U.S. Department of Education Announces Kindergarten Sturdy Bridge Learning Community

Archived Information

U.S. Department of Education Announces Kindergarten Sturdy Bridge Learning Community

September 7, 2023

The U.S Department of Education (Department) is announcing the launch of the Kindergarten Sturdy Bridge Learning Community, a multi-state effort to make kindergarten a transformational experience at the start of each student’s formal education journey. State education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) will be invited to participate in a community of practice where they can benefit from peer learning, receive technical assistance, and share best practices to transform how students experience kindergarten including the transitions into kindergarten and 1st grade.  

“Getting kindergarten right has to be top of mind for all of us, because what happens there sets the stage for how a child learns and develops well into their elementary years and beyond,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Ensuring that kindergarten is a sturdy bridge between the early years and early grades is central to our efforts both to Raise the Bar for academic excellence and to provide all students with a more equitable foundation for educational success. The kindergarten year presents an opportunity to meet the strengths and needs of young learners so they can continue to flourish in the years to come.” 

Kindergarten is critical to our efforts to Raise the Bar for academic excellence because it opens the door to two timely and consequential opportunities to meet the strengths and needs of diverse young learners essential for later school success  Kindergarten provides the first formal at-scale learning opportunity for students to receive many of the critical supports and interventions that are essential for on-track development. Children arrive at kindergarten from diverse settings and experiences, with a wide range of developmental and linguistic strengths, learning differences, developmental delays, and disabilities. In this way, attending kindergarten is a critical lever for meeting physical and behavioral health needs that would otherwise go undetected, undiagnosed, and untreated. Kindergarten also presents a crucial opportunity to build partnerships and trust with parents and families, and to work with them on nurturing the habits and routines, including everyday attendance, that are essential to accelerating learning recovery and assuring early and long-term school success.   

This announcement comes as Secretary Cardona is embarking on his “Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar” featuring stops in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Throughout the week, Secretary Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, and Under Secretary James Kvaal will join national, state, and local school leaders to speak with students, parents, and educators for events that celebrate the back-to-school season and underscore the Administration’s commitment to helping students recover from the impacts of the pandemic and continue on the road to success. As part of the bus tour, Administration officials will highlight academic and mental health programs and efforts to recruit and support educators funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which provided historic resources to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to reopen schools and help students of all ages recover. 

Many states and school districts across the country are already making progress on these opportunities. The Kindergarten Sturdy Bridge Learning Community builds on the U.S. Department of Education’s continued commitment to advancing early learning and school readiness for the nation’s youngest learners. In December 2021, the Department launched two new multistate communities of practice to support states in addressing the impact of lost instructional time from the pandemic on students’ mental health and academic well-being. The Department has also been working with states and stakeholders to identify ways to leverage federal funding to support high quality early learning and the early learning workforce, including by leveraging $1 billion in Title IV, Part A funds of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to support preschool-aged students who are served by high-need LEAs through a range of allowable activities that encourage students’ healthy growth and development.  

The Biden-Harris Administration has also proposed a first-ever preschool incentive demonstration program at the U.S. Department of Education to expand access to high-quality preschool in school and community-based settings for children eligible to attend Title I schools. This proposed $500 million investment in President Biden’s FY24 budget request to Congress would further support school districts and participating schools in aligning high-quality preschool programs with kindergarten through 3rd grade instruction, facilitating  a successful transition from preschool to kindergarten and from kindergarten to 3rd grade. Consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers—a first of its kind, government-wide commitment to support caregivers, direct care workers, and families caring for children, people with disabilities, and aging loved ones—this fall, the Department will issue additional guidance to school districts and grantees on utilizing federal funds to expand access to high-quality preschool in high-need schools. 

Additionally, the Department’s current Full Service Community Schools competition includes an invitational priority for applicants to focus on effective strategies for transition between early childhood settings and the early grades, promoting cross-sector collaboration and family engagement . Awards will be issued in late 2023.