Back to the Future

Office of Early Learning January Newsletter 2017 

OEL Banner

Subscribe to our monthly Early Learning at ED newsletter here.

Message from the Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett

Libby with children

Back to the Future

A new year is a time to look forward and backwards. For me this New Year provides an opportunity to reflect on the Administration’s accomplishments. I am honored to have been a part of President Obama’s early learning team.  We have so many accomplishments of which we can all be proud. Here are my top 10:

1.  President Obama.  The President not only hired great leaders who cared deeply about early learning, but he championed the cause as well.  Beginning in his first term, he used the bully pulpit to continually make the case for investing more in our youngest children.  In his second term, he doubled down with his 2013 Preschool for All proposal to his 2015 promotion of affordable high-quality child care.   

    2.  Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC). The administration’s $1 billion investment to support 20 states in designing and implementing cohesive systems of quality early learning programs and services for young children from birth through age five has been an awesome success. The RTT-ELC states have not only significantly increased the number of programs providing high-quality early learning to our most vulnerable children, but have experimented and succeeded with new ways of reaching families, expanding screening, connecting education and health, collecting and using data and measuring children’s status at kindergarten entry.  Most have a more efficient and cohesive governance structure, and all are drastically improving quality.  Forty states applied for these grants, and the states not funded continued to advance their planned early learning reforms. A few bold states are moving toward only providing state and federal subsidies to the highest rated programs.

      3.  The Preschool Development Grants (PDG). Not only are many more children being served in high-quality programs, we were able to establish inclusion of children with disabilities and paying preschool teachers a salary commensurate with K-12 teachers as two of 12 quality standards.  While we are proud of ED’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs for young children, we have been eager to draw more schools into early learning.  PDG did that.  Through PDG, we worked with states as partners, supporting their diverse-delivery models and providing incentives to increase state and local funding for young children.

      4.  Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Our new education law, ESSA, provides more opportunities to expand early learning by reaffirming the use of federal Title I funds to support preschool-aged children and building on the work of the original PDG.   Our non-regulatory guidance discusses how states and LEAs must and might leverage ESSA by expanding early learning programs; promoting coordination in early learning among local communities; aligning preschool with early elementary school; and building the capacity of teachers, leaders, and others serving young children. Read the rest of Libby’s list here. 

      Voices From the Field

      Aaliyah Samuel

      Voices from the Field: Aaliyah Samuel

      “…high-quality early childhood is the remedy for strong, young productive citizens entering not just our workplace and our economy, but really becoming global citizens.”

      Interview with Aaliyah Samuel, Division Director

      National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices’ Education Division

      by Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks

      As Education Division Director, Dr. Aaliyah Samuel focuses on early care and education policies from birth to third grade, aligning early care and education with K-12 policies related to issues such as workforce development, learning standards, assessment, math and early literacy and language development. Read Aaliyah’s interview and others conducted throughout the administration here.

      Preschool Development Grants

      Arizona state flag

      Spotlight on Arizona: Preschool Development Grant and Quality First (QRIS) Collaboration

       Arizona, one of the five Preschool Development Grant (PDG) – Development states, provided 3,024 slots for four year old children in 27 high-need communities in 5 counties in 2015. PDG funding was used to increase programs’ participation in Arizona’s quality improvement rating system, Quality First, adding 41 new providers. Quality First and the Arizona Department of Education are working collaboratively to support PDG programs to deliver high-quality services through the provision of coaching and technical assistance and targeted professional development. 

      RTT-ELC:  Program Spotlight

      Illinois map

      Through the Early Childhood Educator Preparation Innovation (EPPI) grants, Illinois enabled 20 partnerships of two- and four-year institutions to further develop models for early childhood educator preparation and build capacity in key areas.  Recipients used grant funds to design and implement a wide range of seamless pathways for degree and credential attainment through innovative articulation initiatives, systems for aligning assessments of key competencies, and strategies for supporting transfer students.

      Technical Assistance


      Every Student Succeeds Act and Opportunities to Prioritize Early Learning Policy: State Scan. 
      CEELO is conducting ongoing reviews of all 50 states’ department of education websites to identify the following: state pages devoted to ESSA information; state timelines for the development of state plans; strategies to gather public input and communicate and engage stakeholders; and, specific examples of ways that early childhood stakeholders are involved in state plan development. This information is based on a scan of public information and has not been vetted with state leaders. Check back frequently for updates.

