The NCSL Blog


By Jorge E. Casares

Twenty new legislators from 20 different states convened recently to take part in NCSL’s Early Learning Issues: A 101 Meeting for New Legislators.

Child reading under treeThe meeting kicked off April 12, with a video welcoming attendees to the legislative institution, an overview of NCSL’s services and a fun icebreaker, all helping set the stage for the active discussions that were to come.

Senators, delegates and representatives from coast to coast participated in expert-led sessions that brought the science of early brain development and developing quality preschool educators and programs into the same conversation.

Legislators also heard from researchers about the importance of content-rich, high-quality interactions in a child’s early years, as well as the inherent challenges of providing every child access to these exchanges with a qualified workforce in preschool settings. Take a look at NCSL’s Building a Qualified and Supported Early Care and Education Workforce for a primer on this issue.

On April 13, presenters engaged attendees through hands-on activities that detailed the process of brain development during the early years and illustrated the difficulties of teaching young children math. Read about the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the early years on NCSL’s Early STEM Education webpage.

Lawmakers at Early Learning meetingOn April 14, NCSL staff led a discussion on social emotional learning and how unaddressed adverse childhood experiences can affect a young student’s education and hosted an overview of literacy development in the early years. To learn more about third-grade reading retention policies, check out this LegisBrief. Or look at how states address school discipline issues from preschool to third grade.

Throughout the meeting, legislators noted barriers to the effectiveness of early learning systems in their states, such as the lack of access to early education in rural areas. Others wondered whether STEM curricula are being properly packaged and delivered, and whether children are receiving adequate phonics instruction and being screened for dyslexia early enough.

Some shared their state’s successes, such as the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission in Louisiana, which released its first legislative report in January 2019; Utah’s UPSTART program, which provides access to early education through online instruction geared toward reading proficiency; and state-funded home visiting programs, which have the potential to reach those most at risk.

The meeting was made possible with the support of the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Alliance for Early Success and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. To view presentations and resources from this meeting, click here.

NCSL provides continuous coverage of early learning legislation, research, news and trends and several additional resources. Please reach out to NCSL’s Early Learning team with any requests.

Jorge E. Casares is a research analyst I in NCSL’s Education Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.