Voices from the Field

“It’s hard to find people at the state level that don’t support early childhood. But what you really need isn’t just people who say it; you need people willing to step up and advocate for it.”

Interview with Clayton Burch
Chief Academic Officer for Teaching and Learning
West Virginia Department of Education

clayton-burch

by Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks

Steven: How did you begin your career in early learning?

Clayton: It actually started in college. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was one of the college students who by the time you’re a junior reaching your senior level you think, “I need to make a decision.” I had a professor [at Marshall University] who said she had a friend who was running a local childcare center here in Huntington, and they were looking for someone to run the afterschool program for four year olds. I did that my entire junior and senior year in college and that was it—I was hooked. I knew from that point on that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in early childhood. I left the university and my first job out of college was teaching second grade in Kuwait City. I spent two years working with eight and nine year olds there. I got into some of the pre-K and kindergarten activities in the school too. Later I got a phone call from Marshal University to see if I would you be interested in coming back and running our laboratory preschool. So from 1999 to 2007, I spent eight years teaching curriculum and [providing] guidance to pre-service teachers, running their laboratory school, and doing outreach for the Southern West Virginia area on early childhood. Honestly, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Steven: What can be done at the State level in improving the quality of early learning?

Clayton: It’s hard to find people at the state level that don’t support early childhood. But what you really need isn’t just people who say it; you need people willing to step up and advocate for it. Saying you support early childhood is one thing, but in the state of West Virginia, what we’ve been able to do in the last decade is we don’t just want legislators saying they support early childhood. We want to work with them so they understand how to support early childhood. We have a governor’s office and a state board of education that says we really know what we’re talking about. When they say early childhood, it’s not just kindergarten anymore in West Virginia. They want to talk birth through eight years old. And they want to have a comprehensive conversation. And I know that makes people nervous sometimes because in the state of West Virginia, we have universal preschool and kindergarten and we don’t really have authority over birth to three. But when you have folks at that level who really know how to support early childhood and they have a very clear understanding that whatever their authority is over—pre-k or kindergarten-it’s one little piece of the puzzle of birth to third grade. I think if you can get people at the state level to understand their role and whatever role that is, it goes a long way in creating a comprehensive system—and not a system that all of us in early childhood are used to: a very segmented, siloed system, whether it be birth to three, family care, home visitation, Head Start, early head start, preschool, kindergarten. We want to have a conversation that says all those siloes brought together are part of a larger context of birth through third grade. We are looking at $90 million a year in state funding just for preschool. And funding isn’t just being used in schools; its being used in collaboration with Head Start and child care. And we just saw this year the Governor putting a $5.7 million increase in first to third grade literacy. We have a brand new program that targets third grade literacy when most states are having a conversation around what does it mean if students can’t read by third grade. Are we going to retain them? West Virginia’s approach is very different because we had leadership that understood the comprehensiveness, the money is going to birth to third grade initiatives: school readiness, attendance, how to support the workforce, family engagement, and how to really put those supports in place in the community from birth to third grade, not just focusing on that third grade year.

Steven: Why is the President’s proposal to provide high-quality early learning programs for our children important to our country and what do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities?

Clayton: We see the President’s proposal almost mirroring what we’ve been doing in West Virginia: bring local folks together to understand what a comprehensive approach to four year olds looks like. And when you start talking about the opportunity, we see the opportunity if done correctly is just more and more resources earlier for our children. To have a national dialogue around four year olds is really important, but when people start understanding the return on investment, and what it means to the long term impact on society, they see we have to begin early. West Virginia is paying attention to that research like the rests of the nation. We truly believe if we can target early childhood and put more resources earlier, then that return on investment is going to be huge for our state, and I think the President’s saying the same thing. The hard thing, I think the challenges, are the same challenges West Virginia’s faced the last decade. And that is, if you put forth an early childhood initiative, especially Preschool for All, be sure you’re not redundant, you’re not duplicating services, and that it actually truly does mesh with what’s already in existence. I think one of the things we’ve done well is honor what’s already in existence. We have a long history of Head Start in this state. We have a long history of child care and family care. How does this initiative support and not supplant and duplicate those efforts? And that’s one of the challenges we continue to face. The more resources we put into early childhood, does that offer opportunity to shift some of our current resources even lower down into the birth to three year olds? I know in West Virginia when we talk about the President’s proposal, one of the things we’re interested in is does this potentially allow us to expand what we’re able to do for young children?

