The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law late in 2015, gives state education agencies (SEAs) the opportunity to bring early learning to the forefront of their education strategies.

View key ESSA resources below:

PDG-B5 ResourcesESSA BlogESSA WebinarsCEELO ResourcesExternal Resources

The Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program, as authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), provides states with a significant funding to develop and coordinate their comprehensive early childhood system so that all children and families have equitable access to high-quality programs. The PDG B-5 grants were awarded to 46 states and territories in January 2019.  The grants support states in conducting a comprehensive statewide birth through five needs assessment, developing an early childhood systems strategic plan, increasing parental choice and advancing mixed-delivery of services by expanding and improving provider types and settings.  The current grant period ends in December 2019.

The next round of competition was announced in September 2019 as follows: the PDG B-5 Renewal Grant Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) was published Friday, Sept 20th, and the PDG B-5 Initial Grant FOA was published Tuesday, September 17th.

NEW! Leveraging ESSA Plans in Preschool Development Grant Implementation: Guidance and Recommendations This brief from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) starts by discussing the requirements of the PDG needs assessment and strategic planning process. It then reviews the requirements of ESSA, with some highlights of where early childhood has been or could be a meaningful part of state plans. Following that is a toolkit states can use to ensure that they are harmonizing their PDG strategic plan with their ESSA plan and setting the table for future versions of the ESSA plan to be even stronger on early childhood issues. It concludes by identifying some additional resources that states may find valuable in the process.

Additional useful resources from the US-HHS Administration for Children and Families (ACF) can be found below:

PDG B-5 Background Materials

In the Fall of 2018, the US Departments of Health and Human Services and Education released a Notice of Funding for the Birth to Five Preschool Development Grant (PDG B-5) as authorized in ESSA. Grant proposals were completed and awards were announced January 2019 – 44 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands received funding.

In October 2018, the Build Initiative with CEELO and other partners hosted a technical assistance meeting with state teams intending to apply to the PDG B-5 grant. Resources from the meeting can be found at Build’s meeting landing page – The States Technical Assistance and Peer Learning Meeting and below:

Additional background and supporting materials can be found on the Build Initiative’s PDG B-5 Landing Page – State Preschool Development Grant: Making the Most of It.

See information and resources from CEELO’s previous technical assistance provided to the original Preschool Expansion Grantees.

ESSA BLOG! The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) partnered with New America on a blog series highlighting early learning opportunities and challenges under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Check out the blog posts on the ESSA and Early Learning Blog.

WEBINAR (March 21, 2017 | 3:00-4:30 pm EDT)Leading the Way: How States Are Addressing Early Learning Under ESSA. Cohosted by REL Southwest and the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), this webinar will provide participants with resources, examples, and strategies for including early learning in their ESSA state plans. The intended audience includes state administrators responsible for ESSA state plans and state and district early childhood administrators. State leaders from Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, and Washington will describe their strategies for integrating the following key policy areas that research shows help reduce achievement gaps for young children:

  • Increasing access to high-quality preschool
  • Aligning and coordinating early learning programs from birth to grade
  • Preparing and supporting highly effective teachers and leaders


WEBINAR RECORDING – Recorded on Oct. 2017 and hosted by CEELO and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS-SDE), the webinar included information from the USED Office of Early Learning on the guidance (see below)and views from three states – North Carolina, Colorado and Arizona – on their efforts to strengthen early learning in their ESSA planning.

Early Learning in ESSA – A Marathon Not a Sprint  – The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has provided state education agencies (SEAs) with new and broadened opportunities to bring early learning to the forefront of their education strategies, and to encourage local school districts to do the same. This presentation provided at the February 2019 ESEA Conference by Jana Martella (CEELO) and Danielle Ewen (EdCounsel) discusses the evidence-based early learning initiatives that have emerged as ESSA is implemented across the country and provides advice and recommendations to SEA and LEA leaders on how to seize those opportunities.

Toolkit to Help Schools Coordinate with Early Childhood Education Programs – the National Headstart Association (NHSA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) have released a comprehensive toolkit to help school districts in meeting new federal requirements that they formally partner with Head Start and other early childhood education providers to facilitate the transition of children from early childhood settings to kindergarten.

