Over the next few months, New America and the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) are pleased to rekindle a focus on the early learning opportunities in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with periodic blog posts.

With the passage of ESSA in 2015 came new opportunities for states and school districts to expand early learning access, birth through third grade. Two summers ago, CEELO and New America partnered on the original blog series highlighting how states could incorporate early learning into their ESSA plans and discussing examples from some state plans at the time. From family engagement to teacher and principal professional development to accountability systems, some state leaders included strategies in their state plans taking advantage of the new flexibility afforded and the expanded inclusion of early learning under ESSA.

These plans are of course important as they help establish educational priorities for the state. Implementation, though, is where the rubber meets the road. What programs are states putting into place? What kinds of guidance are states providing to school districts? And, what challenges are state and district leaders running into as they implement?

In this blog series 2.0, CEELO and New America will try to answer these important questions and show what states are doing. We will look at how plans have turned into action and how new ideas from early education experts that didn’t make it into state plans have nevertheless moved ahead. These broader efforts have the potential to become embedded in future state plans and long-term state visions for education.

Additionally, the series will highlight how states are connecting their ESSA work to the planning and early childhood coordination efforts underway with the new Preschool Development Grants (PDG-B-5), authorized under ESSA. Forty-seven states and territories were awarded grants in January to support systems development, alignment, and improvement for all programs serving children birth-to-age-five. The work in these states is well underway with the two major activities: 1) conducting statewide comprehensive needs assessments; and, 2) developing strategic plans for the full system serving children from ages zero to five.

We hope to connect the dots between ESSA and the PDG-B-5 grants that are authorized within the law and find the touchpoints for systemic cohesion and best practices. Please return to the blog often to read about state and district initiatives and innovations. And if you’d like to hallmark an activity or practice in your state that underscores these connections, please fill out this short survey.

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