Publications, Resources, Tools

The Coalition has pulled together an extensive wealth of information on successful early childhood education efforts at the national and local level.  

 Early Childhood Community School Linkages:  Advancing a  Theory of Change

 This new publication highlights the work of the Early Childhood and  Community Schools  Linkages Project and the lessons learned from the  sites (Tulsa, OK; Multnomah County,  OR; and,  Albuquerque, NM) to  advance a Theory of Change for aligning early  childhood learning with  elementary education. This work is grounded in a coherent  rationale and  designates a series of  indicators that demonstrate system-level, setting-  level and individual-level practices to promote  smooth transitions to  early grades and  growth across youth development outcomes for all  children.   

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Building Blocks:
An Examination of the Collaborative Approach Community Schools Are Using
to Bolster Early Childhood Development

By Reuben Jacobson, Linda Jacobson, Martin J. Blank

 Download the full PDF
 Download the Report Summary

 Download Individual Case Studies:

Early Childhood Education - Best Practices (AFT)

The American Federation of Teachers published a report on Early Childhood Education Best Practices, which included a feature on the Community Schools Linkages Project 

 Download the Report

2013 Legislative Session - A rise in P-3 Policies

The Education Commission of the States conducted a scan of enacted policies from the 2013 legislative sessions to caputre the ongoing work that lawmakers across states are engaging in to strengthen their P-3 systems. This report highlights the diversity of policies and innovative ways lawmakers are using to support early childhood programs in the 2013 legislative session.

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Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change
This  video depicts a theory of change from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University for achieving breakthrough outcomes for vulnerable children and families. It describes the need to focus on building the capabilities of caregivers and strengthening the communities that together form the environment of relationships essential to children’s lifelong learning, health, and behavior, especially when they are younger. 

Current research on and analysis of early learning and brain development

From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development,edited by Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips, found that during the first five years of life, children develop rapidly in linguistic and cognitive abilities, as well as social, emotional, and regulatory capabilities. Given this, "a fundamental paradox exists and is unavoidable: development in the early years is both highly robust and highly vulnerable." High-quality early learning experiences both at home and in a center-based setting capitalize on this tremendous growth, while negative experiences—including poverty, abuse, or a lack of access to adequate health care—establish a shaky foundation on which children build. The report called for school readiness programs which focus not only on academic preparedness but also on minimizing disparities among children with different background by the start of school, as well as for policies that support professional development to ensure early intervention and screening opportunities.

Dr. Shonkoff continues to influence the field as director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, whose resources include a guide for policymakers in implementing early education supported by scientific evidence as well as striking resources demonstrating the difference early intervention can make in the development of children who have been exposed to extreme stress in the early years.ReadyNation, an organization of business leaders championing for early childhood educaton, has recently partnered with the Center on the Developing Child to share tools for those outside the field of child development to use this research on early childhood in layperson’s terms.

Federal and/or state policy and programs

State level: In the 2010-2011 school year, 39 states offered state-funded pre-K programs serving 1.3 million preschoolers, according The State Preschool Yearbook from the National Institute for Early Educaton Research (NIEER). The majority of children served—1.1 million—are 4-year-olds, representing 28 percent of the 4-year-old population. This is higher than the 11 percent of 4-year-olds served through Head Start and about equal to the percent served in private child care facilitiies. State-funded pre-K has grown tremendously in the decade since NIEER began tracking it, nearly doubling from the 2001-2002 school year. However, even as more states add and expand programs, per-child spending remains too low to offer a quality program to all children, and programs vary significantly in quality standards.

Since most state-funded pre-K programs are not included in state funding formulas for K-12 education, many are vulnerable to annual budet appropriations, a tough sell in an economic downturn. The Council of Chief State School Offices (CCSSO) published a report profiling chief school offices in 5 states who have pushed to ensure early childhood programs are protected. School chiefs are uniquely positioned to work with a multitude of actors in the early education and K-12 fields in their state to prioritize early education; collaboration across sectors and grades remains key. As reported by the National Governors Association, most states also bring early education advocates from many sectors together through State Early Childhood Advisory Councils, whose growth was encouraged through federal funds in the 2007 Head Start Reauthorization Act. These councils provide an opportunity to bring together state and local representatives of Head Start, pre-K, child care, and older grades to align early learning across sectors as well as ensuring their place in a P-20 system.