Transformative Family Engagement at the White House Symposium by Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett

“Transformative family engagement is more than parent involvement- it is a shared responsibility of families, schools, and communities aimed at helping students learn and achieve.” That was the central message at the White House Symposium held on July 31st, attended by members from the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC), U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Serving as a panelist, I was able to share both my professional and personal experiences. Early in my career, I served as a bilingual first grade teacher in Austin, Texas and witnessed first-hand the importance of engaging families to improve student achievement. Later and throughout my career, I continued to see the strong connection between family engagement and student success.

Family engagement provides a critical link between home and school and has a profound impact on a child’s learning. Last week’s symposium highlighted the importance of family engagement and advanced a framework to transform our thinking. Some of the key elements of this framework are seeing families from a strength-based perspective and sharing the responsibility for student success with families. We must work as partners adapting our work to the needs and priorities of a diverse array of families, helping all children learn and grow.

At ED, we are committed to supporting transformative family engagement, and some of the one-billion dollars allocated to the 20 Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) states is being spent to support families and early childhood educators to achieve this goal. All states are finding ways to improve the quality of early learning centers and communicate the quality features to families. In Delaware, for example, the Office of Early Learning has launched a new website, Great Starts Delaware, to provide families with information on the quality of early learning programs, the latest brain research, and tips on what they can do at home to support improved outcomes for their young children. Washington State has launched “Love. Talk. Play,” a campaign that seeks to equip parents with three simple things that they can do every day to help their children learn and grow: love, talk, and play.

Waiting until preschool to implement family engagement strategies, however, is too late. Hart and Risely’s groundbreaking research highlights a “30 million word gap” between children of low-income versus higher-income families —a gap that begins before age three and can continue throughout school unless interventions are put in place. Mothers with a college education or higher spend roughly 4.5 more hours more a week directly interacting with their children than do mothers with a high school diploma or less. These findings provide us with evidence-based knowledge about the importance of family engagement, and how critical it is not only in K-12 education, but especially in birth through age five.

Most parents want what’s best for their children, but many parents do not know how important their role as their child’s first teacher is. This is what true family engagement is all about: making sure parents and caregivers have the knowledge and resources they need to help children get a strong start and reach their full potential. As we continue to look for ways to support families, it is my hope that as a country we will act to support families wherever they are to ensure all our children get the strong start that is needed for success in school and later as productive citizens.

Voices from the Field

“It turns out that teaching young children is complicated!”

Interview with Council for Professional Recognition CEO Valora Washington

valorawashington
by
Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks

Steven: Could you talk a little bit about how you began your career?

Valora: I started out in anthropology, and in my junior year of college I had the chance to spend the summer in West Africa doing some field work. That was so exciting, but I found that when I was there, I was just really interested in watching the children — children everywhere! They were so competent. They were so skilled. They were so woven into the family and community life. These children — even if they were gathering sticks, or whatever they were doing — they were important. What they were doing mattered. I saw how skilled they were, and of course, many of these children were simultaneously learning 2, 3, or 4 languages. Oftentimes when I’d go in villages, I’d have to find young people to be the interpreters because they were all learning English in school. I was just so amazed by the children, and that’s how I decided to go into child development. I entered a doctoral program, and as they say, the rest is history.

Steven: Why do you think the President’s proposal to provide high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds is important to our country, and what do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities?

Valora: The reason I think it’s important is because it’s not just an isolated one thing he’s doing. It’s part of series of very important initiatives that are really upgrading the quality of life for young learners in our country. That’s the main reason why it’s so important, because it’s not just a stand-alone initiative, and that’s it. It’s part of a big package in a big picture of a number of things across HSS and ED that we’re trying to do for young children, and I think that’s what makes it important. I think trying to really engage states to think about quality. We know from the NIEER reports that come out every year that there is so much work that still needs to be done at the local and state levels to improve both access and quality. I think that this is a major effort that is going to push that bar. Also, four-year-olds have been somewhat pushed off into a number of disconnected programs, so it really matters if you walked into a Head Start, family childcare, public school , or community-based programs. I think that this initiative has the potential to bring some coherence around what states are doing with that age group.

