Early Learning Fellows Class Two


Wavy blue early learning fellows logoThe National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is pleased to continue facilitating an intensive Early Learning Fellows program for state legislators and staff.

States have been leading efforts to improve the quality of child care, implementing preschool and innovative ways to support families with young children across the age spectrum from birth to kindergarten and into the early grades. They are also addressing challenges with governance, financing, data systems and teacher training/professional development.

Scientific and evaluation research provide new insights into both child development and programs that are showing results. Federal initiatives, such as the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge and the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, will boost early childhood and home visiting funds in the coming years.

We are pleased to offer a legislative fellows program to legislators and legislative staff at no cost. Most travel expenses for the program were paid through a grant from the Alliance for Early Success.

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

Class 2 (2013)

Meet the Fellows, Faculty and NCSL Staff -- PHOTO ROSTER


Representative Gregg M. Amore, Rhode Island Representative Linda Miller, Iowa
Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla, California Representative Joe Mullery, Minnesota
Representative Ann Clemmer, Arkansas Representative Reginald Murdock, Arkansas
Representative Suzanne Crouch, Indiana Representative Connie O’Brien, Kansas
Representative Katie Dempsey, Georgia Representative Tom Phillips, Kansas
Senator Steven Dickerson, Tennessee Representative Robert Plymale, West Virginia
Representative Jessyn Farrell, Washington Senator Sharon Stewart Peregoy, Montana
Representative Lee Filer, Wyoming Representative Rhonda Rhoads, Indiana
Senator Hanna Gallo, Rhode Island Senator Deb Soholt, South Dakota
Representative Katie Henke, Oklahoma Senator Andrea Stillman, Connecticut
Representative Craig Horn, North Carolina Representative Vernon Sykes, Ohio
Senator Sara Howard, Nebraska Representative Roy Takumi, Hawaii
Senator Julie Lassa, Wisconsin Senator Jill Tokuda, Hawaii
Representative John Lively, Oregon Senator John Unger, West Virginia
Representative Jenifer Loon, Minnesota Representative Diana Urban, Connecticut
Representative Brenda López de Arrarás, Puerto Rico Senator Kelli Ward, Arizona
Senator Bob Mensch, Pennsylvania  


Legislative Staff
Mimi Aledo-Sandoval, senior fiscal analyst II, New Mexico


W. Steven Barnett, director, National Institute for Early Education Research
Gloria Higgins, president, Executives Partnering to Invest in Children
Mark Innocenti, director of the Research and Evaluation Division at the Center for Persons with Disabilities, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Utah State University
Geoff Nagle, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Tulane University
Ngozi Onunaku, senior policy analyst for Early Childhood Development and Education
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Patsy L. Pierce, legislative analyst, North Carolina
Tom Schultz, program director, Council of Chief State School Officers
Jack Shonkoff,  director, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Jennifer Stedron, executive director, Early Childhood Leadership Commission, Colorado
Amanda Szekely, senior policy analyst, National Governors Association
Albert Wat, senior policy analyst, National Governors Association

NCSL Staff (Denver Office)
Robyn Lipkowitz, program director, Children and Families Program
Alison May, staff coordinator, Children and Families Program
Phuonglan Nguyen, policy specialist, Children and Families Program
Julie Poppe, program manager, Children and Families Program
Brian Weberg, group girector, Legislative Management Program

Kick Off Meeting | Denver, Colo.,  May 1-2, 2013

The year long Fellows program kicked off with the Policy, Research & Innovation in Early Learning in Denver, Colo., May 1-2, 2013. 

View the AGENDA.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013, Day 1
8:30–9:15 a.m.    Welcome, Introductions and Overview of the Day
Julie Poppe and Brian Weberg, National Conference of State Legislatures

9:15–10:45 a.m.    Building a Foundation for Achievement: How Early Experiences Shape Brain Architecture
Advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics now help us better understand why healthy development in the early years provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, and lifelong health. The basic architecture of the brain is constructed through a process that begins early in life, continues into adulthood, and is powerfully affected by the experiences and environment of relationships in which children develop. Learn how these early experiences are built into our bodies and brains, and about the complex set of skills scientists believe are foundational for success in school and in life. Participants will also hear about states that are creating and implementing effective policies and programs based on the science. A facilitated discussion will end the session to reflect on the research and state examples presented.

