Low-Income Latino Children Show Great Benefits from Montessori Pre-K

Researchers theorized that some of the gains experienced by Latino children might be attributable to the Montessori method’s emphasis on individual instruction and independent learning for Latino children who may still be learning English. Read more here.  

United Way

 UPS Partners with United Way to Invest in Grade-Level Reading

UPS and its employees are making a substantial donation of more than $5 million

to support United Way’s grade-level reading work and to contribute to ensuring that more low-income children have a strong foundation in education. To read more about the donation made to United Way, click here

Child Trends

 Child Trends Hispanic Institute

The Child Trends Hispanic Institute was launched on June 11, 2014 with the release of its first report. The Institute provides timely and insightful research-based information and guidance to policymakers, practitioners, the media, corporate leaders, and private philanthropy who work to improve the lives and future prospects of Latino children and youth.


Medical Compliance Starts at Birth

New research from Professor Heckman and colleagues shows that quality early childhood programs that incorporate health and nutrition help prevent chronic disease. Findings reveal substantially better health in the mid-30s with a lower prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, such as stroke and diabetes. Learn more about the study by watching this video, by reading the full research paper, or by reading the research summary.