Steven: What do you see as the role of the Council for Professional Recognition in improving the quality of early learning in our country?

Valora: I think that what we know, is that if there’s one place 8 million people are teaching young children today, we know that way too many of them have had very little opportunity to learn, either in an academic sense or in guided practice in what they’re doing with young children. I think what the Council has been doing for a long time — and we significantly upgraded the professional development experience — is the first step that many early educators continue to take. While we really are celebrating and encouraging people to enter into the profession from a lot of different places, for many of them, the CDA is still place where they are introduced to the field in a formal way, through the competency standards, and through the kind of observations and experiences that they will have in their work life because it is a comprehensive assessment. So, quality really matters in that. The first challenge for quality is recruiting the kinds of people that we really want to work with young children, not just people who show up because they’re free of tuberculosis and need a job. I think the CDA introduces people to the profession in a comprehensive fit and really helps with that introduction to recruitment. I think also, it helps in terms of retention and retaining quality people because you also know that’s another problem. What we know from some of our workforce data from many of our partners is their staffs who have CDAs tend to stay in the workplace rather than leave after a couple of years.

So, the quality really matters in terms of introducing people to the work, that it is a professional work, and then retaining them and helping them grow in the work. I think quality really matters to us; that’s why we’ve spent three years creating the CDA. Our whole mission is really upgrading and recognizing the workforce. That’s what we’ve been doing, that’s our whole mission, that’s all we do, and it matters a lot to us that early educators get the respect they deserve, that they get recognized for the skills that they have, that they even understand what the competency are, and that they can move forward in the profession. We say that the CDA is the best first step, but we don’t want it to be the last step. There are so many examples of people with CDA who go on and get other degrees, which is what we encourage people to do. There are lots of stories of people who really begin their careers with a CDA. Quality really matters because of how you bring people in. If you bring people into the field thinking this is a job and that it doesn’t really matter, they either leave or continue with tacit knowledge. We really need people to understand that what they do needs a theoretical background, but that they also need practical experience about how you set up a classroom, how you get results for children, how you interact with children, how you interact with their parents, and how you do assessments. It turns out that teaching young children is complicated! I think a lot of people think that it’s just a job, but it’s turning out that it requires a lot of very specific skills.

 

Indian Professional Development Program For Tribal Consultation

March 12, 2014

REQUEST FOR INPUT FROM TRIBAL LEADERS
The Office of Indian Education (OIE) is seeking tribal leader input on the Indian Professional Development (PD) program, one of three discretionary grant programs within the Office of Indian Education at the US Department of Education (ED). The purpose of this blog is to give tribal leaders an opportunity to comment on any aspect of this grant program including the topics listed below.

The seven topics include:

1. Job Placement
2. Area of Need
3. Recruitment and Retention of Participants
4. Induction Services
5. Costs of Training Programs
6. Types of Participants
7. Definition of Indian Organization

For each topic there is a brief overview and then a series of sample questions for which you may provide comments and/or check the appropriate box for your answer. The downloadable document is located on the STEP website located at this Indian Professional Development form link.

You have the option of submitting responses as: 1) blog comments below; 2) printing out the Indian Professional Development document, filling it out and faxing it back to OIE at: 202-205-0606; or 3) emailing the completed document to OIE at: IndianDiscretionaryConsultation@ed.gov. You are not limited to these topic areas in providing comments.

This blog is a moderated site meaning that all comments will be reviewed before they are posted. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. Please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements, as we will delete them before we post your comments. Additionally, to protect your privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses in the body of your comments. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy.”

