OEL October Newsletter

News & Resources from the Office of Early Learning • October 2014

Early Learning at ED

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Message from the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett

Libby Dogget

People ask me, “Are we really going to get voluntary high-quality preschool for every child whose family wants it?”  My answer is a resounding yes. Your efforts are paying off, and every week I hear another success story.  The biggest one came last week when President Obama set the ambitious goal to have 6 million children enrolled in high-quality preschool by the end of 2020.  Significantly this goal was set in a speech about the economy acknowledging—as he has done before—that early learning is a vital part of a strong economic future. 

"If we make high-quality preschool available to every child,” said the President, “not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work; we'll give them the start that they need to succeed in school, and earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own. In fact, today, I'm setting a new goal: By the end of this decade, let's enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool. That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger."

Since the President’s 2013 State of the Union address set out an historic plan to expand early-learning programs for infants, toddlers and preschools states have been moving ahead on their own.  We expect to see early learning high on the agenda when legislative sessions open in 2015.  And The National League of Cities, through multiple initiatives is helping cities build more and better early learning systems for their youngest children.  I visited Kansas City early this fall and was delighted to see such good work happening at the ground level.

The President and the Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services are also moving full steam ahead despite partisan divides in Washington, D.C.  Our country’s new Preschool Development Grants and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants which will be announced in December will fuel action at the state and local levels .  

All these efforts are critical if we really want to triple preschool enrollment by 2020. This is an ambitious goal and will only happen if policy leaders at the federal, state and local levels do more.  I know that the advocates, foundations, and people who care about young children will do everything they can to make this ambitious goal a reality. 

Preschool for All

Briya Public Charter School

Briya Public Charter School provides English, computer skills, parenting and civics training to parents while preparing their children ages 0-5 for future school success. Experienced and qualified teachers use a standards-based curriculum that places children and families front and center in the learning community. Read more.

RTT-ELC: Program Spotlight and Technical Assistance

US map of PA

President sets goal of 6 million enrolled in high-quality preschool 2020  

The Corbett Administration is awarding nearly $2.7 million in Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone Grants to 12 communities to expand local programs that help bridge the achievement gap for at-risk young children, the Pennsylvania Departments of Public Welfare (DPW) and Education (PDE) announced on October 6, 2014. The grants will target innovations for individual at-risk communities serving select elementary schools.
Grantees will receive up to $75,000 annually to build upon and expand successful programs to connect early childhood providers, families and schools. Grantees include: school districts, nonprofit organizations, universities, social services agencies, foundations and early childhood education programs. Each grant recipient will partner with other schools, early childhood and community organizations serving children, and families near the target elementary school. . Pennsylvania will award 38 additional three-year grants in 2015-16. 
The Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone Grants are part of Pennsylvania's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. For more information on other initiatives funded by this grant, visit the Department of Education website.


Early Learning Challenge Technical Assistance

ELC TA webinar on KEA Development and Implementation

This ELC TA webinar summary provides an overview of considerations for engaging and supporting educators in the development and implementation of a KEA.  Through stakeholder engagement and professional development, States can support their KEA initiative and ensure that the assessment is developed, implemented, and sustained in ways that benefit students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders. You can learn more by checking out the webinar presentation and the webinar recording.

Early Learning at ED


Improving Data, Improving Outcomes Conference                                                          

On September 8 – 10, 2014, over 450 early learning professionals from around the country gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana to attend the Improving Data, Improving Outcomes conference.  This conference, hosted by The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) along with the IDEA Data Center, and the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, focused on issues related to Part C and Section 619 programs such as coordinated early childhood data systems; measurement and use of child and family outcomes data; and resources for improving systems of services.  In addition, there were a large number of sessions devoted to the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) process.  As reported in the June OEL newsletter, the SSIP is a comprehensive, multi-year plan focused on improving results for infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities.  In developing the plan, States will use data to identify gaps in child outcomes, analyze State systems, and then implement targeted, evidence-based reforms to address the gaps. The SSIP is a critical component of Results Driven Accountability, the Office of Special Education Program’s revised accountability system under IDEA.  If you would like to view materials from the conference sessions, Read more here.

International News

Frank Porter Graham Logo

Promoting the Use of Evidence-Based Practices for Children and Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorders and Their Families in Saudi Arabia

The NPDC will work with professionals from the Centre for Autism Research in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to establish and promote the provision of high quality programs and the use of evidence-based practices for learners with ASD and their families. Building on an initial contact in 2011-2013, with a follow-up contract to train Saudis in the U.S. in 2014, this 12-month contract will support consultation services from NPDC staff to the CFAR staff in Saudi Arabia and materials development to support the start up of 3 to 4 new sites in Riyadh. Read more here.

