The Importance of Research and Evaluation for Early Learning Programs

The U.S. Department of Education's Early Learning Newsletter

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March 2018: In This Issue

From Acting Directors Sylvia Lyles and Ruth Ryder

Office of Early Learning (OEL) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

Lyles and Ryder official portraits

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

We hope you enjoy March's resource-packed Early Learning newsletter. You will note that much of the information and many of the resources we share this month are related to the importance of research and evaluation, including how they can be used to both develop early learning programs, and inform program improvement and policy decisions along the way. 

We've highlighted lessons learned from states that have been awarded Early Learning Challenge grants, including Georgia's Department of Early Care and Learning, which places much emphasis on its research and evaluation unit. We have also shared resources specifically for states serving our nation's early learners with disabilities, including a new infographic from OSEP's network of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) technical assistance (TA) centers. 

Finally, be sure to check out the new literacy resources we shared below, from the U.S. Department of Education's (ED's) Institute of Education Sciences (IES). They include information on how the evidence base in this field informed the approaches laid out in these latest tools from IES. 

Grantee Spotlight: Georgia's Early Learning Challenge Successes

Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning logo

Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) was the recipient of an Early Learning Challenge (ELC) grant in 2013. The grant has allowed DECAL to focus on building a stronger early care and education system in the state. DECAL has used its ELC funds for projects including

  • improving the quality of early learning programs in four Early Education Empowerment Zones (E3Zs), geographic areas with large numbers or high percentages of children with high needs; 
  • validating the state's quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), Quality Rated;
  • expanding the Georgia home visiting program by creating home visiting and family engagement hubs in each E3Z; 
  • improving Georgia's early learning workforce by engaging institutions of higher learning to increase the success of their early learning-focused students, and helping them to achieve advanced credentials in early childhood education; and 
  • expanding research and data activities that inform program improvement and policy decisions.

We invite you to read more about this work in the "Voices From the Field" article below. You can sign up here to receive updates from DECAL's ELC program, and view other breaking news about DECAL here, including the first report of four from the external validation study of its Quality Rated system.  

Early Learning Updates From ED: OSEP's Early Childhood TA

what TA center should I contact? - follow link for more information

OSEP funds a network of centers tasked with providing resources and TA around the implementation of IDEA. Six of the centers work with state agencies responsible for implementing IDEA's early childhood provisions, IDEA Part C and Part B Section 619. These centers have recently collaborated to develop an easy-to-use infographic outlining their services. As you will see from the infographic, each center focuses on distinct content areas within its work scope. The centers also collaborate closely to ensure states receive the TA and resources necessary to meet their specific needs. 

Resources for You: For Workforce Support, Financing, and More!


Capacity Assessment Tool for Child Care and Development Fund Lead Agencies

Research and evaluation play an important role in helping government agencies make optimal policy, programmatic, and operational decisions. The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS') Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) has released a new tool to support agencies in doing just that. It helps lead agencies under the Child Care and Development Fund to strengthen their capacity, and carry out and use research in their decision-making. 

The tool guides users through a process of 1) reflecting on their agency’s specific strengths and weaknesses related to organizational research capacity, 2) setting priorities for their capacity-building efforts, and 3) articulating outstanding questions the agency has about strengthening organizational research capacity.


On Financing Accessible, Affordable, and High-quality Early Education and Care 

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine logo

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Board on Children, Youth, and Families (BCYF) has recently studied how to fund early care and education for children from birth to kindergarten-entry. Specifically, care and education that are accessible and affordable to families, of high quality, and include a well-qualified and adequately supported workforce, consistent with the vision outlined in this 2015 joint report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.

BCYF's findings on financing are detailed in a new reportTransforming the Financing of Early Care and Education. It concludes that transforming the financing structure for early care and education to meet the needs of all children and families will require greater coordination among financing mechanisms, as well as significant mobilization of funding and other resources across the public and private sectors. 

The report offers specific recommendations for 1) making early childhood education and care more affordable for families, 2) linking funding to high-quality standards, and 3) financing the transformation of the early education and care workforce.

New! Redesigned Preschool Cost Calculator

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) has released the recently redesigned Cost of Preschool Quality & Revenue calculator (CPQ&R). It is a free tool for users to determine costs and identify funding sources related to implementing high-quality preschool programs.


The redesign of CPQ&R makes it easier to use and adapts to specific user questions, with more ways to customize, compare alternatives, and calculate both costs and funding options. Earlier this month, CEELO hosted a related webinar, Financing Quality Preschool. It  provided a virtual tour of the redesigned CPQ&R, including a live demonstration of how to use the tool to answer questions on projecting costs and revenue.

Featured Webinar: On ELC State Workforce Support Systems

National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning logo

We invite you to view a webinar hosted by the HHS-funded National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and LearningTransforming State Workforce Support Systems: Innovations and Lessons Learned from Early Learning Challenge States

It explores how ELC states have used 1) professional development; 2) credentials for specific topics, techniques, and focus areas; 3) workforce data collection; and 4) other supports to improve early childhood education workforce knowledge. This presentation is geared toward state early care and education administrators, Head Start and Early Head Start leadership, and TA managers and providers.


Recommended Research: Early Literacy Guide From IES

IES' What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) recently released a practice guide, Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade. It is divided into four recommendations for improving students’ literacy skills in the early grades. WWC also published two accompanying resources, listed below, that can help parents and caregivers put the guide's recommendations into action outside of the classroom. 

IES What Works Clearinghouse logo

Voices From the Field: Bentley Ponder, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning

Bentley Ponder photo

This month, we had the opportunity to interview Bentley Ponder, the director of research and evaluation for Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL). In the interview, available on the OSERS Blog, Ponder shares his experiences connecting the evidence base with program and policy decisions, and how this can benefit any early childhood system.