Early Learning:

Early Learning...

Early Learning Initiatives

ED is engaged in many efforts to strengthen the quality and availability of early learning programs, below are a few of our key early learning initiatives.

Early Literacy

The Early Literacy Initiative provides educators, administrators, policymakers, and community stakeholders with basic information about the importance of effective reading instruction in the early grades and focuses on the steps schools might take to ensure that students receive the supports they need to read on grade level by third grade.


Suspension & Expulsion

  • Pyramid Equity Project—January 2017 Update
  • Pyramid Equity Project (PEP) is working in partnership with two Preschool Development Grant programs: Clifton Early Learner Academy in Clifton, New Jersey and Cambridge Early Learning Center in Antioch, Tennessee to implement the Pyramid Model to address inequities in early childhood discipline practices. Specifically the project is implementing the program-wide use of effective practices and procedures for promoting the social and emotional skills of all children, preventing challenging behavior of children at risk of challenging behavior, and providing individualized interventions for children with persistent challenging behavior. The goal is, in fact, to demonstrate how programs, children and families all thrive in an environment where no suspensions and expulsions occur.

     Read more (PDF, 397KB).

  • Fact Sheet: Addressing Preschool Suspension and Expulsion—The Pyramid Equity Project
  • Recent data indicate that expulsions and suspensions occur at high rates in preschool settings. In addition, stark racial and gender disparities exist in these practices, with young boys of color being suspended and expelled much more frequently than other children. Disproportionate discipline practices in early childhood remove children from early learning environments and enriching experiences that contribute to healthy development and academic success and have the potential to result in pervasive achievement gaps and exacerbate inequality. In an effort to address this issue, the U.S. Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services are investing $1 million in the Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to implement the Pyramid Equity Project to establish national models for addressing issues of implicit bias, and uneven implementation of discipline, including expulsions and suspensions, in early learning programs.

     Fact Sheet: Addressing Preschool Suspension and Expulsion—The Pyramid Equity Project (PDF, 491KB)


Screening & Assessment

ED encourages the implementation of comprehensive early learning assessment systems that organize information about the process and context of young children’s learning and also conform with the recommendations of the National Research Council’s report on early childhood assessment. Below are highlights of ED’s efforts to promote appropriate and meaningful assessment in early childhood:

  • ED and HHS’s Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive! campaign to promote developmental and behavioral screening for children and to support the families and providers who care for them.

  • 2013 Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAG) focused on KEAs. View the abstracts here.

  • Office of Special Education Programs’ (OSEP) early childhood outcomes work. In 2005 OSEP began requiring State Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education programs to report on child and family outcomes. OSEP made key investments in technical assistance to assist states with this requirement. Visit the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center’s (ECTA) outcomes page to learn more.

  • The Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making practice guide from IES offers five recommendations to help educators effectively use data to monitor students' academic progress and evaluate instructional practices. The guide recommends that schools set a clear vision for schoolwide data use, develop a data-driven culture, and make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement. The guide also recommends teaching students how to use their own data to set learning goals. 


Early Learning Data

Through the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) program, IDEA, and related technical assistance, ED has supported the development of early learning data systems to improve instruction, practices, services and policies. This includes encouraging the development of Early Childhood Integrated Data Systems (ECIDS) that collect and maintain data from early childhood programs across multiple agencies. A few key resources related early childhood data and data systems include:

  • The IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) Center’s data systems framework to assist IDEA Part C and Section 619 programs in developing and enhancing high-quality state data systems and in improving the quality of their IDEA data.

  • The SLDS program’s ECIDS toolkit developed to be used by any state regardless of where it is in the process of developing an ECIDS.

  • The Privacy Technical Assistance Center’s (PTAC) resources about privacy and data sharing in Early Childhood programs designed to assist states, communities, and local providers who are using data to serve the needs of children and families participating in early childhood programs (e.g., Head Start, child care, preschool). Data sharing can support efficient, effective services for children. However, the benefits of data sharing and use must be balanced with the need to support privacy.

  • ED and HHS's document, The Integration of Early Childhood Data. This report includes a vision for integrated early childhood (EC) data and explains how states can use integrated data to inform decisions. It also covers key considerations when integrating and linking EC data and lessons learned from eight states profiled that are actively engaged in developing integrated EC data systems.

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) collects data associated with infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities receiving early intervention, special education, and related services under Part C and Part B, Section 619 (preschool programs) of IDEA on an annual basis. These data are publicly available through the following products:

  • The Part C & 619 State Data Displays provide an overview of key counts and percentages associated with infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities on a state-by-state basis, including the percentages of children with disabilities across race/ ethnicity categories.

  • The IDEA Annual Report to Congress displays and discusses national and state-level trends associated with infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities, including the percent of the population of infants and toddlers receiving early intervention services.

  • The IDEA Section 618 State-level Data Files provide state-reported counts on infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities, including the number of children with disabilities receiving services under IDEA; where they are receiving services; and how they are exiting services.


Talk, Read, and Sing

ED and HHS, in partnership with Too Small to Fail, have created tip sheets for families, caregivers and early learning educators. The "Talk, Read, and Sing Together Every Day" resources can help enrich a child's early language experiences by providing research-based tips for talking, reading, and singing with young children every day beginning from birth. The "Let's Talk, Read and Sing about STEM!" resources provide fun, concrete resources and recommendations for families, caregivers, and infant, toddler, and preschool educators on easy ways to incorporate STEM concepts and vocabulary into everyday routines. The Social Emotional Toolkit resources help families, caregivers and early learning educators with tips for fostering healthy social and emotional development in young children.


Dual Language Learners

ED and HHS issued a Joint Statement supporting the development of children who are dual language learners (DLL) in early childhood programs. It is the vision of the ED and HHS that all early childhood programs adequately and appropriately serve the diverse children and families that make up this country. Programs should foster their cognitive, linguistic, social emotional, and physical development and prepare them for success in school and beyond. This joint HHS and ED policy statement advances that vision by:

  • Setting an expectation for high-quality and appropriate supports and services specifically designed for young children who are DLLs;

  • Increasing awareness about the benefits of bilingualism and the important role of home language development;

  • Reviewing the research on the unique strengths of and challenges faced by this population, and strategies that are effective in promoting their learning and development;

  • Providing recommendations to early childhood programs, tribes, and States on establishing policies and implementing practices that support the learning and development of children who are DLLs;

  • Providing considerations for tribal communities engaged in Native language revitalization, maintenance, restoration, or preservation efforts within their early childhood programs; and

  • Identifying free resources to support states, tribal communities, programs, teachers, providers and families in supporting the development and learning of children who are DLLs.

Last Modified: 02/05/2020