      CEELO’s new ESSA resource,  A Supplemental Tool for Structuring Your Plan for Preschool to Third Grade, was developed to complement CCSSO’s tool for chiefs, as state and local leaders develop their plans.  The tool provides a number of questions to ensure that preschool to third grade is elevated as a priority.  Two critical decisions are:

      • Will your state plan have a theory of change, vision or principles that prioritizes the importance preschool to Grade 3 to achieve the goals outlined in the plan?
      • Will your state establish a specific section in the state plan for early learning and/or address evidence-based strategies for preschool to Grade 3 throughout the plan?

      CEELO Director Lori Connors-Tadros recently was featured in Education Week article on incorporating PreK to Grade 3 education into ESSA state plans.  


      Preschool Development Grant (PDG) TA December Newsletter Focuses on Inclusion

      December’s edition of the PDG TA quarterly newsletter features articles on the resources and strategies for including children with special needs in preschool classrooms. Drs. Barbara Smith (University of Colorado) and Erin Barton (Vanderbilt University), national experts, share findings from a 2014 survey on Inclusion and recommendations to meet the challenges identified. The newsletter highlights the work Illinois is doing to support children and families with special needs and summarizes Preschool Development Grant states’ efforts in this area. View the newsletter (and archived issues)  here and sign up to receive future issues.

      View January’s archived Preschool Development Grant TA webinars 

      Two informative webinars, sponsored by Preschool Development Grant (PDG) TA’s Communities of Practice, were offered in early January, 2017. They are available on the PDG TA's Communities' website:   Teaching Your Duel Language Learners: A New Look at Planning Environment and Supporting Young Children:  Addressing Poverty, Promotion Opportunity, and Advancing

      Register  for the Upcoming Webinar:  Strengthening Families™ through Early Childhood Education, Part 1

      Do you want to know more about the Big Ideas behind the Strengthening Families™ approach? Do you want concrete examples of the Five Protective Factors and what implementation support looks like at a teacher, program and systems level? Join Cailin O’Connor and Anna Lovejoy from the Center for the Study of Social Policy for this overview of Strengthening Families™. Designed for any early childhood professional who develops family engagement programming or works directly with families, this PDG TA Family Engagement Community of Practice webinar will be held on Thursday, February 16 from 3:00-4:00 pm ETRegister here


      State Technical Assistance Resource (STAR): Coordination of Monitoring Systems for Early Care and Education

      This State Technical Assistance Resource (STAR) provides a high-level summary of the March 2016 research brief, Coordinated Monitoring Systems for Early Care and Education, prepared by Child Trends for the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

      Early Learning at ED

      Ed Seal

      ED Announces $3 Million in Pay for Success Preschool Pilots

      The U.S. Department of Education announced grant awards of more than $3 million to eight government organizations for Preschool Pay for Success feasibility pilots that will support innovative funding strategies to expand preschool and improve educational outcomes for 3- and 4-year-olds. These grants will allow states, school districts and other local government agencies to explore whether Pay for Success is a viable financing mechanism for expanding and improving preschool in their communities in the near term.

      i3 grantee in California works to Boost Performance of English Learners

      Leading with Learning works to establish positive and culturally and linguistically responsive learning environments, which we see as the foundation for all learning. Without this foundation, none of the work we are doing to promote educational equity for our students can grow deep roots, which is why it is one of the four big areas of classroom advocacy for ELs that we focus on in the project.  Read more here.

      ED & HHS

      New P-3 Resource

      ED and HHS released a new resource to explore how educators might build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool.  A new case study of five programs examined two types of promising strategies to support children’s learning in early elementary school: (1) aligning instruction from preschool through grade 3, and (2) differentiated instruction.  

      International News

      Early Education

      Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage

      Development Matters was produced by Early Education with support from the United Kingdom Department for Education. It is non-statutory guidance which supports all those working in early childhood education settings to implement the requirements of the Statutory Framework for the EYFS.

      Federal Agencies at Work

      White House Logo

      Council Releases New Brief on Economic Challenge for Families

      On December 23, the Council of Economic Advisers released a new Issue Brief documenting the economic challenges faced by many American families with children under the age of five.. A blog summarizing the brief is here.  

      New MBK Capstone Report Released

      The White House released a new capstone report with updates about projects launched and local progress made in response to the Administration’s Rethink Discipline efforts. Rethink Discipline was launched as part of President Barack Obama’s My Brothers’ Keeper initiative and aims to support all students and promote a welcome and safe climate in schools. The full report is available HERE.


