- National Association of State Boards of Education, Early Childhood Education Network
With funding from the Foundation for Child Development,the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) initiated an effort in March 2001 to help states increase their ability to create integrated, high quality early childhood education policies, and programs and services to support school achievement for children with and without disabilities.(58) The framework emphasizes quality standards to ensure readiness to learn, comprehensive and integrated early education services, a results-based orientation that involves data management systems, professional development, structures to increase access and equity, and funding approaches that maximize resources.
With foundation funding, the NASBE Early Childhood Education Network provided seed grants to six states. Though the grant amounts were small, they allowed states to move forward with plans for developing a comprehensive and integrated early childhood education system and to evaluate the results. For example,
- Wyoming worked to develop a data collection system to support systems building and to collect baseline data using a kindergarten readiness survey that will be used, in part, to configure the delivery of professional development in the state.
- Louisiana created an interagency group to develop a long-term vision for early childhood education.
- Kansas activities focused in part on developing a common definition of school readiness across agencies that administer early childhood programs, and developing and implementing a single set of standards and indicators for Head Start programs, child care, and services and programs provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).(59)
- Illinois formed a committee that included state education board members, representatives from Head Start, the Department of Child and Family Services, and the state Department of Health and Human Services. The committee worked together to determine how best to support and expand services for children with disabilities.
- Massachusetts assessed how preschool and child care initiatives interface with Parts B and C of IDEA . The state is working to broaden its vision of a comprehensive early childhood education system to include private daycare and other providers and to expand its concept of comprehensive infrastructure to include children with and without disabilities.(60)
- Ohio conducted a hearing under the Commissioner of Education to highlight issues central to providing quality education and care services to children with and without disabilities.
The hearing will be the basis for an iterative process of formulating state policy and coordinating early childhood initiatives across programs, such as providing technical assistance and training to all Head Start, preschool, and child care providers who serve young children with special needs.
- Trust for Early Education
The Trust for Early Education (TEE) was founded in 2002 with a multi-million dollar grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which remains the primary sponsor.(61) The goal of the TEE is to help every child, regardless of income or background, gain access to a high quality pre-kindergarten education. A primary focus of their efforts is supporting collaborations to develop comprehensive early childhood education systems. For example, TEE awarded a planning grant to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to support a partnership between DPI and the early childhood community. Wisconsin offers school districts the option of providing four-year-old kindergarten. Almost half of the school districts operate kindergartens with a growing number of districts interested in collaborating with child care and Head Start. Expanding collaborative approaches to preschool is a top priority. With the planning grant, the partnership will: (1) study the communities that have successful collaborative preschool programs; (2) share models with remaining school districts; and (3) build public support for expanding collaborative approaches.
As part of their broader work in early childhood, the Pew Charitable Trusts supports a network of nonprofit organizations in a small number of states in developing effective policies to create systems of early education.(62) Funds go to states with a history of investment in early education, and leaders interested in working toward universal, voluntary early education.
- Council of Chief State School Officers
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has embarked on a set of actions under the Early Childhood and Family Education Initiative to improve coordination across early childhood programs, the quality of early childhood education, and access to pre-kindergarten. The Initiative stems from the Council’s policy statement on early childhood and family education, which was adopted unanimously in 1999 and conveys the Council’s commitment to ensuring that every child has the opportunity for high quality early care and education and to supporting school systems in each state in reaching high standards of performance and preparing each child to succeed as a productive member of a democratic society. The project is supported by a $240,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts and includes the following activities.
- The Building a Cadre of Champions project is designed to promote leadership for quality early childhood education among its member superintendents and commissioners. The CCSSO is enlisting a group of chief state school officers with strong records of support for early education to oversee and advise the project and to serve as national, regional, and state spokespersons for expanded quality and access to early childhood education.
- The CCSSO is developing a communications strategy that includes producing and disseminating evidence-based reports, research, and resources on early education through a variety of print and electronic media. The materials emphasize key issues affecting early education, and profiles of effective state policies, practices, and individual efforts to link preschool with the K-12 system.
- The Early Childhood Education Assessment (ECEA) Consortium, initiated in 2000, works to give decision makers guidance on appropriate assessment systems to support high quality learning opportunities for young children. The consortium’s focus is on early learning and developmental outcomes, appropriate assessment, program evaluation, and using data for system accountability. The consortium assists states in addressing issues related to the development of children from birth through age eight years, and delivers this information to educators, caregivers, policy makers, parents, and the general public. Participants include state assessment and early childhood staff, representatives from key early childhood education organizations, researchers, and expert consultants from the field.
- The Mid-Atlantic Early Childhood Education Network is the result of collaboration between the CCSSO and the Temple University’s Mid-Atlantic Laboratory for Student Success (LSS). The principal focus of this collaboration is to strengthen the capacity of state education agencies to foster state and local early childhood education-elementary school partnerships in the Mid-Atlantic region. The broader goal is to promote universal access to quality early childhood programs for all three and four-year-olds. The network supports five states in planning early learning systems and developing local partnerships that promote learning and increase the public’s understanding of research evidence on the importance of quality early childhood education to children’s school and life outcomes.
- The CCSSO provides technical assistance to the School Readiness Indicators Initiative. This 17-state project spearheaded by Rhode Island Kids Count is developing state-based indicators of school readiness with funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.State teams work individually and as a group to develop a comprehensive set of measures to monitor school readiness and service system outcomes for children and families. National meetings of states’ team representatives provide support on developing indicators, resolving conceptual, data and technology issues, and developing communications strategies. Residency roundtables, which involve state leaders and field experts, are convened two to four times a year to focus on the most pressing conceptual challenges.
- National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures
The National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures provide ongoing support through a variety of activities to assist governors and legislators in building early childhood capacity. Projects and activities help build state capacity, provide technical assistance and build leadership.(63)