A Moment in Time

Office of Early Learning April Newsletter 2015 

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Message from the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett


A Moment in Time

Last week, the entire Senate Democratic Caucus sent a letter to the Senate HELP Committee leaders highlighting what we’ve known for years: States need and want the Federal government as a partner in expanding high-quality preschool and strengthening the preschool through grade twelve education continuum in ESEA. Nearly twenty civil rights groups and education advocates released shared civil rights principles for the reauthorization of the education law, calling for access to early childhood education for all economically disadvantaged children and those with disabilities. For their part, the Chiefs—state education leaders of public education systems in each state—have put equitable access to early childhood education in their key ESEA priorities

But not everyone believes that adding early education to ESEA would be a plus: one key leader said adding early learning to ESEA would be like "hooking a wagon to a bus” and that it would be hard "to get both ofthem moving at the same time." This comment demonstrates that we must still show how high-quality early learning strengthens the entire pipeline. Early learning is the extra horsepower the bus needs to get everyone to thecollege/career finish line. 

Across the nation access to high-quality preschool is uneven.In cities like Seattle, Fresno, Denver, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Cleveland, Tulsa, Boston, and New York City, mayors and other community leaders are stepping up to ensure that children have access to high-quality early education.But in other cities—and especially in rural communities—many children will enter kindergarten without the benefit of a high-quality preschool education. 

This fall, 33,000 additional four-year olds will enroll in high-quality preschool thanks to Congress’ investment in the Preschool Development Grants—and many more will enroll because of state and local initiatives. But that is barely going to make a dent for 2.4 million four-year olds who don’t have access to publically-funded preschool programs.All three of my granddaughters have had the opportunity to attend high-quality preschool programs in Austin, and I have watched them flourish.That shot for success and strong early learning foundation is what we want for all our nation’s children.President Obama has said that high-quality preschool is not just a nice thing to have for America’s families, it’s a “must have.” Let’s give the bus that extra early learning horsepower boost so that more children cross the finish line.

Voices From the Field

Amy Dawson Taggart

by Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks


Interview with Amy Dawson Taggart

National Director, Mission: Readiness

Vice President, Council for a Strong America


“Research clearly shows that early learning works. So, it’s not about whether we should have it or should not have it. But, rather how should early learning work and what are the national commitments to making sure all kids have access to high-quality early education.”

Read more here

Preschool Development Grants

Arkansas state flag


Arkansas’s Preschool Development-Expansion Grant looks to expand high quality preschool opportunities for Eligible Children in 10 High-Need Communities. The State is looking to do this through a number of comprehensive strategies such as improving the quality of the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) preschool program and many of its supporting entities. The outcome of this project will be to serve 3,914 additional children annually in preschool programs that meet the Federal definition of a High-Quality Preschool program. Preschool Development Grant funding will give the State the opportunity to improve the qualifications of ABC lead teachers, classroom quality, enrollment diversity, and child outcomes. Read about Arkansas

and the other Preschool Development Grant states here.

RTT-ELC:  Program Spotlight

vermont state map

Vermont Creates Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Fast Facts Flyers for Targeted Audiences
During ELC TA’s recent Strategic Communications Peer Learning Exchange, RTT-ELC States discussed the importance of targeting messages about early childhood for specific audiences. Vermont worked with Building Bright Futures, the State’s public-private early childhood State council, to create a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge webpage.   The Fast Facts section targets messaging by providing simple flyers that help different audiences understand more about Vermont’s RTT-ELC grant, what it will do for them, and why it matters.

Technical Assistance & Evaluation Partner Highlights


Early Childhood Inclusion: Challenges and Strategies from the 2014 Preschool Inclusion Survey

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and the Early Learning Challenge Technical Assistance (ELC TA) program are partnering to host a webinar series focused on supports and resources to promote early childhood inclusion.  The first session highlighted the 2014 Preschool Inclusion Survey, a national survey of hundreds of early childhood and special education administrators and practitioners that aimed to understand the challenges of preschool inclusion and suggest prospective solutions. View a summary of findings here.  


Webinar on Supporting Principal Leadership for Pre-K–3rd Grade Learning Communities

More than 600 principals, superintendents, and other educational leaders from across the country registered for “Supporting Principal Leadership for P – 3rd Grade Learning Communities,” a  webinar sponsored by CEELO, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. Participants learned about revised principal competencies highlighted in NAESP’s Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice and heard from principals and state leaders about the value of taking such an approach to bridge pre-K-5 and K-12 systems. 

Peer Learning Community Resources Available

As part of its Technical Assistance mandate, CEELO has developed and facilitated a number of Peer Learning Communities. There are a number of resources available on the website to assist groups building their own communities. The Peer Learning Community Guide is a comprehensive package of resources outlining considerations from the first step onward. The Peer Learning Communities presentation summarizes highlights from the report in a PowerPoint format. The Professional Learning Academy: Supporting District Implementation of Early Childhood Policy presents information on a Professional Learning Academy model of professional development for district teams and some of the initial impacts of this work on participants. a Planning Tool (Word and PDF) and a Reflection Form available in Word and PDF, outline steps and questions for facilitators planning group sessions, and provide participants with a forum for sharing feedback on their experiences.

Early Learning at ED


Video-on-Demand Children’s TV Programming Now Accessible for Thousands of Children with Visual or Hearing Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education announced the availability of free, video-on-demand children’s television programming for thousands of children who are blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing through the Education Department’s Accessible Television Portal project.  Among the shows are: “Ocean Mysteries,” “Magic School Bus,” “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Expedition Wild” and “Peg + Cat.”  The portal is part of the Department-funded Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP).  It includes video-on-demand content provided at no cost by the major television networks.  To view the content, teachers and school personnel, parents, and other professionals working with qualified children can visit www.dcmp.org and apply for access to the portal.   Once approved, accessible content can be used with, and by, children in the classroom and at home via the Web, mobile phones and tablets, mobile apps, and set-top boxes. The portal itself is fully accessible to those with sensory impairments.

