Start with Equity Series

Start with Equity: From the Early Years to the Early Grades

Data, Research, and an Actionable Child Equity Policy Agenda

Funded by the Heising Simons Foundation, the Children’s Equity Project (CEP) has released a new landmark report that reviews the state of equity in America's learning systems, from the early years to the early grades. The report provides a comprehensive review of the data to better understand how children from a variety of marginalized communities are faring; a review of the evidence base, with an emphasis on interventions that have proven successful in narrowing disparities in opportunity and outcomes; and a review of the national policy landscape. The report includes a comprehensive and concrete equity policy agenda aimed at making our learning systems more equitable.

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Start with Equity: 14 Priorities to Dismantle Systemic Racism in Early Care and Education

Funded by the Heising Simons Foundation, the CEP published a follow-up new report outlining 14 critical priorities and actionable policies that federal and state policymakers can immediately and concretely advance equity in the early childhood system for our most vulnerable children. The report aims to create better, more just systems and to dismantle long-standing racist policies and practices, so that all children can reach their full potential.

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Equity Strategic Plan Template to Advance Equity in Early Care and Education Systems

The Early Childhood Equity Strategic Plan Template is an implementation tool that can assist states and tribes in planning for equity within their learning systems for the youngest children.

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Advancing Equity Through the American Rescue Plan Act

This new brief reviews concrete strategies to invest in building equitable systems using the unprecedented infusion of resources provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.

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10 Ways the Biden Administration Can Advance Equity for Young Learners Today

Fifty years ago, the United States came incredibly close to creating a national system of early care and education, when the Comprehensive Child Development Act passed both the Senate and House with overwhelming margins, only to be vetoed by President Nixon. Fifty years later, this promise to America’s young children and families remains unfulfilled, and we find ourselves yet again tantalizingly close to—and yet infuriatingly far from— delivering a need that must be addressed now.

Unfortunately, children’s lives have not paused to wait for congressional activity—least of all in a still-untamed pandemic. They deserve urgency. So, as the country waits to see if current efforts to build a universal early care and education system in the United States finally succeed, there are several actions the executive branch can take to advance equity in early learning systems now and improve the conditions in which children are learning tomorrow, and importantly, to prepare a stronger foundation for the possibility of a much improved, universally accessible system in the future.

Building on our two previously published Start with Equity agendas, Start With Equity, from the Early Yearsto the Early Grades: Data, Research, and an ActionableChild Equity Policy Agenda and Start With Equity: 14 Priorities to Dismantle Systemic Racism in Early Care andEducation, this brief outlines key “now actions.” 

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Start with Equity: California

Funded by the Heising Simons Foundation, the CEP developed a follow-up report focusing on the state of equity in California’s early care and learning systems. The report specifically focuses on three key issues covered in the Start with Equity national report: harsh discipline and its disproportionate application, lack of inclusive learning opportunities for children with disabilities, and inequitable access to bilingual learning for dual language learners. The report includes a California-specific policy agenda to inform the state’s Master Plan for Early Care and Learning and to build more equitable systems for the state’s youngest learners.

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Equity is Quality and Quality is Equity: Operationalizing Equity in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems

A robust research base indicates the importance of high quality early care and education in relation to a host of long term health, education, and employment outcomes. The concept of “quality” in these programs has been the focus of much attention and resources, particularly over the last decade. Most states have established definitions of quality through quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) and have allocated accompanying resources to support early care and education providers to progress toward higher levels of quality. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, definitions of “quality” have been sorely lacking attention to equity and to the unique experiences that disproportionately affect children from historically marginalized communities. This report addresses a fundamental content flaw in QRISs by operationalizing equity indicators. These indicators are grounded and organized by the CEP’s 14 priorities to advance equity in early care and education systems, published in a 2020 report, in partnership with 8 national organizations. States can use these indicators to inform QRIS redesign efforts to advance equity and improve transparency for families.

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Improving Quality, Expanding Access, and Advancing Equity in Head Start

Headstart Report

Building a Universal Preschool System Around Head Start

The Building a Universal Preschool System Around Head Start brief unpacks the argument for making Head Start the anchor of a new universal system to ensure an equitable, mixed delivery, high-quality, and comprehensive system that optimizes existing funding streams and coordinates new ones to meet this unique moment in history.

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Building Supply, Enhancing Quality, and Advancing Equity: The Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Series

A new set of briefs published by the Children’s Equity Project, in partnership with the Bipartisan Policy Center and Start Early. The series highlights the promising work of the EHS-CCPs to date, particularly related to pandemic recovery and stabilization, and highlights the many roles that states can play in establishing and expanding their own EHS-CCPs, including by using Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five funding and aligning CCDF quality funding with supports needed to implement the Early Head Start model. The series emphasizes the role of the EHS-CCPs in pandemic recovery, workforce stabilization, and expanding access to holistic supports for children and families, especially mental health supports.