Moderator: Julie Poppe, National Conference of State Legislatures

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.   Moving Forward with Home Visiting
Extensive research shows that evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs improve child and family outcomes, and save money for states and taxpayers. With the passage of the federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program there has been an expansion of programs across almost every state.  This session will highlight what states are doing to address quality implementation and programs, assuring accountability and innovate ways to address ongoing financing.  A facilitated discussion will follow the presentations.

Moderator: Jack Tweedie

12:15–1:30 p.m.    Lunch and Keynote Presentation: Emerging Policy Ideas in Early Learning
Introduction: Sheri Steisel, National Conference of State Legislatures
Keynote presenter: Steve Barnett, National Institute for Early Education Research [Handout]
Steve Barnett’s presentation will kick off an interactive conversation about emerging policy ideas in early learning and what the future holds.  Fellows are encouraged to engage in the discussion and contribute thoughts in response to the keynote.   

1:45–3 p.m.     Learning to Read-Reading to Learn: Early Literacy Strategies
By the end of third grade, students need to be reading to learn, rather than learning to read.  This session will highlight a comprehensive policy framework that includes the research behind early literacy, the gap between what we know and what we are doing in terms of policy and a comprehensive policy framework that can address these gaps.  There are a range of state early childhood policies that have played an important role in bolstering 3rd grade reading proficiency.  What are some of the strategies states have used that support early literacy success?  State legislators from Colorado will discuss HB 12-1238, the Colorado’s Early Literacy Act.  A facilitated discussion will follow the presentations.

Moderator:  Tom Massey, former Colorado state representative

3:15–4:30 p.m.   Pay for Success: Innovative Financing to Support Early Childhood Programs
In tight budget times, policymakers are examining new and innovative ways to finance the services children need.  This session will provide information on an innovative financing strategy that is gaining popularity in funding early childhood programs-performance-based investing.  Speakers will discuss Social Impact Bonds, or “pay for performance”, including a national overview of a successful functioning model and South Carolina’s efforts to adapt this model for supporting home visiting.  

Moderator: Gloria Higgins, Executives Partnering to Invest in Children

4:30–5 p.m.   Reflections from the Day
Fellows will reflect on the learnings gained from the science, early literacy, home visiting and funding sessions.

Thursday, May 2, 2013, Day 2

8:30–9:45a.m.    The Link between Playful Learning, Self-Regulation and Academic Achievement
This session will build on yesterday’s discussion about brain development, and provide a more in-depth look at self-regulation/executive function (SR/EF) and the link between SR/EF skills and later school achievement. Participants will hear about how high-quality early learning environments can promote the development of these skills in children, and how make-believe play can help young children develop self-regulation/executive function.

Moderator: Jack Tweedie, National Conference of State Legislatures

  • Deborah Leong, Tools of the Mind [Handout]
  • Kathleen Alfano, Fisher-Price, Inc. [Presentation]
9:45–11:45 a.m.   Policy Concurrent Sessions and Breakouts
These sessions will give Fellows more time to dig a deeper on a topic with a national expert.  

9:45–10:45 a.m.       Concurrent Session I (Choose one session to attend) 10:45–11:45a.m.      Concurrent Session II (Choose one session to attend)

11:45 a.m.–Noon     Next Steps and Wrap Up
Discuss what is in store for the Fellows program in 2013.
Robyn Lipkowitz, National Conference of State Legislatures

Final Meeting Washington, D. C. - Dec. 6-7, 2013

The year long Fellows program convened final meeting Building on State Leadership in Early Childhood in Washington, D. C. Dec. 6-7, 2013. 

Early Learning Fellows at the December Final Meeting

View the full AGENDA.

Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, Day 1

1-1:15p.m.     Welcome, Introductions and Overview of the Day
Julie Poppe, National Conference of State Legislatures

1:15-2:30p.m.     Early Language Development and Literacy:  Why Third Grade Reading Starts at Birth

2:30-4p.m.     Making the Most of Early Learning Settings:  Ensuring Quality for the Classroom and Home Visiting
This session will highlight assessment tools developed to measure quality in early learning settings and will define thresholds of what high quality is.  Hear the research results behind the importance of teacher-child interactions and an assessment tool developed to measure the quality of this interaction.  Learn about a home visiting rating scale tool that measures home visitor interactions with families during home visits and a measure of parent-child interaction; both can be used to improve home visiting practice and measure outcomes.

