Unlocking ESSA's Potential to Support Early Learning

In December 2015, Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, replacing No Child Left Behind with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). States are now preparing to submit their plans for approval. This latest iteration of the law brings new attention to children’s earliest years. In this recent paper, New America and the BUILD Initiative offer an introduction to ESSA and explore major provisions that have implications for our nation’s youngest learners.

The paper supports early childhood leaders by introducing key provisions of  ESSA that can be a resource to their work. The analysis encourages leaders and advocacy groups to work with state and local systems, using ESSA to support early childhood education generally and to focus specifically on dual language learner success. The paper also provides practical ideas about coalition building and systems development related to ESSA, and the education system more generally.

To maximize the potential to support our youngest learners, it is essential that state and local early childhood stakeholders thoughtfully engage in ESSA. The law provides significant discretion, so benefits to young children and to young dual language learners are not automatic. To support young child success and effective, aligned education efforts, early childhood leaders must develop a mutually beneficial partnership with K-12. That makes it incumbent upon early childhood leaders to understand the K–12 education system, the leading issues, and the problems and solutions that the K–12 community has selected as priorities.

Early education is mentioned throughout the law. In the paper, we zoom in on what we think are key opportunities for state and local leaders in:

  • Title I: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged
  • Title II: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Educators
  • Title III: Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students
  • In Title IX: Preschool Development Grants

Check out the paper for more details about the opportunities and for our ideas about what states and local school districts can do to support early learning as part of the vision for student success.

BUILD’s work on ESSA is part of our Maximizing Federal Initiatives project, which has focused heavily on supporting state leaders implement and learn from the Early Learning Challenge and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.