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Recent early education news and updates

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Early Childhood Special Education and ESSA: A Great Opportunity for All


July 12, 2017
Donna Spiker, Kathleen Hebbeler, Debbie Cate and Sharon Walsh
New America

The early childhood provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) enable districts to improve early learning for all children, including young children with disabilities. ESSA allows (but does not require) use of Title I funding for early childhood, birth through third grade education. If districts do use Title I funds for this, they are required to follow Head Start performance standards (non-regulatory guidance emphasizes the outcomes framework), to develop agreements with early childhood education programs, and to describe how they will support, coordinate, and integrate services with them.

Under ESSA, districts can increase high-quality early learning opportunities by creating new programs, by adding slots to existing programs, and by improving the quality of existing programs. Creating more high-quality early learning slots is also an opportunity to serve young children with disabilities in these programs. Increasing the number of children with disabilities who are fully included in early learning programs is a long-standing goal in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), has been promoted by professional associations and in a recent joint policy statement from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, and is supported by nonregulatory guidance on early learning and ESSA.