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Advancing Early Learning & Equity in a New Federal Learning Agenda

Start Early and partners call on U.S. Department of Education to embed early learning and equity in its new learning agenda.

Nadia Gronkowski September 17, 2021
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently invited input on its Fiscal Year 2022-2026 Learning Agenda, a series of research questions that will guide the agency’s research in the years ahead. Start Early led a group of national, state and local early childhood organizations in submitting a joint comment encouraging ED to fully align early childhood education with K-12 systems and center equity in this guiding document.

The comment offered eight guiding principles that Start Early and its partners encourage ED to use to create a learning agenda that helps establish a continuum of high-quality education services from birth through grade 12. The goal of the recommendations was to not only advance comprehensive, aligned services for young children, but also to honor the expertise, goals and desires of their families and early learning providers to set the stage for success in school and in life.

Start Early and its partners also collectively recognize that advancing equity in educational access, use, participation and outcomes for young children and their families is inextricably tied to working for equity and justice for people of color and communities that have been under-resourced and divested from. We encourage ED to view its learning agenda as a critical tool for driving equity in early learning.

We recommend that ED:

  • Promote early learning as foundational to K-12.
  • Prioritize research on early childhood to K-12 transitions, particularly for children with disabilities and developmental delays, dual-language learners and other priority populations.
  • Integrate the needs of priority and historically under-resourced populations throughout the learning agenda and collect data disaggregated by race/ethnicity, language and income level for child- and family-facing services.
  • Integrate early childhood providers into studies on workforce needs and development.
  • Value lived experience and family expertise.
  • Value community collaborations and systems.
  • Disseminate data and research findings in ways that promote equity and continuous quality improvement for programs.
  • Create a joint learning agenda with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Read the full joint comment

The Start Early Policy Agenda emphasizes the need for comprehensive, equitable early childhood systems that provide all children and their families with access to an uninterrupted continuum of high-quality services from before birth through age 5. Aligning those services with K-12 education is fundamental to supporting family success. Assessing how our systems serve communities and populations that have historically been under-served and under-invested in is critical to ensuring that the many exciting federal opportunities on the horizon for the early care and learning field are realized equitably. We are grateful to the ED for the opportunity to comment and look forward to their ongoing partnership with the early childhood community.

We are also grateful to our 44 partners — national organizations and state and local organizations from 16 states and Washington, D.C. — who signed onto this joint comment:

National Organizations: American Federation of Teachers; Attendance Works; Bank Street College of Education, Learning Starts At Birth; Child Care Aware® of America; Committee for Economic Development; The Educare Learning Network; The Education Trust; First Five Years Fund; First Focus on Children; National Association for Family Child Care; National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education; National Workforce Registry Alliance, Inc.; New America Early & Elementary Education Policy Program; Parents as Teachers; Start Early

State & Local Organizations: Alaska: Alaska Children’s Trust | California: Child360; Early Edge California | Colorado: Clayton Early Learning; Colorado Children’s Campaign | Connecticut: The Connecticut Association for Human Services | Florida: United Way Miami | Georgia: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students | Idaho: Idaho Business for Education; United Way of Southeastern Idaho | Illinois: Children’s Home and Aid; Erikson Institute; Latino Policy Forum; Legal Council for Health Justice; Metropolitan Family Services; Prevent Child Abuse Illinois; Synapse Early Learning Systems; YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago; YWCA Metropolitan Chicago | Louisiana: Louisiana Policy Institute for Children | Maryland: Maryland State Family Child Care Association | Missouri: Kids Win Missouri | Montana: Zero to Five Montana | Ohio: Action for Children | Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children | South Dakota: Coeur Wharf Resources (a partner of United Way of the Black Hills); United Way of the Black Hills | Texas: First3Years | Washington, DC: Educare Washington, DC; House of Ruth

Read the U.S. Department of Education’s original call for input.

About the Author

Nadia Gronkowski Headshot

Nadia Gronkowski

Program Manager, Advocacy & Policy

As program manager of advocacy and policy, Nadia Gronkowski supports the creation and execution of Start Early’s systems change and federal advocacy strategies.

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