The State of Early Learning in ESSA: Plans and Opportunities for Implementation, a policy brief from CEELO and CCSSO reviewing state plans submitted to the U.S. Department of Education as of October 1, 2017. The review focuses on three key priorities for early learning in ESSA: 1)Setting clear goals and policy priorities for early learning; 2) Integrating early learning into school improvement; and, 3) Supporting early childhood educator development. The brief brief provides guidance for best practices that can be used or adapted as SEA’s evaluate the effectiveness of their plans as states move deeper into implementation, and includes a chart showing how each state addresses seven areas within their ESSA plans.

Birth to Grade 3 Indicator Framework: Opportunities to Integrate Early Childhood in ESSA CCSSO CEELO Toolkit – This newly developed resource summarizes the evidence supporting an early learning approach to school improvement, explains how early learning could fit within the framework of state ESSA plans, and reviews a list of potential indicators of access, academics, and engagement in early childhood education and considerations for states to integrate those indicators into their plans.

ISBE P-2 Indicator Working Group Report – Drawing from the B-3 Toolkit, CCSSO and CEELO developed seven discussion guides to support The Illinois ESSA Preschool to grade 2 (P-2) Indicator Working Group. The P-2 working group was charged with recommending to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) an indicator or indicators to place weight on the P-2 years in Illinois’ accountability formula in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. The discussion guides provide research, state examples and technical considerations for considering the following indicators in the state’s accountability system. These guides may be useful to other states, and can be adapted with state specific information. For further information or technical assistance contact Lori Connors-Tadros at

Early Childhood Coordination Requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): A Toolkit for State and Local Educational Agencies, Head Start Programs, and the Early Childhood Field – The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Head Start Association (NHSA) have released a comprehensive toolkit to help school districts in meeting new federal requirements that they formally partner with Head Start and other early childhood education providers to facilitate the transition of children from early childhood settings to kindergarten.

Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESSA) and Early Learning: Plans and Opportunities for Implementation shares what we are learning about how states and local communities are ensuring early learning is a priority in the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). CEELO’s Lori Connors-Tadros, Nasha Patel, LADepartment of Education , Margareth D. Legaspi, Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), and Karen McKnight, NC Head Start State Collaboration Office. (July 2018 Presentation, QRIS National Meeting)

A Supplemental Tool for Structuring Your Plan for Preschool to Third Grade was developed to complement CCSSO’s tool for chiefs, as state and local leaders develop their plans. The tool provides a number of questions to ensure that preschool to third grade is elevated as a priority. Two critical decisions are:

  • Will your state plan have a theory of change, vision or principles that prioritizes the importance preschool to Grade 3 to achieve the goals outlined in the plan?
  • Will your state establish a specific section in the state plan for early learning and/or address evidence-based strategies for preschool to Grade 3 throughout the plan?

ESSA and Early Childhood Education: Opportunities for State Leadership – On December 10, 2015, the president signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. As state education agencies develop plans to implement the ESSA, this brief from CEELO partner CCSSO, highlights opportunities to strengthen the contribution of high quality early childhood education in school reform and improvement efforts. It summarizes key ESSA provisions related to early childhood funding, policy opportunities and mandates, and suggests key questions for state ESSA planners.

And from our partners at the Council of Chief State School Officers:

Title 1: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged – Title I state report cards to include the number and percentage of students enrolled in preschool programs.

  • State of Preschool Yearbooks – See state profiles and access the appendices for detail information:
    • Appendix A: state data details including access and funding
    • Appendix B: Head Start Data
    • Appendix C: US Census Population Data 3 & 4 y.o.
    • Appendix D: PreK Special Education Enrollment

Title 1: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged – Title I PreK, School districts that receive Title I funding must coordinate with early childhood programs. Districts must, regardless if they elect to use Title I resources to support early learning initiatives, undertake activities that increase coordination with early learning programs. Title I schools operating as “School Wide” programs are encouraged to address the transition to kindergarten in their comprehensive plans .

Title 1: Improving the Academic Achievement of the DisadvantagedFamily Engagement – Funds may be used for joint professional development inclusive of early childhood educators.

Title II: Professional Development – Professional development funds may be used for early learning capacity building.

Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC)

First Five Years Fund


BUILD Initiative

Learning Forward

National Association of Elementary School Principals

National Association of State Boards of Education

National Conference of State Legislatures

New America Foundation

Ounce of Prevention Fund

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