Early Learning Fellows | Class Five


Early Learning Fellows logo. Blue wavy background with Capitol dome.The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is pleased to continue another year of its annual Early Learning Fellows program for state legislators and staff.

States have been leading efforts to improve the quality of child care, expand access to preschool, improve school readiness and develop innovative ways to support families with young children across the age spectrum from birth to kindergarten and into the early grades. They also address complex challenges around governance, financing, coordinated data systems and teacher training/professional development. Scientific and evaluation research provide new insights into both child development and programs that are showing results. 

We are pleased to offer a legislative fellows program to legislators and legislative staff at no cost. NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program is made possible by grants from the Alliance for Early Success, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and Mattel Inc.

On this page you will find all information related to the fifth round of Early Learning Fellows.

Class 5 | 2016

Meet the Fellows

photo of fellows 16 photo rosterView the photo roster.

Representative Chad Caldwell, Oklahoma Senator Ann Millner, Utah
Senator Donna Campbell, Texas Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, District of Columbia
Representative Joseph D. Deshotel, Texas Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self, Washington
Representative Helen Giddings, Texas Senator Stephan Pappas, Wyoming
Representative Jodi Hack, Oregon Representative Carla Piluso, Oregon
Assemblymember Pamela Harris, New York Representative Patricia Haynes Smith, Louisiana
Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman, New York Senator John Stinner, Nebraska
Representative Donny C. Lambeth, North Carolina Senate Assistant Minority Leader Charleta Tavares, Ohio
Senator Peggy Lehner, Ohio Senator Steven Thayn, Idaho
Senate Majority Whip Gayle Manning, Ohio Representative Paul Tucker, Massachusetts
Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, California Senator Wayne Wallingford, Missouri
Senator Rebecca Millett, Maine Senator Brice Wiggins, Mississippi


Legislative Staff
Bethany Anderson, Wisconsin  Kimber Liedl, Wisconsin
Abbey Fabick, Wisconsin  Jenna Watts, Texas
Liz Hruska, Nebraska  


NCSL Staff
Rochelle Finzel
group director, Children and Families Program
Julie Poppe
program manager, Children and Families Program
Robyn Lipkowitz
program director, Children and Families Program
Matthew Weyer
policy specialist, Education Program
Alison May
staff coordinator, Children and Families Program

Kickoff Meeting

The Fellows program began with the Kickoff Meeting: Building State Leadership at the Magnolia Hotel Omaha, May 18-20, 2016.

Agenda | Participant List | Speaker Biographies

Wednesday, May 18
5-7 p.m.

Reception and Meet and Greet

Introductions: Rochelle Finzel, NCSL


Thursday, May 19
8-8:30 a.m. Breakfast & Networking
Lotus Room
8:30-9 a.m. Welcome, Introductions and Overview of the Day
Introductions: Robyn Lipkowitz, NCSL
Jessie Rasmussen, Buffett Early Childhood Fund
9-10:30 a.m.

Building a Foundation for Achievement: How Early Experiences Shape Brain Architecture

Pre-reading: Brain Architecture

Introduction: Robyn Lipkowitz, NCSL 

Speaker: Melanie Berry, University of Oregon

[Presentation] [Handout]
10:30-11:30 a.m.

Building Off of the Science and Looking to Recent Trends

Introduction: Julie Poppe, NCSL 
Speaker: Katharine Stevens, American Enterprise Institute, D.C.
11:30-Noon Reflecting/Networking/Thinking about your Early Learning Plan
Noon-1 p.m.


Sponsor: Mattel

1-2:30 p.m.

New Opportunities in Child Care and Guided Discussion

Pre-reading: Implementing the CCDBG Reauthorization: A Guide for States

Moderators: Robyn Lipkowitz & Julie Poppe, NCSL
Speakers: Christine Johnson-Staub, Center for Law and Social Policy, D.C. 
Karen Schulman, National Women’s Law Center, D.C.
Michelle McCready, Child Care Aware, Virginia

[Presentation I] [Presentation II]
2:30-3 p.m. Planning and Networking
3-4:15 p.m.

Pay for Success: Innovative Financing to Support Early Childhood Programs
Pre-reading: Pay for Success 101 

Moderator: Rochelle Finzel, NCSL

Speakers: Joe Waters, Institute for Child Success, South Carolina
Representative Greg Hughes, Speaker of the House, Utah

4:15-4:30 p.m. Break
4:30-5 p.m. Closing Thoughts and Reflections
Provide one takeaway or nugget from the day.
6-8 p.m. Reception & Dinner
Le Bouillon - 1017 Howard St.


Friday, May 20
8-8:30 a.m. Breakfast & Networking
Lotus Room
9-10:45 a.m.

