April 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

New U.S. Department of Education Guidance on ESSA and Early Learning

tnThe U.S. Department of Education released non-regulatory guidance as its first comprehensive look at how the nation’s new education law, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), supports the youngest learners. President Obama signed ESSA into law in December 2015.

This guidance is intended to remind state and local decision-makers about the opportunities available under the new law to strengthen early education, and to provide examples of how states and local communities can support young children’s success in school. This document highlights how those decision makers can expand access to high-quality early learning, encourage alignment and collaboration of early learning programs from birth through third grade, and support early learning educators.

Toddler Reading at the Library“Expanding High-quality early learning opportunities helps close achievement gaps because it gives all children—no matter their zip code—a strong start,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a statement. Strong early learning programs help to narrow achievement gaps between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers, which are detectable as early as nine months of age.

Early learning is woven throughout ESSA, as a means of addressing educational equity, supporting students’ school success, and bringing greater alignment along the entire education continuum. It also authorizes Preschool Development Grants to ensure more students across the country have access to high-quality preschool.

In 2013, President Obama put forth his Preschool for All proposal to establish a federal-state partnership that would provide high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. Today 46 states and the District of Columbia invest in preschool programs.


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