Early learning is the support period of development and
learning from birth through third grade.
These early years are critical in creating the cognitive, physical, and
social-emotional foundation children need for success in school and in
High-quality early learning experiences set children on a pathway to success in school and in life. Brain
research indicates that the period from birth to the age of five is the most critical period in a child’s development. Early learning supports the development of cognitive skills, but also teaches children self-discipline, empathy, and the ability to work in
groups. These factors are crucial in facilitating social-emotional development and academic
success of children.
- On average, children from low-income
families start kindergarten 12 to 14 months behind their peers in
pre-reading and language skills.
- Latino children represent the largest
segment of the early childhood population in the nation but are less
likely than any other group to be enrolled in early education programs.
20% of Hispanic three- to five-year olds were enrolled in full-day
preschool in 2010.
- High-quality early education offers the
highest rate of return with some studies projecting a return of $7 for
every $1 spent by reducing the need for special education and welfare, crime
and delinquency and also by increasing employment and earnings, and ultimately increasing international competitiveness.
- The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds
enrolled in full-day preprimary programs increased from 32 percent in 1980
to 58 percent in 2010. Read more.
Secretary Arne Duncan attended the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative
Summit on March 19, opening the America’s
Greatest Investment: Educating the Future plenary session. While he
celebrated the educational successes in the Hispanic community, he focused on key
components of President Obama’s call for universal high-quality early
education. Read more.
There are a wide range of
programs to suit the individual needs of children. Here are a few places you
can start your search:
- Since 1985, the National Association for the Education
of Young Children's (NAEYC) national voluntary accreditation system has
set professional standards for early childhood education programs and
helped families identify high quality programs for their young children.
Find a NAEYC-Accredited program serving young children here.
- Many states now have a state system that rates early
learning programs based on quality. Check to see if your state has a QRIS
system (Quality Rating and Improvement System). Get more information here.
In this video the President explains why
high-quality preschool is the best bang for our education bucks. Learn more
Obama’s Plan for Early Education for all Americans.
Use this list as a guide when looking for a high quality
early learning program. Does the program include components such as:
- Well-trained teachers, who are paid comparably
to K-12 staff
- Small class sizes and low adult to child ratios
- Good teacher-child interactions
- A developmentally appropriate, research-based
- Comprehensive health and related services
- Effective evaluation and review of programs
aspect of early childhood education are you most passionate about?
Early Care and Education sets the foundation for life-long learning. Nurturing,
loving parenting, preventive health care and quality child care greatly
increase our chances of growing children who are strong, confident,
self-assured, resilient, kind, compassionate, social and cooperative. These
non-cognitive abilities are most important. By the time a child is five years
old, brain research tells us that 90% of his/her brain is fully formed. I am
very moved by the impact of early learning on a child’s confidence. Children
develop their sense of self, knowing they are important to the world in these
early years. Young children have always been my favorite people. I have always
been drawn to the honest, free, curious nature of children and the role of
quality education as a driving force of empowerment.
Have you found parents to voice specific concerns when it comes to early
Parents are children's first and strongest teachers. We as a nation need to
better support that most important of roles. When I speak to parents of young
children a main concern is their child’s behavior. Studies reveal that children
in middle class and more affluent homes have heard some 30 million more words
by age five than children from lower income households. Expressive
language/vocabulary is most important to young children. Behavior issues may
stem from children not being able to communicate what they are feeling. This
too often results in frustration and temper tantrums. It is important to give
children an opportunity to engage, speak, express themselves and be heard.
If there are parents not enrolling their child in early learning programs
because of the cost, what would you tell them?
Child care subsidies and Head Start programs are far from full funding.
