Early Learning Provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Rhode Island recognizes the opportunities in early learning that support our State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In December 2015, Congress approved, and President Obama signed, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, P.L. 114-95) to replace the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This latest update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes an array of important early learning provisions. ESSA’s provisions also aim to promote early learning coordination within communities; greater alignment with the early elementary grades; and early childhood education focused capacity building among teachers, leaders, and other staff serving young children.

Rhode Island’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan, speaks to the required federal education law, which appropriates Title Funding through State Education Agencies. Early childhood education has always been a part of the federal education law (Sec. 1111), and within the law there are a series of funding opportunities, as well as mandates.

  1. Title I funds may be used for early childhood programing. States must provide guidance to LEAs choosing to use Title I funds to improve or expand early childhood programs (Sec 1111(g)(1)(Sec 1007(3)(A) and Sec 1008 (1)(c)) as well as providing information on family engagement and child development to early childhood and K-12 teachers and principals.

  2. SEA professional development plans may include early childhood education and school readiness as priorities and may provide training for early childhood education teachers and administrators. The Act specifically authorizes support for joint efforts to address the transition to elementary school, including issues related to school readiness. (Title II, and specifically section 2101(c)(4)(B)(xvi))
  1. State Title I plans must describe how they will (a) support LEAs and schools that choose to use Title I funds to support early childhood programs (Sec 111(g)(1)(A) and (b) provide information on effective parent and family engagement strategies (Sec 111(g)(2)(F).

  2. The Title I state plan must also be coordinated with programs under the Head Start Act and the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (Sec 1111(a)(1)(B)).

  3. State plans under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act must include strategies to ensure that homeless children have the same access to SEA- or LEA-funded public preschool programs as other children (McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Sec 722(g)(1)(F)(i)).

  4. Title I State report cards must include number and percentage of students enrolled in preschool programs, presented in the same manner that these data are submitted to the U.S. Department of Education/Office for Civil Rights (Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(viii)(II)(aa)).

  5. LEAs (and schools who opt to provide early childhood programming in their schoolwide model) are required to create agreements to coordinate services with Head Start agencies, and must ensure that ESSA-funded early childhood services comply with Head Start performance standards.

Guidance Documents

Rhode Island Department of Education has developed an Evidence Based Early Childhood Best Practices ESSA Toolkit, which includes a series of four Guidance Documents. The purpose of this Toolkit is:

  1. To highlight the opportunities and rationale for greater investment in birth through five services and supports in accordance with the law;
  2. To provide a listing of evidence-based interventions and resources for making funding decisions in accordance with the law (Sec. 1112);
  3. To provide a document demonstrating alignment between ESSA’s Head Start Performance Standards Education Section 1302, with existing state quality standards (Sec. 1112 4);

To provide baseline guidance on the development and implementation of practices supporting kindergarten transitions (Sec. 1114). These documents were developed with the support and expertise of a series of stakeholders and policy makers in Rhode Island.