Tour / Site Visit
Learning Community Center of North Omaha

10:45-11:45 a.m.

The Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan in Omaha
Pre-reading: Plan at a Glance: Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan

Introduction: Matt Weyer, NCSL  

Speakers: Sam Meisels, Buffett Early Childhood Institute 

Christine Maxwell, Buffett Early Childhood Institute

Mark Evans, superintendent, Omaha Public Schools 

Jim Sutfin, superintendent, Millard Public Schools

Noon-1 p.m.

Lunch and Wrap Up

Second Meeting

The Fellows reconvened with a second meeting in Chicago Aug. 7-8, 2016. 

NCSL 2016 Early Learning Fellows Cohort in Chicago

Agenda Participant List Speaker Biographies 


Sunday, Aug. 7
8-8:30 a.m.

Breakfast & Networking
W185d, First Floor

8:30-9 a.m.

Welcome and Overview of the Day
Introductions: Rochelle Finzel, NCSL
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Q. Weitzel, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Illinois


[I'm the Guy you Pay Later report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids]

9-10 a.m.

The Power of Play and Helping Young Children Develop SR/EF

Introduction: Robyn Lipkowitz, NCSL 

Speaker: Deb Leong, Tools of the Mind, Colorado

10-10:45 a.m.

Table Talk / policy conversation with your colleague

10:45-11:45 a.m.

Priorities in Early Childhood Development

Introduction: Julie Poppe, NCSL 

Speaker: Geoff Nagle, Erikson Institute, Illinois



[Handout - Louisiana School Readiness Tax Credits]

11:45 a.m.-Noon


Noon-1 p.m.

Joint Lunch with SPREE Working Group: Institute of Medicine Parent Support Study

Pre-reading: Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8

Introduction: Matt Weyer, NCSL 

Speakers: Iheoma Iruka, Buffett Early Childhood Institute, University of Nebraska

Kim Boller, Mathematica Policy Research, New Jersey


1-1:45 p.m.

Joint Session with SPREE Working Group: Preschool Language Learners

Moderator: Matt Weyer, NCSL

Speaker: Conor Williams, New America, D.C. 



1:45-2 p.m.


2-3 p.m.

Financing Early Childhood
Introduction: Julie Poppe, NCSL

Speaker: Jonathan Doster, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Illinois
3-4 p.m.

Creating Data-Driven Early Childhood Systems to Support Accountability
Introduction: National Conference of State Legislatures 

Speaker: Carlise King, Early Childhood Data Collaborative, Maryland


[Handout - Using Coordinated Data Systems to Guide Early Childhood Education Policies]

4-4:30 p.m.

Final Work on Early Learning Plan

4:30-5 p.m.

Closing Thoughts from and Reflections

5:15-7 p.m.

Cocktail Hour and Reception
MX Bar - Hyatt

7 p.m.

Enjoy Dinner on Your Own in Chicago


Monday, Aug. 8
8-8:30 a.m. Breakfast & Networking
W185d, First Floor
8:30-9 a.m.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Update on Early Learning Opportunities 

Introduction: Matt Weyer, NCSL

Speaker: Lee Posey, NCSL 



9-10 a.m.

Integrating Early Learning into School Leaders’ Prep and Professional Development Experiences
Speaker: Steve Tozer, University of Illinois



10-10:15 a.m.


10:15-11:30 a.m.

Home Visiting: A Legislative Primer

Introduction: Alison May, NCSL

Speaker: Anna Potere, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Illinois



11:30 a.m.-Noon

Report Out/Closing Thoughts/Future Work


webinar graphicOver the course of the Fellows program two webinars will take place. Each webinar will have an expert speaking about key issues related to early learning. 

Webinar 1:
Equity Starts Early: Strategies to Consider in Promoting High-Quality Early Education
Thursday, June 30, at 2 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. CT / Noon MT / 11 a.m. PT
This webinar was about the recent Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) report Equity Starts Early: How Chiefs Will Build High Quality Early Education and will include state examples.

Webinar 2:
Linking Social-Emotional Skills in Children to Long-Term Success in Life
Thursday, Sept. 15, at 2 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. CT / Noon MT / 11 a.m. PT
This webinar will highlight the Johns Hopkins University/Baltimore Education Research Consortium study that measured the social-emotional skills of incoming kindergarten students. 

Legislative Corner

Fellows blue banner with image of children and capitolAs a way to keep all Fellows connected with one another and to highlight the terrific work being done in your state, NCSL staff will periodically highlight a Fellow and the work they are doing.

View other Early Learning Fellows Legislative Corner Posts

Blog Posts

Occasionally the Early Learning Fellows program will be featured in the NCSL Blog and when it is the posts will be shared here.

View other Early Learning Fellows Blog Posts

Additional Resources