Five. It’s an important year in the early childhood continuum, and it is a good time reflect on the journey and look forward to what’s ahead.
One of 22 Comprehensive Centers funded by the U.S. Department to provide technical assistance to State Education Agencies (SEAs), the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) was provided an extended opportunity to continue working with states over the next two years. Below we review a few of our accomplishments since October 2012, but more importantly, we look forward to the coming years.
As we took our first steps as the newest content center in the Comprehensive Centers Network, we knew state early childhood specialists in offices of early learning would be our primary clients, but also our most powerful partners and collaborators. We were given the charge to help them on a handful (5 again!) of key early childhood areas: (1) aligning preschool and kindergarten-through-third-grade education policies and systems in order to increase the number of children who are ready for kindergarten and to close achievement gaps, particularly for high-need children; (2) increasing knowledge and expertise among state-level early learning staff in understanding the purposes and uses of a full range of early learning assessment strategies; (3) using data and other information to improve the quality of instruction in early learning programs; (4) increasing the effectiveness of the early learning workforce; and, (5) working to integrate and align resources and policies across state agencies and programs to support coordinated statewide systems that promote children’s success in school.
In addition, all Comprehensive Centers were required to build state capacity in the area of organizational and management structures, working across programs and working statewide to increase leadership and improve outcomes for all children.
We asked the state early childhood specialists to help us identify the types of technical assistance activities they thought would be most useful and relevant to their goals. In our five years of hard work together, we have developed:
- An array of specialized materials that address these topics, both curated and created.
- Series of interactive webinars
- Online communications approaches such as e-newsletters and blogs
- Ongoing communities of practice including peer exchanges and learning tables
- Focused national roundtables
- Intensive, responsive technical assistance in selected states
As we transition to the next two years of CEELO, we are refining our efforts and projects for greater impact focused on these major goals:
- Increasing the capacity of SEAs to lead sustained improvements in early learning policy, Birth-3rd Grade
- Increasing leadership and organizational capacity to implement effective programs and policy
- Increasing effective use of data to improve programs and instruction
- Increasing capacity to produce data on costs and financing to increase access and quality of early childhood programs
These objectives are aligned with, and amplify, our original vision and purpose; and to accomplish this challenging work, we will be deploying new materials, tools and projects that are focused and timely. Stay tuned to future issues of our Impact e-newsletter, where we will inform you of emerging projects.
Reflecting on our work and looking forward to new opportunities, we are THANKFUL for your partnership with us and your commitment to young children and families in your states. We know you care deeply about ensuring all children have access to high quality early learning programs from birth to third grade and beyond.
We value all the partnerships and friendships we’ve developed in the past five years. We are eager to continue working alongside you—and to meeting new colleagues—in the years ahead. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.
Jana Martella co-leads and supports all operations of CEELO, including the development and execution of strategic and responsive technical assistance (TA), analysis and review of all products and publications, tailoring TA activities and materials for use by SEAs and RCs, and providing direct TA to multiple states. She brings more than thirty years of experience in education, including as a teacher and assistant school administrator, SEA legislative liaison and coordinator for federal programs.
Lori Connors-Tadros, Ph.D. is the Senior Project Director for CEELO at NIEER. Dr. Connors-Tadros leads the work to provide technical assistance to states to implement effective policies to improve outcomes for children birth through third grade. She has conducted research in the areas of family impact on children’s learning, family literacy, and cultural implications on teacher preparation.