Federal Agencies at Work


Children Experiencing Homelessnee Benefit from Targeted Interventions

High quality early care and learning programs can help homeless children develop the skills they need to be resilient in the face of the adversity.  Read more here.

Research and Reports

new america

Last month, the Early Education Initiative at New America released a new report: Chaos for Dual Language Learners: An Examination of State Policies for Exiting Children from Language Services in the PreK–3rd Grades. In this report, Senior Researcher Conor Williams conducted a 50-state scan of reclassification policies for dual language learners (DLLs), finding that current policies are not only inconsistent, but often disruptive to students’ educations—especially for younger learners. His new brief, co-authored with Colleen Gross Ebinger, evaluates the potential and implementation strategy of Minnesota’s Learning for English Academic Proficiency and Success Act (LEAPS Act).


New in ERIC: Expectations Lead to Performance: The Transformative Power of High Expectations in Preschool

The job of the early intervention providers is to model for parents what high expectations look like and how to translate those expectations into family experiences. The Missouri State University program is to immerse deaf and hard of hearing students in expectations that they will become independent and literate from the moment they enter their classroom. The full text of this study is available at ERIC. To find other peer-reviewed, full text articles on early learning in ERIC, click here Read more.


Research Review

W. Steven Barnett and Cynthia E. Lamy reviewed a recent report on preschool charter schools, Seeds of Achievement: AppleTree’s Early Childhood D.C. Charter Schools, by Cara Stillings Candal and published by the Pioneer Institute. The Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center found that research on AppleTree model has the potential to inform important debates about both practice and policy. Read the full review here.

Kindergarten Early Learning Scale

The Kindergarten Early Learning Scale (KELS) was developed as a concise observational assessment for young children. It examines three domains including (1) Math/Science, (2) Social Emotional/Social Studies, and (3) Language and Literacy, with a total of 10 items across the domains. This report outlines how decisions about the content of the instrument were made, based on several criteria, and the value of the instrument.

early care

Reading Aloud to Infants and Toddlers Promotes Early Literacy

Recent media attention has focused on how reading aloud to infants promotes positive early literacy outcomes and has a strong, lasting developmental impact. This brief explains the research behind why reading aloud to infants—and incorporating ongoing ‘serve and return’ interaction—is so important for promoting early language and literacy.

Resources You Can Use


Understanding and Using Data from the 2013 NIEER State of Preschool Yearbook

This webinar, sponsored by both CEELO and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), examines how annual preschool information from the states can be used for planning, policy development and program improvement. Both a recording of the webinar and slides are available.


Is New York City Pre-K a model for other cities?

In this week’s edition of The Weekly Wonk, the weekly online magazine of the New America Foundation, experts were asked: Is New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s method for expanding Pre-K a model for other cities? NIEER Director Steve Barnett and Policy Research Coordinator Megan Carolan were among those who weighed in. Their responses can be read here

Anticipating Quality for All Children

As children, teachers, and families settle into new school years, NIEER/CEELO Assistant Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers reflects in a new post on what young children deserve in their educational lives to put them on track for success in their early education career and their learning down the road.

50 year

Head Start Turns 50

This October marks an important and exciting month for the Head Start community. Not only is October Head Start Awareness month, but it also kicks off Head Start’s 50th year-long anniversary. For half a century, Head Start has represented America’s commitment to giving the nation’s most vulnerable children and their families the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. In those 50 years, over 31 million young lives have been transformed by Head Start’s comprehensive approach to early learning – getting at-risk children ready for kindergarten and setting families on a path toward self-sufficiency. Read more here.

share awesome

National PTA Unveils #ShareAwesome Public Awareness Campaign

This month, National PTA launched #ShareAwesome, a national campaign supported by LifeLock, Inc. to celebrate positive use of digital and social media and to empower families to make smart, safe decisions when using the Internet and mobile devices. #ShareAwesome is designed to spotlight and address important issues of online safety and digital citizenship in a fun, positive way.

Child Trend

A new Child Trends Hispanic Institute report, America’s Hispanic Children: Gaining Ground, Looking Forward, reports on the 17.5 million Hispanic children in the U.S. in areas such as demographic, economics, education, and health. The report found that Latino preschoolers lag behind white and black children in knowing their ABCs and numbers and being able to write their names or read written words but they have higher levels of social-emotional skills – such as self-control and cooperation.


