December 2014 Newsletter

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

Early Learning at ED

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Message from the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett

Libby Dogget

"Early education is one of the best investments we can make -- not just in a child's future, but in our country." These are the words that President Obama spoke last week as he made good on his 2014 State of the Union Address promise to use the pen and the phone if Congress failed to significantly expand birth through five funding. The historic White House Summit on Early Childhood Education  brought together local, state and federal policymakers, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, philanthropists, advocates, researchers, and others to talk about the importance of high-quality early learning, the solid research base and to announce over $330 million in new private sector commitments to the field. 

To encourage local leaders to continue expanding early education in their communities, the White House designed a Playbook of strategies being successfully used around the country and pulled together 10 resources to offer technical assistance to these efforts.

We also announced the eighteen states that will receive Preschool Development Grants to expand high-quality preschool programs for over 30,000 additional children from low- to moderate-income families in the first year alone. These new grants, along with HHS’ Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships, are part of the President’s vision of comprehensive early education for all children in America.  Secretaries Duncan and Burwell also announced other important policy initiatives, including a new policy statement on expulsion and suspension practices in early learning.

Thanks to all of you who traveled to DC to participate in the Summit and thanks even more to those of you who stayed in your communities and hosted watch parties.

The Summit was the culmination of our collective efforts, as well as the launch of a new initiative to expand early learning opportunities across the country. InvestInUs – created by the bi-partisan First Five Years Fund and private philanthropic leaders – will encourage even more private-public investments and support community and state leaders in expanding early learning.  “We have to invest in us,” said the President. “And if we do that, we give every child the same chance that we got, then America will remain the greatest nation on Earth.”

PS:  Be sure to watch the President’s speech and his introduction by West Education Campus third grader Alajah Lane.  Also see Mayor Bill Peduto’s remarks; all eyes will be on Pittsburg as he leads an effort to advance early learning in that city. See the Summit Fact Sheet for additional information.

Preschool for All

white house

Invest in US: The White House Summit on Early Childhood Education

Last year, President Obama called upon Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool for every child in America, proposing investments that would support a continuum of early learning opportunity from birth through kindergarten entry.  In January, he challenged more Americans – elected officials, business leaders, philanthropists, and the public – to help more children access the early education they need to succeed in school and in life.  Over the course of the past year, significant progress has been made, and bipartisan cooperation has led to a substantial increase in federal investment in early education. On December 10, 2014, the President convened state and local policymakers, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, and advocates for the White House Summit on Early Education, highlighting collective leadership in support of early education for America’s children.  Read the Fact Sheet here.

Center for american progress

Why We Need a Federal Preschool Investment

The Center for American Progress has released six charts that show why policymakers need to invest in early childhood education now.

RTT-ELC: Program Spotlight and Technical Assistance


ELC TA Hosts Discussion on Comprehensive Assessment Systems at the NAEYC Conference


ELC TA hosted a discussion on Comprehensive Assessment Systems at last month’s NAEYC 2014 Annual Conference and Expo in Dallas. The session provided early childhood policymakers and other key stakeholders with a practical overview to planning, implementing, and sustaining the essential elements of a comprehensive birth to third grade assessment system. Topics include professional development, family engagement, communications, and more. Representatives from California and New Jersey joined the conversation to share their work in this area. If you did not attend the session, you can view the session materials on ELC TA's Comprehensive Assessment community page

RTT-ELC Year Two Progress Report and 2013 Annual Performance Reports (APRs) Released

ED and HHS have released a report that highlights some of the work undertaken by these Phase 1 and Phase 2 States during 2013, as reported in their individual State APRs.

Early Learning at ED


Teacher and Principal Fellowships at ED

Please look for the 2015-2016 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship and Principal Ambassador Fellowship applications in the coming week. The application criteria, format, and process are similar to previous years, so you may wish to review last year’s in preparation. Sign up to be notified when the applications are released.


