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Ed. Dept. Releases Guidance on Early-Learning Support in ESSA

ESSA_900x500-thumb-600xauto-19695.jpgIn guidance to states released Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education outlines ways that states and districts can use federal funds to support young learners through the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The guidance notes that early-education support is woven throughout the law, which is the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act. For example, for the first time, the law explicitly allows federal funds to be used to train school administrators in the best ways to support educators who work with students through age 8.

Other early-learning initiatives that can be paid for through federal funds include:

  • Training early-learning teachers to support English-language learners in developing English proficiency and academic readiness;
  • Updating and aligning certification and licensing standards for early-childhood educators, including administrators working with young children from preschool through 3rd grade;
  • Providing support and ongoing training to early-learning teachers on the interactive use of technology for enhancing classroom instruction and reaching out to families;
  • Ensuring regular observations of early-learning classrooms to improve teachers' effectiveness in creating high-quality instructional, social, and emotional climates.

The guidance also describes the new Preschool Development Grant program. The current grant program supports 18 states that are either starting, or improving, their preschool programs.

The grant program started before the new law was passed. And, though states will still have access to money to improve preschool, ESSA limits the federal government's role in creating rules that states must follow to get grant dollars. 

The guidance also notes the law's focus on alignment between child care, preschool programs such as Head Start, and school districts. School districts are required to coordinate with local Head Start programs on transition planning and data sharing, for example. And as states develop their improvement plans, they must show how they are coordinating with Head Start and with child-care providers that provide publicly subsidized programs. 

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