ESSA Plans Advance Work for Young Learners

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Washington, D.C. (January 12, 2018) – States are leveraging flexibility under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to lead for their young learners, a new review finds.

A recently published report by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), indicates considerable investment in young learners across the state plans. The State of Early Learning in ESSA: Plans and Opportunities for Implementation highlights three areas where the plans included early learning strategies:

  • Plans that set clear goals and priorities for early learning;

  • Strategies that integrated early learning into school improvement; and

  • Approaches to support early educator development.

“State chiefs are committed to providing an equitable education to every child,” said Carissa Miller, interim executive director of CCSSO. “The Council is supporting states to improve access to high-quality learning, including the time before children reach third grade.”

State plans show widespread inclusion of early learning in state priorities, while a few states even integrated early learning as a top policy priority throughout the state’s plans.

This review highlights examples in state ESSA plans, including in Delaware, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.  Tennessee reorganized to elevate the office responsible for implementing the strategic goal of significantly improving reading proficiency by third grade. It offers a comprehensive professional development and coaching system to improve reading instruction in the lower grades. 

Oklahoma’s approach extends to early childhood providers who prepare children for kindergarten. Through strong and diverse public-private partnerships with early care providers and the universities, the education department is trying to reach the youngest learners before they enter kindergarten. 

Both Delaware and New Mexico are using multiple data tools to track and improve early performance. 

A state to watch is Mississippi. Its plan is building on strong philanthropic support to create an early childhood education infrastructure that improves the conditions for accessing quality learning opportunities. State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright has made high quality early education a priority during her term as CCSSO Board President.

For more state plan examples, read the full report here.



The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

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