The EHS-CCPs take many forms in states and communities across the country, but all provide resources to child care partners to deliver high quality services aligned with the holistic Early Head Start model. This includes ensuring access to early learning for infants and toddlers; vision, hearing and developmental screenings; connections to health supports, including mental and dental healthcare; supports for families- including connections to prenatal care and  economic, education, housing, and health supports; and coaching and access to credentials and higher levels of education for the workforce. In some states, the EHS-CCPs have prompted important policy changes that align standards across these two programs, reducing burden for communities and providers.

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Advancing Equity through Head Start’s Program Information Report

Head Start has a long-standing commitment to serving children from under-resourced communities, and since its inception, has served over one million children and their families through early education and related services. Although Head Start prides itself on advancing equity for eligible children and families, and has notable standards that can concretely ensure programs achieve that goal, there are gaps and missed opportunities to advance equity in its data system. To center equity across programmatic functioning, Head Start must operationalize equity in its data systems, including in and starting with the Program Information Report (PIR). This brief provides actionable recommendations to embed equity in the Head Start PIR to enable a greater understanding of equitable and positive experiences for children served.

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Mental Health Equity

Equity toolkit for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation

In partnership with the Center of Excellence for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, the CEP created am equity toolkit for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation.

Equity in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Webinar Series

In partnership with the Center of Excellence for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, the CEP created a 4-part webinar series that explores the historical and societal institutions of racism in child-serving systems and discusses actionable steps early childhood systems leaders and mental health consultants can take to create anti-racist spaces for our youngest learners.

Using ARPA to Grow Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Systems

Mental health issues have increased significantly during the pandemic, with recent data demonstrating concerning rates of anxiety and depression among adults; grief, anxiety, and behavioral issues among young children; and a diminished and heavily burdened early childhood workforce.

In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) awarded funds to states, territories, and tribes to provide relief from the impacts of COVID-19. Federal agencies identified mental health concerns as a top priority and infant and early childhood mental health consultation (IECMHC) as a key approach. IECMHC is a preventative mental health intervention that focuses on child, family, and staff wellbeing, and builds the capacities of early childhood programs to address mental health issues and promote wellness.

Many states have unused ARPA funds that could be allocated or re-allocated to address children’s mental health needs. The purpose of this brief is to offer state, territorial, and tribal decision-makers concrete and actionable recommendations for using ARPA funds to build IECMHC systems that increase access to high-quality IECMHC, especially for populations that have experienced disproportionate impacts from the pandemic. The brief is tailored to administrators who oversee Child Care, Head Start/Early Head Start, and IDEA Part B and Part C programs.

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Discipline

A Holistic Approach to Ending Exclusionary Discipline for Young Learners

Data show that exclusionary discipline starts early, happens often, and is consistently disproportionately applied to Black children, children with disabilities, and boys. This issue has been the topic of much discussion and policy movement over the last decade, since federal preschool suspension data were first published by the US Department of Education showing high rates and stark disparities. Today, preschool suspensions in public preschool settings have dropped substantially, but stark racial disparities remain. The state of early childhood suspensions and expulsions in child care remain unknown in most states.

This patchwork, inadequate, and insufficient progress is driven by a lack of holistic, multidimensional solutions applied to this complex problem. In this new report, the Children's Equity Project's reviews the state of the data, explores root causes, and presents a multidimensional, holistic framework that policymakers can use to make meaningful progress in reducing the rate, and importantly, eliminating disparities in exclusionary discipline.

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Harsh Discipline and its Disproportionate Application in the Early Years and Early Grades

The CEP is dedicated to analyzing data and policy related to harsh discipline in schools and its disproportionate application in learning settings with particular attention paid to its use in the early years to the early grades. We analyze discipline data and policy implications nationally, as well as at the state and local levels. We specifically focus on identifying and closing disparities that Black children, other children of color, and children with disabilities face within learning systems across an array of harsh discipline types, including suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment, seclusion, and restraint.

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Harsh Discipline and its Disproportionate Application

This policy brief reviews the data, research, and policy landscapes of harsh discipline including suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment, seclusion, and the inappropriate use of restraint. It provides a robust policy agenda to reduce its use.

The price of punishment: Days missed due to suspension in U.S. K-12 public schools

The number of days missed due to suspensions (DMS) was analyzed in a national sample of K-12 public schools in the U.S. In the 2017–2018 national sample, about 11 million days of school were missed due to suspension. Rates of DMS varied across the regions of the U.S., from state to state, and from school to school (greater in nonelementary and non-charter public schools). Additionally, disparities were found with higher rates found for boys relative to girls and for Black children relative to White children.

The Preschool (and Beyond) Exclusionary Discipline Study (PEDS) - Report 1

The goal of the present study was to delineate the prevalence of use of out-of-school suspensions in U.S. public elementary schools. Out-of-school suspension (OSS) puts at risk the goals of helping students thrive and be prepared for life-long learning. We analyzed data related to the use of OSS in U.S. public elementary schools and found that use of OSS in early grades of schooling was a little over 26 cases per 1,000 students enrolled, a total of more than 672,000 cases nationwide in 2017-2018. Disparities in use of OSS were found for Black and male students.