"We need to change that", I say to parents and tell them that every
activity is an opportunity for your child's learning! When you ask children
questions about their surroundings and engage them in their environments, they
will learn. Ask them to describe the colors of what they're wearing or ask them
to identify an object s/he uses daily. I tell them to look at signs and
shapes together while they are driving. When you get to the grocery store engage
in discussion. READ to your children; at least 20 minutes everyday! Another
important component is asking children about their feelings. This
acknowledgment of emotion will contribute to the child’s self-awareness and
their ability to empathize.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
YES! I am so proud to be working in this field when the President of the United
States is taking such unprecedented steps to shine a light on the importance of
quality Early Care and Education and our need to create universal access for
Learn more about Modesto Abety-Gutierrez here.
Below are examples
of things you can do at home to help develop your child’s
early learning skills:
- Decorate your child’s room with letters of
- Provide them with educational toys such as
flashcards, puzzles, and blocks.
- Read with them daily.
- Take them to children’s museums, nature
trails, and the library for reading aloud sessions.
- Organize play dates with other
- Watch television and movies together
and talk about them.
- Educational videos and songs are useful, along
with play and experience.
- If your native language is not English, promoting
a learning environment in your native language is still very important.
Your child will develop a diverse vocabulary in the native language, which
will serve as an advantage when they learn English.
An important aspect of early learning development is your child’s
health. A healthy diet and physical activity are very important, in addition to
doctor and dentist visits. If you would like to read more about ways you can
engage yourself in your child’s early learning development, check out this brochure.
RACE TO THE TOP – EARLY LEARNING CHALLENGE
The quality of early learning settings varies greatly, and despite some
progress, early childhood education programs are held to inconsistent standards
among and within states.
Recognizing that high-quality early education is an investment that
pays off for years to come, the Obama administration extended the Race to the
Top program. The new Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) invests
in states that are ready to take dramatic steps to improve the quality of their
early childhood programs for young children by increasing the number and
percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children in each age group of
infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are enrolled in high-quality early
learning programs; and design and implement an integrated system of
high-quality early learning programs and services.
rewards states that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning
systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards and meaningful
workforce development. ED plans to have another RTT-ELC competition in FY13.
4th Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Competition
An invitation has been issued for pre-applications for the “Development” grant category. This year’s competition incorporates
several improvements to support school districts and non-profit organizations
partnering with schools to develop and expand innovative practices that
accelerate student achievement and prepare every student to succeed in college
and their careers. The deadline for the pre-application is April
26, 2013. Read more.
Note: ED's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) is seeking individuals
from various backgrounds and professions to serve as peer reviewers for the
competition. Learn more.
School Improvement Grants (SIG)
Secretary Arne Duncan announced that 10 more states will
receive funding to turn around persistently lowest-achieving schools under the
School Improvement Grants Program. Awards are being made on a
rolling basis. To date, 21 states have been approved to receive SIG
funding. Learn more.
The U.S. Department of Education will hold a
briefing on the President's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request Wednesday, April 10, starting at 1:30 PM in the
Department Auditorium (400 Maryland
Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC, 20202). Reservations are not
For security purposes, attendees are reminded
to bring a photo ID and a business card. As in previous years, attendees
are requested to enter the Department on the C Street side of the building
(across from the McDonald’s), go through the magnetometers, and show their
photo ID to the guards. However, instead of signing-in at the Front Desk,
attendees will be directed to the auditorium's rear doors, where they will be asked
to submit a business card OR record their name, organization, and
contact information on a sign-in sheet.
If you are unable to attend in person, we
will be live streaming the briefing. To watch the briefing, go here.
No registration is required.
Nuestra Iniciativa was written with the help of interns from the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics: Jessica Maynard, California State University, Fullerton; Sharon Perez-Ferreras, University of Maryland; Marisa Tersy, Georgetown University; Priya Verma, Georgia Institute of Technology.
To learn how you can become an intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, go here. To become an intern with the U.S. Department of Education, go here.
Nuestra Iniciativa contains links to other websites and news articles. These links represent just a few examples of the numerous reference materials currently available to the public. The opinions expressed in any articles or web pages do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education or the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The inclusion of resources should not be construed or interpreted as an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education or the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics of any private organization or business listed herein.