  • Moderator: Julie Poppe, National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Bob Pianta, University of Virginia [PRESENTATION]
  • Mark Innocenti, Utah State University [PRESENTATION]

4-5:30p.m.     Linking the Early Years to K-12
This session will highlight strategies some states are exploring to link early learning to K-12.  A recent white paper by the National Governors Association indentifies six key issues that states policymakers are engaging in to increase student achievement and aligning the early years with K-12 reforms.  Hear the approaches some lawmakers are taking including early childhood assessments and standards, aligning early learning with the Common Core, and considering school readiness services that address children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development.  A facilitated discussion will follow the short presentations.

6:30-8:30p.m.     Dinner and Keynote Presentation: Why Early Childhood is a Strong Investment
The importance of early childhood from the business perspective

Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, Day 2

8-8:30a.m.     Breakfast and Networking with Fellows

8:30-9:45a.m.     Paying for Success in Early Childhood
This session will focus on different approaches to financing early childhood and will provide “nuts and bolts” overview of social impact finance theory.  Learn about Utah’s initial financing success of a local pre-kindergarten project that is showing results and hear about Louisiana’s approach to financing quality child care through tax credits. 

  • Introduction: Robyn Lipkowitz, National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Moderator: Robert H. Dugger, Chairman of the ReadyNation Advisory Board and Invest in Kids Working Group
  • Janis Dubno, Voices for Utah Children [PRESENTATION]
  • Geoff Nagle, Tulane University [PRESENTATION]

9:45-10:45a.m.     Policy Foundations for Early Learning
Learn about key policy foundation areas that support and promote positive outcomes in young children and their families.  The session will draw attention to the latest implementation research and highlight policy foundations and data tools to ensure programs and services are achieving the intended outcomes.  Hear about Rhode Island’s recent legislative experience. 

10:45-11a.m.     Break

11a.m.-Noon     Promoting Healthy Development:  State Strategies to Improve Services for Infant and Toddlers
A child’s experiences in the first five years build the critical foundation for future health, success in school and in later life.  Despite this, many very young children lack opportunities necessary to develop a strong start.  Today you will hear about the current state of our nation’s infant and toddlers and policy opportunities for lawmakers to consider.  Hear from Iowa on why their state chose to invest in home visiting as a strategy to improve outcomes for children and promote family well-being.

2013 State Baby Facts, by ZERO TO THREE

Noon-1:15p.m.     Lunch
2013 State Legislative Recap: Trends in Early Care and Education

  • Phuonglan Nguyen, National Conference of State Legislatures [PRESENTATION]

1:15-2:30p.m.     Advice from State Capitols
This session will feature a panel of legislators to discuss political and financing challenges legislators have faced in their states and how they met those challenges.   

  • Moderator:  Julie Poppe, National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Senator Brice Wiggins, Mississippi [PRESENTATION]  
  • Representative Suzanne Crouch, Indiana
  • Representative John Lively, Oregon

Pushing for pre-K: Advocates say education reforms shouldn't leave out preschool, An article published Oct. 28, 2013 in the Idaho Statesman

2:30-3p.m.     Final Discussion and Thoughts

Additional Resources


World globe with lag top computers surrounding itOver the course of the Fellows program two webinars occured, each webinar had experts speaking about key issues related to early learning.

Webinar 1:  The Correlation between Executive Function and Achievement: Implications for ECE Policy
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 2 p.m. ET/ 1 p.m. CT/ Noon  MT/ 11 a.m.  PT
  • Deborah Leong, director, Tools of the Mind
  • Miriam Calderon, strategy and development consultant, Tools of the Mind

More information and an archived version of the webinar HERE.

Webinar 2:  Expanding on the Science:  An Hour with Dr. Jack Shonkoff
Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 at 2 p.m. ET/ 1 p.m. CT/ Noon MT/ 11 a.m.  PT

  • Jack Shonkoff, director, The Center on the Developing Child

More information and an archived version of the webinar HERE.


Wavy blue fellows logo with painted hands belowAs a way to keep all Fellows connected a periodic newsletter circulates.

| June 2013 | August 2013 |

Additional Resources