The Preschool (and Beyond) Exclusionary Discipline Study (PEDS) - Report 2

Out-of-school suspension (OSS), or the temporary removal of a student from the classroom, puts students at risk for successful schooling and life-long learning (American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on School Health, 2013). OSS is a severe yet fairly common form of student discipline that prohibits students from being at school or participating in school-related activities for a specified number of days. Researchers have identified multiple adverse consequences associated with OSS as students are separated from their peers, their teachers, and the educational environments that serve as the foundation for current and later success.

Unaccompanied Children

Federal Policy and State Licensing Standards for the Operation of Residential Facilities Housing Unaccompanied Migrant Children

The CEP published a national analysis of the complicated state and federal rules that govern the treatment and quality of care in shelters housing immigrant children who come to the United States on their own or who are separated from their parents or another adult they are traveling with upon arrival. The analysis takes a developmental lens, examining factors that are most likely to affect child development, health, and wellness.

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Seeking Safety and Humanity in the Harshest Immigration Climate in a Generation: A Review of the Literature on the Effects of Separation and Detention on Migrant and Asylum-Seeking Children and Families in the United States during the Trump Administration

In recent years, families with children from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America constitute a large and growing proportion of migrants and overall filed asylum claims. In an effort to deter overall immigration through the U.S.–Mexico border, the executive branch under the Trump administration has made substantial changes to federal immigration and asylum policy in recent years. Given the sensitive nature of early development and the hardship and trauma that many migrant children have experienced, immigration policies that do not prioritize child wellbeing, and in fact, neglect or harm it, can have lifelong negative consequences on physical and psychological wellbeing.

Pandemic Recovery and Response

Equity and COVID-19: Considering Equity in the Transition Back to School and Early Childhood Programs - Policy Recommendations

The Building a Universal Preschool System Around Head Start brief unpacks the argument for making Head Start the anchor of a new universal system to ensure an equitable, mixed delivery, high-quality, and comprehensive system that optimizes existing funding streams and coordinates new ones to meet this unique moment in history.

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Dual Language Learners/Early Learning

Equitable Access to High-Quality Learning Opportunities for DLLs and ELs

This policy brief reviews the data, research, and policy landscapes of bilingual learning opportunities for dual language and English learners and provides a robust policy agenda to equitably expand access to such opportunities.

This is part of a broader effort launched in 2019 by the Children’s Equity Project and the Bipartisan Policy Center, with support from the Heising Simons Foundation, to better understand the equity data, research, and policy landscapes in learning systems, across three key policy areas: discipline, inclusion, and dual language learning. This effort brought together over 70 experts to discuss the state of these issues across the United States and culminated in a report titled, Start with Equity: From the Early Years to the Early Grades. The full report provides an equity policy roadmap for building more equitable learning systems.

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A Systematic Review of Early Childhood Researchers’ Descriptions of Children and Caregivers From Linguistically Minoritized Communities

Young children with and without disabilities who are bilingual or in the process of learning multiple languages have many strengths; however, educational policies and bias related to bilingualism for children from linguistically minoritized groups have typically included deficit-based views. The purpose of this systematic review was to identify how researchers describe these children and their caregivers. Thirty research studies were included in the review. Each study was published in Infants and Young Children, Journal of Early Intervention, or Topics in Early Childhood Special Education between 1988 and 2020.

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Habla DLL

Promoting the Success of Dual Language Learners: Bilingual resources for parents,  early childhood educators, and therapists to promote the language and literacy skills of young children who are DLL.

Beyond Castañeda and the “language barrier” ideology: young children and their right to bilingualism

Forty years ago, the Castañeda v. Pickard landmark case marked an important milestone in the fight for equitable education for English learners1 in law, and for the first time linked theory, resources, and outcomes. Notwithstanding the important progress it marked in advocating for greater resources for English learners and accountability for education systems, the central goal of the Castañeda Standard, to “overcome language barriers that impede equal participation in educational programs” is fundamentally flawed. Language, in its essence, is not a barrier but a human characteristic and a strength, and knowledge of the English language, specifically, should not be the exclusive route to attain equal participation in education programs.

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Children with Disabilities

Inclusive Learning for Children with Disabilities

This policy brief reviews the data, research, and policy landscapes of the inclusion of children with disabilities in general learning settings, and provides a robust policy agenda to expand access to such opportunities.

This is part of a broader effort launched in 2019 by the Children’s Equity Project and the Bipartisan Policy Center with support from the Heising Simons Foundation to better understand the equity data, research, and policy landscapes in learning systems across three key policy areas: discipline, inclusion, and dual language learning. This effort brought together over 70 experts to discuss the state of these issues across the United States and culminated in a report titled, Start with Equity: From the Early Years to the Early Grades. The full report provides a policy roadmap for building more equitable learning systems.

Download full resource