      New Online resource from NASA and USDA

      Expeditionary Skills for Life will feature lessons and content built around the skills needed to become an astronaut that also help students succeed across the board. In a video on the site, Whitson highlights the new program that will be available to the public in four sets of learning activities posted monthly from January – April 2017 during her current mission on the International Space Station. These will contain age-appropriate activities for elementary, middle and high school age youth. The curriculum pairs Whitson’s stay on the ISS with monthly themes such as teamwork, leadership and self-care.

      Early Learning in the News

      studer community institute

      Helping Parents Bridge the Early Learning Gap

      Whether rich or poor, black or white, urban or rural, most parents love their children, have high hopes for them and want all best the world has to offer for success in their young lives.  Unfortunately, parental knowledge and skills are not equal and too many fall short in offering the tools and training their children need to succeed in school and in life. Read more here.

      Research, Studies and Reports

      Child Trend

      It Matters – Early School Readiness

      School readiness, a multi-dimensional concept, conveys important advantages. Children who enter school with early skills, such as a basic knowledge of math and reading, are more likely than their peers to experience later academic success, attain higher levels of education, and secure employment. Absence of these and other skills may contribute to even greater disparities down the road. Read More

      Resources You Can Use

      The Atlantic

      The Playground Where Babies Learn to Talk

      The Atlantic published a piece which highlights Too Small to Fail’s work to incorporate talking, reading, and singing prompts into new playgrounds across the country, as well as our community based work with trusted messengers throughout Oakland.

      Urban institute

      Combatting Instability

      The Urban Institute has released a  paper highlighting key findings, an introductory blog, and a landing page pulls together the broad body of research on the support action needed to stabilize children and their families.

      National Farm to School Network

      New Farm to ECE Resources and Webinar

      Social Impact Advisors, in partnership with the National Farm to School Network and the BUILD Initiative, recently developed a series of case studies on the emerging benefits of Farm to early care and education initiatives. These case studies, along with the accompanying policy report, explore the policy and practice of bringing farm to early learning programs to vulnerable children and families.


      Professor Heckman and his colleagues at the University of Chicago and University of Southern California Schaeffer Center released new research that presented a 13% ROI on early childhood programs, a substantial increase from the 7 - 10% of previously calculated data.  Read more here.

      New America

      Education Agenda 2017: Top Priorities

      Widespread disparities are festering between students from high-income and low-income families; racial justice is still wanting; and linguistic diversity is still seen as a challenge instead of an opportunity. To reform this system, New America’s Education Policy program recommends that leaders in the new administration, members of Congress, and state and local policymakers turn their attention to 10 important actions.

      Princeton University
      brooking institute

      Starting Early: Education from Prekindergarten to Third Grade

      In October, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released their latest issue of The Future of Children—Starting Early: Education from Prekindergarten to Third Grade, which examines the evidence for prekindergarten’s effectiveness, the basis it sets for subsequent learning, and the integration with Kindergarten to third grade education. Insights as to what policymakers might do to strengthen preschool education, as well as sustain its benefits through the early elementary grades are also provided 


      New State(s) of Head Start Report Shows Inequities

      NIEER’s groundbreaking report examines Head Start and Early Head Start data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six territories for 2014-2015, as well as historical data from 2007 to 2015. Despite the fact that Head Start is a federally funded, national program, the report reveals that access to Head Start programs, funding per child, teacher education, quality of teaching, and duration of services all vary widely by state.

      Monthly Multimedia

      The Center for Early Childhood Education

      Document Children’s Learning

      Documenting how children are learning is an important activity for early childhood professionals to engage in on a regular basis. In e-clip #10, Judy Harris Helm of Best Practices, Inc. discusses why documentation is so critical and identifies some of the different purposes of documentation. See supporting materials and related videos here.

      Last Word

      President Obama with future doctor

      Obama’s Legacy for Children and Families

      As part of a TalkPoverty series on the Obama legacy, Olivia Golden addresses the Administration’s policy successes for children and families in five key areas: health insurance, child poverty, disparities for children of color, fair wages and working conditions, and federal investments in children and families. She cautions, however, that “the ideas currently proposed by leaders in Congress and the President-elect’s transition team would tear apart not only President Obama’s successes but also the core of our safety net.”