The only organization dedicated solely to helping state boards advance equity and excellence in public education.

Early Childhood Education State Network and Workgroup

High-quality early learning requires a high-quality workforce with specialized knowledge and skills. State boards of education play a distinct role in developing a well-qualified early learning workforce as they set requirements for core early learning standards, advance workforce credentialing and preparation, and improve professional development opportunities. NASBE has two professional learning opportunities for state boards of education looking to deepen their early learning expertise.

About the ECE State Network

State education agencies (SEAs) and state boards of education can use their policy levers to investigate and influence early education workforce quality in four areas: qualifications and licensure, preparation programs, professional development, and compensation. In addition, they can leverage provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to advance changes in their states. Funded through grants from the Foundation for Child Development and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, NASBE established an early learning network in 2017 led by members of state boards of education from New York, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, Mississippi, Washington, and Delaware. They were tasked with developing, revising, and adopting policies to support the ECE workforce. They made tremendous progress and showcased state boards’ key role in leading initiatives to advance ECE.

In August 2020, NASBE invited states to join the ECE Network to support a well-qualified, equitable, well-compensated early care and education workforce through effective state policies, with a special focus on developing innovative strategies to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the ECE workforce. Learn more about the 2020 ECE Network below.


NASBE seeks to build the capacity of state boards to support the early care and education workforce by recruiting state boards to develop, revise, or adopt policies and share practices with other states…

It has these desired outcomes in view:

  1. a well-qualified, equitable, well-compensated workforce for children from birth to age 8;
  2. an improved, better aligned system to support education from birth to age 8;
  3. collaborative stakeholder engagement across agencies; and
  4. supportive state policy and leadership.

Upon approval of their applications to join the network, the two selected states will each receive a stipend of $4,000 for the remainder of 2020, with the possibility of another round of stipends in 2021. The project will end December 2021.



Applicant state boards must have a strong interest in work on ECE workforce issues to support educators and leaders serving children birth through age 8, focusing on least two of the areas identified in the National Academies’ report Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation…
  1. educator competencies and certification
  2. educator preparation programs
  3. educator professional development
  4. compensation

Proposed areas for policy work could address the health and safety of young children and teachers, distance learning models for preK to age 8, professional development to enable teachers to conduct distance learning effectively, or mitigation of learning loss for young children, for example. States should ensure that proposed projects have at least one policy component to support ECE educators. States can also reference the policy recommendations described in these recent NASBE Policy Updates: Remote Learning in ECE and Supporting Child Care Providers amid COVID-19.

State boards should include state and local stakeholders as team members or partners in their applications. State boards may also consider participants from other state entities: departments of education, health, and family and child care; Head Start; ECE advisory councils; state educator leadership, licensure, and accreditation agencies; leaders and faculty from higher education; and other early care and education stakeholders.

To apply, please fill out the stipend application and email to Winona Hao, director of early learning, at Proposals are due to NASBE no later than COB on Friday, August 28, 2020.


About the ECE Workgroup

The ECE Workgroup allows state board members to deepen their knowledge of early education issues and learn how they can best-support students’ early success.

During the 2019 workgroup, 23 state board members from 17 states and territories met in person and virtually to learn from top early education experts. They developed policy recommendations for systemically strengthening ECE at the state level as outlined in the report Start Strong: Supporting Early Childhood Education through Policy ….

The ultimate outcomes of the workgroup are: build the knowledge and capacity of state boards of education in ECE policymaking; state boards directly and effectively discuss ECE topics with national and state experts; state board members have better understanding of system alignment between 0-5 and K-3rd levels; elevate state board’s roles in ECE; connections with key stakeholders from state and local levels; state boards make recommendations; state boards lead conversations and take actions in states regarding ECE.

The workgroup covered a wide range of topics across birth to third grade. Topics included:

  • High-quality PreK programs
  • ECE workforce development
  • Equity around ECE and its workforce
  • Kindergarten Readiness
  • Early Literacy and 3rd grade reading
  • Birth-3rd grade system alignment
  • Dual Language Learners
  • ECE financing

Learn more about the ECE Workgroup by contacting Winona Hao, NASBE’s director of early learning.

State Innovations

Michigan Adds Certificate for Birth to Kindergarten Teachers

A detail of how the Michigan State Board of Education, working closely with the state education agency, is expanding opportunities to improve early educators’ preparation.

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Early Childhood Education Summit

Join us as national experts discuss the challenges facing ECE and the strategies and resources states can tap to meet them. Participants will learn from other state board colleagues about barriers to effective ECE policymaking and potential solutions.

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Education Leaders Reports

Start Strong: Supporting Early Childhood Education through Policy

State boards of education can leverage their existing authority to ensure that all early learners have access to a quality education. This report is a product of a workgroup NASBE convened on early childhood education.

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Press Release

NASBE's Early Childhood Education Workgroup Kicks Off in May

NASBE welcomed 12 state board of education members from 11 states to Alexandria, Virginia, for the inaugural meeting of its Early Childhood Education (ECE) Workgroup.

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Press Release

NASBE Builds an Alliance of Network States to Strengthen Early Childhood Education Workforce

NASBE reignites a state network tasked with developing, revising, and adopting early childhood education policies that other state boards can replicate.

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State Innovations

Michigan Narrows Licensure Bands to Improve Early Learning

Michigan jettisoned its broad elementary teaching licenses in favor of preK-3 and 3-6 licenses that will better equip new teachers with developmentally appropriate knowledge and skills.

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How State Boards of Education Can Cultivate a Skilled, Stable Workforce in Early Education

This webinar examines early childhood workforce policies and the economic status of the workforce across the country.

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Education Leaders Reports

The Role of State Boards in Improving Early Childhood Education

State boards have authority that positions them to be key players in improving early education.

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Policy Update

Advancing the Early Learning Workforce through State Policies

This NASBE policy update examines the US preschool workforce skills gap and outlines ways state boards can strengthen policies to advance the early education workforce and ensure a high-quality education for preschool learners.

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Also from NASBE

Right from the Start

The National Early Childhood Education Task Force provided this policy agenda in 1988 to promote the development of all young children.

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