Early Learning

Early childhood is a key time in any student’s development. The NWCC provides technical assistance to build Northwest states’ capacity to implement comprehensive and aligned early learning systems in order to increase the number of children from birth through third grade who are prepared to succeed in school.

The following resources related to this priority area have been compiled by NWCC staff.

Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO)

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) will strengthen the capacity of State Education Agencies (SEAs) to lead sustained improvements in early learning opportunities and outcomes. CEELO will work in partnership with SEAs, state and local early childhood leaders, and other federal and national technical assistance (TA) providers to promote innovation and accountability.

Advancing the Early Learning Workforce through State Policies

Although children’s earliest years are widely acknowledged as critical for achievement in school and in life, the bar for joining the US preschool workforce is low. One-third of preschool teachers in childcare centers or public school programs hold bachelor’s degrees, and most preschoolers are likely to end up with a teacher who is not trained in early learning. This NASBE policy update examines this skills gap and outlines ways state boards can strengthen policies to advance the early education workforce and ensure a high-quality education for preschool learners.

Defining and Measuring Access to High-Quality Early Care and Education (ECE): A Guidebook for Policymakers and Researchers

This guidebook from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services addresses the development of a common understanding and approach to measuring access to early care and education.

Don’t Stop Improving: How States Can Help Early Childhood Programs on Their Journey to High-Quality

Research shows that parents place a high value on quality but often don’t have enough information to evaluate their options, or they are limited by practical constraints, such as availability, accessibility, and affordability. Either way, the search for child care is often overwhelming. In almost every state, however, parents have access to an early childhood program rating system to help navigate their options. These rating systems provide a tool for parents to find child care and preschool programs that meet a set of quality criteria. While the issues of availability, accessibility, and affordability still exist, within those constraints, parents can find programs that have been rated and therefore can have some certainty that the program they select will help their child be prepared for kindergarten and beyond. In addition to helping parents make informed choices, these state rating systems— called quality rating and improvement systems, or QRIS—can play a key role in supporting early childhood programs to achieve high quality. As part of a well-funded early childhood system, QRIS can provide a robust set of supports to help programs achieve and maintain quality.

Helping Young Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: Policies and Strategies for Early Care and Education

In this report, the authors describe early childhood trauma and its effects, offer promising strategies for ECE programs and systems to help young children who have experienced trauma, and present recommendations for state policymakers and other stakeholders looking to support trauma-informed ECE for this vulnerable group.

K-3 Policymakers’ Guide to Action: Making the Early Years Count

This special report summarizes the top policy components 12 of the nation’s top content experts convened by Education Commission of the States prioritized for a high-quality K-3 system.

PK-3: What Does it Mean for Instruction?

"PK–3” has become a rallying cry among many developmental scientists and educators. A central component of this movement is alignment between preschool and the early elementary grades. Many districts have made policy changes designed to promote continuity in children’s educational experiences as they progress from preschool through third grade— to provide children with a seamless education that will sustain the gains made in preschool and lead to better developmental and learning outcomes overall. This report proposes a conceptualization of productive continuity in academic instruction, as well as in the social climate and classroom management practices that might affect children’s social-emotional development. It also considers ways in which schools might seek to achieve continuity in parents’ and children’s experiences. Finally, the report proposes specific state and district policies and school practices that are likely to promote continuous and meaningful learning experiences

What Principals and Administrators Can Do To Ready Their Schools To Support Kindergarten Transitions

Research shows that children who are academically, socially, and emotionally prepared to enter kindergarten are more likely to do better down the road in school and in life. Therefore, it’s increasingly imperative to support children’s transition to kindergarten from varied early learning experiences including preschool, daycare, family child care, and at-home settings with family members.

There’s also evidence that effective school leadership influences early childhood achievement, as leaders play a critical role in improving classroom instruction—the most important factor related to the success of young students.

This white paper looks at what research tells us in five specific—and sometimes overlapping—areas on which principals and other administrators can focus to support smoother kindergarten transitions.

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