New PBS KIDS Series Combines Television and Technology to Make Math Accessible to Young Learners

As parents and educators seek to develop the next generation of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers, one question remains constant: How do we make learning math and science accessible and fun for students? On Nov. 26th, PBS stations will premier ODD SQUAD, the network’s latest contribution to informal math education. A live-action television series, the show is designed to build curiosity and interest in math among early elementary school viewers. PBS KIDS, with funding provided by an Office of Innovation and Improvement Ready To Learn    grant to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is also offering a complementary suite of electronic learning games featuring the ODD SQUAD special agents. Read more here

International News

ED Blog

Why Education Is a Global Matter

This year marks the 15th anniversary of International Education Week (IEW), a time to recognize, reflect, and celebrate the important role education plays worldwide. Read more here.

Federal Agencies at Work

POTUS and little girl

White House Summit on Early Learning

ACF announced preliminary winners for the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership  grants to improve the quality of existing child care programs and expand access to high-quality care for infants and toddlers in conjunction with the White House Summit on Early Education.

President Obama first mentioned the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program in his 2013 State of the Union address, when he proposed a comprehensive plan to support high-quality early education for all children from birth through school age.

For the list of preliminary grantees, please visit the ACF web site. For additional information from the White House Summit, see here.

Research and Reports

NCSL logo

National Council of State Legislators (NCSL) has a new Early Care and Education State Budget Actions FY 2014 Report that includes 20 state legislative fiscal offices showing that overall, state appropriations to early care and education increased by 3.8 percent ($368.8 million). Read more here.

children and families

The Office of Child Care (OCC) is pleased to announce the availability of a new resource—a series of eight reports (noted below) on Contemporary Issues in Child Care Licensing.

The reports, developed for OCC by the National Center on Child Care Quality Improvement (NCCCQI), and other resources about health and safety and licensing are available on the Child Care Technical Assistance Network Web Site. To obtain additional information or to provide feedback, please contact NCCCQI at

Resources You Can Use


NAESP-NASSP Webinar: "Middle Level Conversations: Using Data to Assess and Inform School Change, Tools to Improve Teacher Development" read more here.


Incorporating Early Learning Strategies in the School Improvement Grants (SIG) Program

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) and the Center on School Turnaround (CST) collaborated to develop case studies of three selected schools receiving SIG funds that have, with the support of their districts, promoted the use of early childhood programming (PK–3) as a key strategy in their schools’ turnaround models. Read More here.

Young Immigrants and Dual Language Learners: Participation in Pre-K & Gaps at Kindergarten Entry

New data looks at how children from various language and immigrant backgrounds participate in pre-K programs and at how these children perform relative to their White peers at Kindergarten entry. Webinar materials are available here.

Using Assessments to Improve Transitions to Kindergarten

Nationally known experts discussed how to integrate KEAs into a comprehensive assessment system and how to use the data to inform teaching practices. State departments of education presenters also highlighted practical strategies they are using to assess a child’s school readiness and adjust instruction to help bridge any gaps. A recording is available here and slides are here.

Webinar on tools to support principals as evaluators of early childhood education teachers

CEELO, in collaboration with the Great Lakes and Midwest Comprehensive Centers, sponsored this webinar for state and local leaders to support principals as effective evaluators of early childhood teachers (pre-K through grade 3).

The webinar, held November 10, 2014 highlighted why training for principals was important to effective early childhood teacher practice and provided examples from practice. Materials are available online.

Considering Inclusion Practices in QRIS

A new FastFact from CEELO, QRIS and Inclusion: Do State QRIS Standards Support the Learning Needs of All Children? reviews which states accommodate children with special needs in their quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), and highlights states with exceptional inclusionary practices.

50 years of head start

This month The National Head Start Association (NHSA) hosted its annual Parent Conference and Family Engagement Institute, which focused on how communities, parents, families, and Head Start program staff can best partner to promote parent and family engagement in children’s early learning and development. The Head Start community gathered in New Orleans to explore best practices for effective partnerships through various workshops, meet-ups and educational forums.  