Federal level: Historically, the federal government’s investment in early education has been limited to Head Start, an early learning and development program for low-income and at-risk children operated through Health and Human Services. In Fiscal Year 2010, Head Start served about 900,000 children up to age 5, the majority being 4-year-olds. The program’s $7 billion budget is distributed to local providers and contractors to provide services. Local providers must meet a number of rigorous federal standards, Head Start State Collaboration Offices (HSSCO) help provide coordination, cooperation, and support to these local agencies at the state level.

The Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), jointly administed by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services—marks a new entry for the federal government into early education policy. Nine states received a total of $500 million in grants at the end of 2011 particularly focused on developing kindergarten readiness assessments and Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) for use in early learning programs across sectors, including state-funded pre-K and Head Start. An additional $133 million is currently available in the "bridesmaid’s edition" of RTT-ELC—as was done in the original Race to the Top competition in K-12, to only a few states who scored high in the first round but did not receive funding are eligible to compete.
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) also recently created the Office of Early Learning (OEL), a federal office within the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. OEL will be responsible for implementing the RTT-ELC program within the Department of Education and marks an important step in elevating early education policy to a national priority.

While RTT-ELC is the Obama administraton’s key early education initiative, early childhood programs more probably defined stand to benefit from a number of other federal programs, as noted in a recent presentation by Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation. Promise Neighborhoods, a competitive DOE program, encourages communities to develop supportive models around schools, community organizations, and health services using the model of the Harlem Children’s Zone, of which early childhood could be a key component. The Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) is another competitive education program that funds local efforts with a record of success in improving educational outcomes, with the goal of scaling up and sharing these innovative practices. The scoring system for the program does include early childhood education. Finally, the Striving Readers Program seeks to improve reading skills aims to improve reading skills in middle and high school students by utilizing strategies from birth through grade 12. While each applicant focuses on early education to a different degree under these programs, they provide an important opportunity to ensure early childhood education’s place in the greater education spectrum.

Noteworthy efforts (local, state, and national) to promote zero to 8 alignment, school readiness and successful transition from early childhood setting into the early grades

In recent years, "alignment" has become the watchword of early childhood education and care. Efforts to align early childhood programs has taken place on two fronts:
·         Across sectors: Young children are served in a variety of settings before beginning school, often simultaneously, including Head Start settings, state-funded pre-k programs, private child care and preschool programs, or family child care homes. Different regulations are in place for each of these settings, so how can policymakers ensure resources are being utilized to reach all children and ensure they are all ready to start kindergarten?
·         Across grades: Preschool does not have a designated place in the K-12 education system, and care and education programs for even younger children are far removed from this system. Experts agree that reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade is a key predictor of future academic success, as this is the age at which children switch from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" in schoolwork. How can early education programs provide children the basis they need to meet this benchmark by age 8 while still ensuring developmentally appropriate practices for the youngest learners and smooth transitions for families and students to higher grades?
One step toward aligning in both directions has been the previously mentioned RTT-ELC, which embraces a broad definition of early education beyond just preschoolers as well as encourages collaboration and shared standards across sectors. The Center for American Progress offers a number of federal policy recommendations meant to align existing resources and programs to better serve children and families. These include working with states to create coherent early learning standards across programs; priotitizing consistent professional development to ensure all early childhood professionals are serving children in high-quality interactions; and focusing on early learning programs as a key strategy in improving failing elementary schools. A recent webinar from the PreK-3rd Grade National Work Group focused on the difficulties of implementing sometimes multiple sets of standards, particularly given the adoption and implementation of the Common Core Standards for K-12 students in 45 states. While the Common Core standards are not explicitly meant for pre-K and younger students, aligning early learning standards with expectations for early elementary grades can help improve children’s school readiness and provide smoother transitions for families.
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a collaborative state and national initiative, focuses specifically on preparing children to read on grade level by the important 3rd grade milestone. Two-thirds of fourth graders in the U.S. are not reading proficiently; four out of five low-income fourth graders fail on this measure. The Campaign targets three known obstacles: the school readiness gap; chronic absence; and summer learning loss. Early education plays a crucial role in addressing the school readiness gap, and the Campaign notes that a comprehensive alignment  of Pre-K through Third Grade is the best strategy for putting students on track to read on grade level.

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