Council Recruiting for PD Specialists

The Council for Professional Recognition  Council for Professional Recognition has streamlined it Child Development Associate ™ (CDA) National Credentialing Program and added a totally new component, the role of a Professional Development Specialist.

“If you are an experienced early childhood professional who has worked in preschool, family child care or infant/toddler settings, with particular experience working in Migrant and Seasonal Head Start and Tribal Head Start programs, we want you,” said Myra Crouch, Council chief programs officer.  To learn more about eligibility requirements and the role of the PD Specialist, click here  or call Customer Service at 800-424-4310.

Children's Defense Fund

Children’s Defense Fund: Importance of a continuum of early development and learning opportunities for young children.

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) continues to champion the elimination of child poverty and the importance of investments in high quality early development and learning. In 2013, more than one in five infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and more than two out of five Black children, were poor, at the time of greatest brain development. Too many poor children are being left behind right from the start.


Momentum is building across the country as voters call on elected officials and candidates to invest in quality early education for all children. Building on FFYF's summer release of their second annual bipartisan national poll showing early childhood education as the second most important issue to American voters, they recently released their first state poll showing that majorities of North Carolina Democrats, Republicans and Independents support investments in early childhood programs in the state—including expanding access to Smart Start, Pre-K, teacher training and home visiting programs. In the next few weeks, FFYF will be releasing even more state polling data.

In this issue: 

Voices from the Field


Voices from the Field

Interview with Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of ZERO TO THREE

By Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks


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

Matthew: Well, I began my career as a legal services lawyer. I came to this work from a sense of social justice, and trying to identify how we could better address issues related to equality and really ensuring that we break the cycle of poverty, and it quickly became clear to me that focusing on young children was the key, and where we needed to begin. I really began my work more in terms of issues related to access to federal nutrition programs – working to increase access of the school breakfast program for example – and working on issues with the childhood feeding program. I started, really, through the poverty, economic, social justice, and hunger lens, and that brought me into the education and child care lens, with school nutrition and child care food. The more that I worked in that arena, the more I became aware of and convinced of the need to focus more on early learning.

I think what initially attracted me to ZERO TO THREE is learning – nineteen years ago when I started here – about the state of the science and the research, and learning how incredibly important a focus on infants and toddlers is, and yet there being a fairly serious disconnect between what we know and what we do, particularly within the public policy realm, with regards to investments for the 0-3 population.

Steven: What do you see as the role of ZERO TO THREE in improving the quality of early learning?

Matthew: I think, first and foremost, it’s developing practical knowledge and know-how: real tools that can be used by the professionals and parents so that the parents are better informed about what it is they need and want, and the professionals are informed by what we know from the science and research about how to be with babies and toddlers. And because both are affected by what happens in public policy, working with policy makers at the federal and state level to really form and influence what they do, so that the policies and public investments reflect what we know from the science.

Steven: Why do you think the President’s proposal to provide high-quality early learning and development programs for children is important to our country, and what do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities?

Matthew: Well, I think that it’s important because the President has articulated the case for investment from 0-5 and a vision for what we need. Babies are not an afterthought in that proposal–given that there is the emphasis on the expansion of home visiting and the Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships. Clearly there is recognition that we need to be investing early, and that needs to be based upon a developmental continuum. So I think that is clearly exciting. I think that part of the challenge from my perspective is that more of the resources and more of the focus is on pre-K, which I believe is an essential element of what we need in an emerging early childhood system. At the same time, and because of that, there is less of an emphasis, I believe, on where we need to be focusing, which is at the very early years.


Another exciting thing about this is, that I think is really important, is that the initiative has incentivized and stimulated states to be thinking and actually building more coordinated early childhood system. Taking the various funding streams and working to tie them together in creative and much more responsive ways, I think is a significant step forward in developing a more comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of the 0-5 population.

Another challenge, obviously, is Congress, the need for Congress to understand and embrace this outside of a partisan lens, and also understanding that there is a critical and important role for government to play in supporting parents in the hardest job they will ever have, which is ensuring that their children have the supports and services that they need to be on a healthy developmental trajectory.


Monthly Multimedia


How Early Childhood Programs Can Benefit the State

How does a state's investment in early childhood programs pay off for citizens in that state? Tim Bartik explains how investing in early childhood programs increases earnings of state residents and helps state and local governments balance their budgets, by increasing the skills of the state's labor force.  Read more here.

Pre-School-U:  Expert video – Language & Literacy Development

Experts in early childhood development explain the importance of reading to children, and how critical communication with a child can be to their development.  Read more here.