New in ERIC: What Predicts Teachers' Acceptance of Students with Special Educational Needs in Kindergarten?

Despite promoting inclusive education,  it remains unclear what is the most influential factor that may reduce teachers' resistance to and increase their advocacy of inclusive education. Kindergarten teachers in Hong Kong were surveyed on three factors (their knowledge about policies regarding inclusive education, efficacy in teaching in inclusive settings, and government initiatives) that might influence. To read the full text of the study, please click here.


"What’s the Point of Teaching Math in Preschool?"

Twenty years ago few preschools (or parents, for that matter), paid much attention to teaching mathematics to four-year-olds. In 1998, for example, only four percent of a nationally representative sample of American children entering kindergarten could add or subtract.  Read more here.


The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley has released a new report which includes a state-by-state comparison of wages from 1997-2013 for child care workers, preschool teachers, and kindergarten teachers, and data about participation rates in selected public support programs among child care workers and their family members.  Read more here.

national governors association

The NGA Center for Best Practices has released a new issue brief -  Unlocking Young Children’s Potential: Governors’ Role in Strengthening Early Mathematics Learning - highlighting research showing that early math ability is a strong predictor of later success.

white house

A new report, The Economics of Early Childhood Investments, released by the Council of Economic Advisers shows that every $1 invested in early education today can save more than $8 in the future, by increasing graduation rates and earnings, and reducing violent crime. The report also shows that improving access to high-quality, affordable child care results in increased rates of employment and higher incomes for working parents -- especially working moms.

Child Trend

The Evidence Base Builds for Raising A Reader Program

A new report from Child Trends, Connecting the Dots, examines the evidence base for Raising A Reader, a national parent engagement and early literacy program. Child Trends reported that the findings from these studies constitute a strong emerging evidence base for Raising A Reader’s effectiveness in improving parent-child reading activities and behaviors and for improving children’s reading skills. Read more here.

PLOS logo

A new study released last week from researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development found that training teachers to encourage kindergarten pupils to engage in structured play produces improved scores in reading, vocabulary, and math that continue into first grade.  Read more here.


The National Association of Early Childhood State Specialists in State Departments of Education (NEACS-SDE)  spent concerted time in 2010 through 2012 to develop its most-recent policy, "The Power of Kindergarten: 10 Policies Leading to Positive Child Outcomes."  Each policy is supported by research and resources that are consistently updated. The Association is currently surveying its members to determine ways in which the kindergarten statement has been used, or is planned to be used, to inform policy across the U.S.  Please visit our website to learn more about our Association.


In November 2014, President Obama signed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 into law—the first reauthorization of the federal child care program since 1996.  National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has created a chart that compares the prior version of the law governing the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) with provisions of the reauthorization law.  Read more here.

New America

Last month, the Education Policy Program at New America released Skills for Success: Supporting and Assessing Key Habits, Mindsets, and Skills in PreK-12. In this report, Laura Bornfreund and Melissa Tooley explain why pre-K’s whole-child approach to teaching and learning should continue into elementary and secondary school.  They argue that schools can and should play an important role in fostering children’s skills for success. New America’s Lindsey Tepe also recently released Putting Learning on the Map, which highlights how mapping tools can increase access to educational opportunities. And, for those who were unable to attend last month’s event on the Child Care Staffing Study update, a full video is available here.  

In this issue: 

Voices from the Field

Lisa Klein

Interview with Executive Director Lisa Klein, Alliance for Early Success

By Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks

Steven Hicks: How did you begin your career in early learning?

