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.