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A Week to Remember for Early Childhood Development

Early Education Leaders Sec. Arne Duncan, Linda K. Smith, Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, Shannon Rudisill and George Sheldon meet befor

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan welcomed early childhood leaders to the Office of Child Care’s 2013 State and Territory Administrators Meeting held in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 6. Pictured left to right: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development Linda K. Smith, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Office of Child Care Director Shannon Rudisill and Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon.

By Marsha Basloe, Senior Advisor
Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Interdepartmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development

In case you missed it, the last week in July and beginning of August was a busy week in Washington, D.C., for early childhood development.

Hundreds of people attended a variety of meetings including the Office of Child Care’s 2013 State and Territory Administrators Meeting (STAM) with invitations to State Advisory Councils (SACs) and Head Start Collaboration Office Directors for a Pre-STAM Meeting Day. That alone brought nearly 350 people to Metro Center. Kudos to the Office of Child Care, Shannon Rudisill and her staff for a great meeting with interesting workshops! Check out information from many sessions by clicking here

But that’s only part of the picture. National early childhood advocates also met for two days to discuss the President’s Early Learning Initiative (at the same location!), the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) held its Project Directors' Conference (Investing in High-Quality Early Learning Opportunities for All Children was a featured workshop) and BUILD hosted its 2013 QRIS National Meeting as Gerry Cobb and Deb Mathias brought states working on Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) together to discuss QRIS and challenging questions.

I had the chance to be part of many of the days. There were so many exciting parts that I surely can’t capture them all here, but I will note four of my favorites (not in any particular order).

  • SAC (State Advisory Council) Pre-STAM Meeting Day. Working with Ngozi Onunaku who has been leading this work for three years was great! Deputy Assistant Secretary Linda K. Smith was our keynote speaker to set the stage for the meeting on sustainability followed by a panel of SACs and then multiple small group discussions. What a thrill to have 27 states represented at the meeting and all willing to share and learn together. Look for more on this in the future. Although SAC funding for start-up grants is coming to a close, the work of the SACs is far from ending. Great work is happening in the states for building systems in the early years!
  • U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spent a morning session with Shannon Rudisill kicking off STAM on Tuesday. They shared their perspectives and efforts on the President's Early Learning Initiative, the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the early childhood field and answering questions submitted by state administrators. There is nothing quite like having top leadership share their passion for early learning in the birth to five years. It was very exciting! They really “get it.”
  • A new national survey released by the First Five Years Fund during the week found public, bipartisan support for public investments in early learning. The survey “revealed overwhelming support for ensuring that children gain the knowledge and skills necessary to start kindergarten off on the right foot, with a majority of voters saying that we should do more to achieve this goal,” the Fund said. One of the big takeaways — early childhood education is a national priority.
  • A Workforce Plenary on the Initial Findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) included the first release of findings from the survey, including the sampling approach and components of NSECE; preliminary findings on national numbers of early care and education (ECE) programs by type of provider; number of characteristics of workers by their roles, hours of work, ages of children served and auspice; and qualifications of these workers by ages of children served and auspice. Ivelisse Martinez-Beck, Federal Project Officer at the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation knows that the field is anxious to have this information. The NSECE is the first study using national representative samples of households and child care and early education programs in more than 20 years. You will hear lots more about this in the year ahead.

In truth, there was a fifth highlight. I’ve had the chance to learn from so many in this field since my first early learning lessons in North Carolina.  It was a wonderful week to see new and old friends from around the country who make a difference in the early childhood development field! There is something very special about this work, especially at this point in time.

The commitment to early learning by the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education is focused on developing and sustaining strong, high quality early learning systems for our youngest citizens that will help to prepare them for school and life.  It doesn’t get much more exciting than that.

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