We invite your input on the sample questions provided on the document, and on any other issues that you believe the Department should consider in improving the program. Please understand that posts must be related to the PD program and should be as specific as possible. Any comments posted should be limited to 1,000 charaters. All opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments are considered informal input and ED will not respond to any posts. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. We look forward to receiving your ideas and suggestions. However, the input you provide in these posts may or may not be reflected in any final PD program changes or in other policies.

o Department of Education’s linking policy
o Department of Education’s disclaimer of endorsement

Again, thank you for your interest to support American Indian and Alaska Native education. We look forward to hearing from you.

STATE TRIBAL EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS (STEP) CONSULTATION

March 12, 2014

REQUEST FOR INPUT FROM TRIBAL LEADERS:
The Office of Indian Education (OIE) is seeking tribal leader input on the State Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) program, one of three discretionary grant programs within the Office of Indian Education at the US Department of Education (ED). The STEP program is a grant program to support tribes’ efforts to meaningfully participate in the education of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children. We invite your input on the questions provided below, and on any other issues that you believe the Department should consider in improving the program.

The program began as a pilot in fiscal year 2012 and we want your input on how we can improve the major elements of this program based on grantees’ experience to-date, for a potential new grant competition in fiscal year 2015, pending Congressional appropriations. We are posting questions regarding any revised requirements, priorities, and selection criteria for STEP on this blog and we encourage all tribes to share their comments with us.

The program would fund the development of collaborative agreements, entered into by tribal education agencies (TEAs), State educational agencies (SEAs) and/or Local education agencies (LEAs), where the TEAs would perform certain State- or LEA-level functions under State-administered Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) formula grant programs for schools located on or near reservations (or former reservations in Oklahoma). It is important to note that the Department is not able to award formula funds, only funds appropriated for this program. Also note that eligible TEA funds under the STEP program do not include formula funds going directly to Local educational agencies.

Please understand that posts must be related to the STEP program and should be as specific as possible and limited to 1,000 characters. All opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments are considered informal input and ED will not respond to any posts. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. We look forward to receiving your ideas and suggestions, however, the input you provide in these posts may or may not be reflected in any final STEP requirements, priorities, or selection criteria or in other policies.

STEP Topic Areas for Consideration
Below are four topic areas which you may respond to as blog comments or you may download a document at the STEP Resources page link: STEP form. Depending on your version of Adobe Acrobat you may be able to fill the document in online before printing. The document can then be printed, scanned and emailed back to: STEPConsultation@ed.gov when completed.

If you are inserting your comments in the blog itself, we recommend that you identify the topic number(s). You may also need to submit multiple comments depending on the length of your comments.

Topic I: Would you be in favor of a change in the STEP program, to include the goal of coordination among the SEA, LEA, public schools that are on the tribe’s reservation, and tribally-controlled schools, to facilitate the sharing of information regarding the tribe’s students?

__Yes __No

If yes, what information about students should be shared, and for what purpose(s)?

Topic II: Should this goal be accomplished through:
a) Consortia of tribes applying in concert with SEA(s), LEA(s), and/or schools, to achieve economies of scale and enable a widespread e.g., regional data system.

or

b) By single grants to TEA-SEA-LEA partnerships?

__a __b

Topic III: Would you be in favor of a change in the STEP program, to include the TEA’s involvement with not only public schools on the reservation, but also nearby off-reservation public schools that serve a certain number or percentage of students from the tribe (under agreement with affected LEAs as well as the SEA)?

__Yes __No

Topic IV: Should the STEP application require a description of the funds and other resources the grantee and its partners will use to sustain the activities funded by the grant, after the grant’s completion e.g., resources from the SEA, LEA, or Tribe)?

__Yes __No

Topic V: We are interested in what level of involvement TEAs should take on under the STEP grants. To complete this activity follow these instructions.

A. Click on the following STEP document link to access the activity.
B. The document that opens up has nine TEA topic area groupings.
C. Within each grouping are three vertical activity boxes and three blank boxes.
D. Number the activity boxes for each grouping from 1 to 3 with “1” your highest priority, “2” your second priority and so on.
E. Rank in priority order all nine topic areas (black boxes) in order of preference with “1” being your highest priority, “2” your second priority and so on.
F. Congratulations! You have identified your tribe’s preferences for administering certain SEA functions within a STEP framework.

