Nuestra Iniciativa - April 2013 Issue

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Nuestra Iniciativa HeaderApril Issue
Marco Davis, Acting Executive Director of the WHIEEH

Welcome to this month’s issue of Nuestra Iniciativa! We have been humbled by the tremendous positive response the newsletter has received; we hope to continue meeting your expectations, and provide valuable information about education for Hispanics in the United States!

This month’s issue is focused on early learning. In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama issued a challenge to the nation – to make high quality preschool available for every 4-year old child. Now is the time for every child in America to have an opportunity for high-quality early education so that all students arrive at Kindergarten ready to learn.

We hope you enjoy Nuestra Iniciativa. Saludos!

What is Early Learning?

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 life.

Baby Playing with Blocks

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.

Did You Know?

  • 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.
  • Just 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.

Making the Case for Early LearningSecretary Arne Duncan Speaking

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

How to Find an Early Learning Program

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
President Obama on Early LearningPresident Obama Speaking

In this video the President explains why high-quality preschool is the best bang for our education bucks. Learn more about President Obama’s Plan for Early Education for all Americans.

Early Learning Quality Program Checklist

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 curriculum
  • Comprehensive health and related services
  • Effective evaluation and review of programs

Ask the ExpertMr. Modesto Abety-Gutierrez

What 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 learning?

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 ALL children.

Learn more about Modesto Abety-Gutierrez here.

You are the First and Best Teacher

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 the alphabet. 
  • 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 children/families. 
  • 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.

ED's Program SpotlightRace to the Top


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.

The RTT-ELC 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.

Grant Information

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, 2013Read 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.  

ED Budget Briefing on President's Request

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 required.

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.

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Research Studies

Researchers at the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have followed participants from early childhood through adulthood and found that the adults who attended early learning programs in the 1970s, now at age 30, were four times more likely to have earned college degrees; 23 percent of participants graduated from a four-year college or university compared to only 6 percent of the control group. Read more.

The HighScope Perry Preschool Study found that individuals who were enrolled in a quality preschool program ultimately earned up to $2,000 more per month than those who were not. Young people who were in preschool programs were more likely to graduate from high school, to own homes, and have longer marriages. Read more.

Quick Tip

From When cooking, encourage your children to help. For example, if a recipe calls for 3 eggs, ask them to get 3 eggs from the fridge. They will feel like they are helping and counting will help develop their math skills.

This Month in History

In 2008, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared April 2nd to be World Autism Awareness Day. One in 88 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder. For more information about autism, including signs, symptoms, and treatment visit the HHS website.  

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is a time to ensure the social and emotional well being of our children. Tip sheets about parenting and developing strong and healthy relationships with children of all ages can be found here in English (Español). 

Resources You Can Use

US Department of Education Office of Early Learning

National Association for the Education of Young Children | NAEYC  

First Five Years Fund

Zero to Three

Incredible Years

Triple P-Positive Parenting Program

Los Niños Bien Educados

Univision - Preescolar

Test Prep Tips

Throughout April and May, schools administer state standardized tests. Students in grades K-12 will take state based examinations, and many high school students will take college entry exams.  To make sure that your child feels confident on test day, be sure to check out these tips. Tips include: Make sure your child has an organized study space; help your child establish consistent study patterns; and, give your child breakfast the morning of the test.

Types of Aid

Financial aid is money to help pay for college or career school. Aid can come from:

·U.S. federal government,

·state where you live

·college you attend

·nonprofit or private organization


Fill Out the FAFSAFAFSA Video

Watch this video to find out how to fill out the FAFSA.

2013-14 Student Aid Deadlines

Pay attention to the deadlines! There are federal and state deadlines, and your colleges may also have a deadline. Find out what your deadlines are here.

Summer Food Service Program

With summer right around the corner, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking new partners to spread the word and participate in its Summer Food Service Program, which supplies free meals for children when school is out. Learn more.  

14-Year Old Computer ProgrammerVideo of Santiago

Follow this video tale of Santiago Gonzalez, a 14-year-old computer programmer who is fluent in a dozen programming languages and has already designed 15 apps for the Mac, iPhone and iPad. Santiago describes himself as a student who was bored in traditional school settings until his parents found a college ready to take a risk on him. Today he attends Colorado School of Mines as a junior and writes code that is not only functional, but beautiful, like poetry. In the video, this self-proclaimed nerd says learning is "as essential as eating." Watch the video. 


Parent PowerParent Power

Studies of successful schools report that parent involvement is a major factor in their outcomes, including closing the achievement gap between various groups of students. By adopting the principles in this booklet and taking the steps indicated for each age group, you will be able to help your child learn at each step of the way and ensure success in school and in life. View the booklet in English (Español). 


Calling All Kid ChefsLet's Start Cooking!

Submit your favorite healthy lunch recipe for the 2013 Kids' State Dinner at the White House! Learn more

Examples of ExcelenciaCall for Nominations

Examples of Excelencia, a national initiative [by ¡Excelencia!] to identify and promote programs and departments with significant evidence of improving educational achievement for Latino students in higher education, is now accepting nominations. Let them know about efforts making a positive difference for Latino students at the associate, baccalaureate, or graduate levels by submitting your online nomination at

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