Lisa Klein: If the question was, “What did you want to be when you grew up?” I would have said a dancer, but alas I had the will, some skill, and not nearly enough talent.  But I think the questions is, “How I got to where I am now.”  I was lucky to have experiences early on that shaped what I wanted to do.  I'm from Kansas.  My mom and her best friend used to volunteer at Menninger Institute, one of the leading psychiatric hospitals in the country and she'd bring me along.  I also did some volunteering at a Head Start Center.  After seeing kids in hospitals or falling far behind in school, I became convinced there was something better to do than removing them from home, classrooms, neighborhoods.  So I went to PhD school in psych and child development.  After a ten year stint doing clinical work with children and families, I figured there had to be something we could do to prevent problems versus trying to remediate them.  I spent a couple of years doing research with children and families and ended up at the Kauffman Foundation.  I spent five years evaluating the impact their grants were having on things like closing the achievement gap and five years leading the grant making in early education.  That led to the Alliance, where I'm lucky to do some similar work and expand on it in new and creative ways.  

SH: What do you see as the roll of the Alliance for Early Success in improving the quality of early learning?

LK: The Alliance is a catalyst that brings together states, national experts, and funding partners who all share the goal of improving state policies for vulnerable young children starting at birth and continuing through age eight.  Our ultimate goal is to improve health, family, and learning outcomes.  Building advocacy capacity to advance policies that promote access to high-quality early learning has been one of our top priorities for the nine years the Alliance has been in operation.  We do this by supporting advocacy, policymaker leadership, and research.  We get to play a great role: supporting partnerships in and across states and national TA expert organizations, and then connecting them all together.  Our Birth Thru Age Eight State Policy Framework lays out best bet policy choices and within that point of view, we ask state advocates and leaders to determine the priorities they work on based on the political, social, and economic context of their state at a given point in time.  One of the things I love about the Alliance is that we have the luxury of being flexible and nimble, more than most traditional foundations or the public sector can be.  We even have a special form of technical assistance that we fondly refer to as Rapid Response – either to seize an unexpected opportunity or fend off an immediate threat to early childhood programs or policies in states.  Examples of advocacy and policy we are supporting in early learning include: access to high quality child care, home visiting, pre-K, quality rating systems, professional workforce development, transition from early learning into K through grade 3, comprehensive data systems, and financing strategies. 

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

LK: We're excited about the opportunities that the President is proposing, which cover the range of what we know is needed to get the kids most at risk for poor outcomes on a path to success.  It doesn't pretend there's a magic pill to cure all ills.  It does recognize that in order for kids facing the most challenges to succeed, it takes a mix of things.  We're excited about movements in Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships, Preschool Development Grants, Home Visiting, and the Children's Health Insurance program (CHIP).  It may not be easy but it is smart, based on child development research, brain science, and economic analyses that show investment in the earliest years can put kids on a path that predicts later school success and in a way that gets the biggest bang for the proverbial limited buck.  We want to seize the momentum that the Administration is leading and that the states have been forging for a long time.  The Alliance focuses on the state level.  We appreciate the Administration's focus on all levels.  Since so much in early childhood flows from the federal level, we support states so they inform good federal policy based on their experiences and so they are ready to implement when the funds are available.  Similarly, we recognize that local practice and policy can inform good state policies, and that these are necessary for sustaining and scaling up strong local programs and services.  We are bi-partisan and it's great to see support for early learning being led by both Republican and Democratic governors, legislators, administrators, education chiefs, mayors, and superintendents.  

Here's a challenge for all of us: let's move beyond agreeing that high-quality early childhood development and learning is a good thing, and take action that makes good on the promise that we know results when we invest early.

Monthly Multimedia

The Department of Education in Zurich, Switzerland has produced new video clips that show parents and educators how to create learning opportunities out of everyday activities like doing the laundry or going to the library.  Learning Opportunities for Children Up to Age Four are available in 13 languages!

invest in us

Visit Invest in US, a new initiative created by the First Five Years Fund, a bipartisan non-profit organization, in partnership with private philanthropic leaders, in response to the President’s call for action. Watch Shakira’s message here.