Please feel free to explain your preferences, including a description of activities that you are already doing in the public schools. You are not limited to these topic areas in providing comments.

Submitting your STEP form to OIE
You have the following options for submitting your completed form and any additional comments to the Office of Indian Education:

1. Once you fill in the STEP form online click the button on the lower right to open up a blank email. Insert STEPConsultation@ed.gov in the address line and click send; or
2. Fill in the document online, print the document and fax to 202-205-0606 or scan and email to: STEPConsultation@ed.gov

NOTE: We are posting this document on a moderated site. That means all posts will be reviewed before they are posted. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s website policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. Please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements, as we will delete them before we post your comments. Additionally, to protect your privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses in the body of your comments. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy.”

Again, thank you for your interest in this historic opportunity to support American Indian and Alaska Native education. Below are links to EDs linking policy and disclaimer statements.

o Department of Education’s linking policy
o Department of Education’s disclaimer of endorsement

Native American English Learners Re-opened its Request for Information (RFI)

The U.S. Department of Education has now re-opened its request for information (RFI) on Native American English learners. The purpose of the RFI is to gather information pertaining to the identification and placement of Native American students who are English learners in language instruction educational programs. We developed this RFI to help State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, tribes, and other interested entities identify, share, and implement practices for accurately identifying Native American students who are English learners.

We received more than 30 responses to the first posting of the RFI in March 2013 and are re-opening the response period in order to give interested parties additional time to submit written responses. All of the responses will be available to the public.

You may access this document at the following link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-03-04/pdf/2013-04819.pdf

You may access instructions on how to respond at the following link:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/07/03/2013-16026/request-for-information-rfi-to-gather-technical-expertise-pertaining-to-the-identification-and?utm_campaign=subscription+mailing+list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov#h-7

Written submissions in response to this RFI must be received by the U. S. Department of Education on or before August 2, 2013.

Request for Information To Gather Technical Expertise Pertaining to the Identification and Placement of Native American Students

On March 4, 2013, the Title III Group in the Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs office in OESE published a request for information in the Federal Register to gather information pertaining to the identification and placement of Native American students who are English learners in language instruction educational programs. The U.S. Department of Education’s goal in making this request is to help State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, tribes, and other interested entities identify, share, and implement practices for accurately identifying Native American students who are English learners.

You may access this document at the following link:
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-03-04/pdf/2013-04819.pdf

Written submissions in response to this RFI must be received by the Department on or before 5:00 p.m., Washington, DC time, on May 3, 2013.

Meeting the Challenge: Building & Sustaining Capacity to Improve Conditions for Learning

Join us on August 8-9 in Washington DC for a conference titled Meeting the Challenge: Building & Sustaining Capacity to Improve Conditions for Learning.

The conference, organized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students, will explore five prevailing and emerging issues that influence conditions for learning:

  • school discipline
  • gender-based violence
  • behavioral health
  • bullying
  • school safety

The event will provide a unique opportunity for participants to provide feedback to federal, nonprofit, and philanthropic agencies to help shape future work in these areas. To learn more and to register, click here.

Summer Seminar Highlights Personalized Learning

On July 10, the Department of Education hosted a Teacher Summer Seminar titled, “What Teachers Need to Know about Personalized Learning.” The seminar provided perspectives on the meaning, purpose, and future of personalized learning from Department of Education staff; teachers from Maryland and Virginia also shared how they use real-time data to individualize instruction and engage students with varied abilities.

The archived seminar and PowerPoint presentations used in the seminar are all available online at the Summer Seminar webpage.

Announcing the 2012 Teacher Incentive Fund Competition

The U.S. Department of Education announced today the final application period for the $285 million Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) 2012 competition. This round of TIF includes a new focus on supporting district-wide evaluation systems that reward success, offer greater professional opportunities, and drive decision-making on recruitment, development, and retention of effective teachers and principals.

The next round of funding will also invite applications for a separate competition that centers on improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction.

Districts may apply for a share of funds either individually or in partnership with one or more districts. States and non-profits are also invited to apply in conjunction with one or more districts.

For more information on the 2012 application process, read the press release or visit the TIF program website at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/teacherincentive/applicant.html.