 International News

ready nation logo

ReadyNation announced the submission to the United Nations of a letter from business emphasizing the importance of early childhood development in building the productive workforce of the future. This open letter, signed by 51 business leaders from all over the world highlights how crucial early education programs are to the health of the global economy and to society as a whole. Read more here

Federal Agencies at Work

white house initiative

September 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative). To commemorate this significant milestone, the Initiative launched its “Anniversary Year of Action: Fulfilling America’s Future” to leverage public- and private-sector Commitments to Action (Commitments) that invest in quality education programs and strategies to ensure the educational attainment and outcomes for the nation’s Hispanic community. To learn more about the Commitment to Action criteria and guidance for submitting a proposed Commitment visit www.ed.gov/HispanicInitiativeTo ensure that proposed Commitments will be reviewed and considered for recognition during Anniversary Year of Action September event, please submit your proposed Commitment by June 30, 2015.

USDA logo

Healthy Kids Need Healthy Food to Grow and Thrive

USDA nutrition programs help families gain access to safe, nutritious food. Still many families with children don’t have the security of knowing they will be able to feed their family tomorrow. Further, many families often rely on cheaper, less healthy foods because of financial constraints and transportation issues. Read more here.

Research and Reports

IOM logo

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) released a new report that explores the implications of the science of child learning and development for the professionals who work with children birth through age 8. In the report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, the committee finds that much is known about what professionals who provide care and education for children need to know and be able to do and what professional learning supports they need.  Read more here.


Organizational climate and early learning

Findings from a new study found a significant association between organizational climate in preschool centers and overall classroom quality. The authors suggest that policies should focus less on structural influences on quality in early childhood education and more on process quality and organizational climate.  Read more here.


State-Sponsored PD for ECE Educators;  Who Participates and Future Implications

Theory and research indicate that educators' characteristics play roles in both their own learning and that of children; however, little research has explored who participates in professional development. This studyprovides an in-depth description of the backgrounds and qualifications, positions and settings, knowledge, and beliefs of educators participating in professional development offerings.

Frank Porter

Father's Language Use Affects Children's Achievement 

A new study uses data from the Family Life Project (FLP) to examine predictive relations between fathers' and mothers' language input during a wordless picture book task in the home just before kindergarten entry and children's letter–word identification, picture vocabulary, and applied problems scores at the end of kindergarten.  Read more here.

Resources You Can Use


Every Child Ready, funded through an ED i3 grant

This is a comprehensive instructional model that drives how to teach, what to teach, and how to tell it’s being done to increase teacher effectiveness and children’s learning in early childhood classrooms.  Read more here.


March 31st was National Crayon Day and the National Head Start Association kicked off its partnership with the Crayon Collection to bring repurposed crayons to Head Start Classrooms nationwide. Crayon Collection is a national initiative that collects millions of repurposed crayons from restaurants each year to donate to schools in low income communities.  The kick off was part of NHSA’s celebration of Head Start’s 50thanniversary.

New America

Early Learning in ESEA

New America’s Laura Bornfreund and Conor Williams wrote a series of blog posts on how a newly reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) could better support early learners by incorporating a stronger focus on the pre-K through third grades. They’ve turned these posts into a brief: Moving Young Learners Forward: How to Fix No Child Left Behind. More New America’s early education work is available here on EdCentral.

albert shanker institute

New Resources for Early Childhod Educators


ASI has unveiled a host of new resources for early childhood educators, including: “The Preschool Educational Environment Rating System” by Dr. Susan Neuman; materials for four “Let’s Talk” professional development workshops (excerpted from content area modules on oral language development and early literacy, math, and science), videos portraying the link between early background knowledge and later school success, and much more. Find them here.


Educational Alignment for Young Children

NLC and city officials are working together to align efforts on behalf of young children from birth to age eight that go well beyond the classroom to include strengthening wellbeyond the classroom to include strengthening connections within theircommunities and linking families to a broad range of supports and opportunities that help them thrive. 

Read more here

Child Trends

How to Improve Early Childhood Education Quality

A new report from Child Trends offers a blueprint of quality improvement practices and design considerations based on research findings and input from national experts.

Head Start Data

When linked to other early care and education data systems, datacollected by Head Start programs on their children, program services, and workforce can inform key decisions by state policymakers and guide efforts to improve early childhood programs. This report by theEarly Childhood Data Collaborative. details some of the challenges, successes, and strategies involved with linking Head Start with state data systems.

invest in us

At the  White  House Summit on Early Education on December 10, 2014, President Barack Obama called on business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, elected officials and members of the    public to invest in the expansion of early    childhood opportunities for children across the country through Invest in US, a public awareness campaign launched in partnership with the First Five Years Fund and its philanthropic partners.

Quality early childhood education programs help children grow. Child care. Early learning opportunities. Great preschool programs. See how investments in quality programs pay off for a lifetime. Watch this video from John Legend.  Read more here.

Last Word

graduation rate chart

New data show some positive signs in ensuring every student have the opportunity to succeed, no matter their zip code. Between 2010-11 and 2012-13, the graduation rates for American Indian, black, and Hispanic students increased by nearly four percentage points over two years, outpacing the growth for all students. This also shows that the gap between minority and white students is closing. High-quality early learning programs lead to high graduation rates.