Projects & Activities

BUILD is continuously providing new resources and activities for early childhood leaders and others focused on building strong foundations for our youngest children.

Our learning community offerings include information and gatherings from learning tables, topical meetings, webinars, publications and more. 

A focused effort across twenty states, the District of Columbia and Guam, the Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN), a three-year BUILD project, has been working since 2015 to advance racial equity in early childhood systems. BUILD's vision is of a comprehensive, racially equitable, high-quality early childhood system that ensures all children have an opportunity to develop and reach their full potential without experiencing discrimination or bias. According to Sherri Killins Stewart, Director of the ELAN, when BUILD refers to equity, “We mean that race should not be a predictor of health status, education, birth outcomes or the community conditions for young children and their families.”

Starting with the first ELAN meeting in 2015, 38 fellows with responsibility at the state or county level, worked together to identify, address and take action on inequities based on race, ethnicity, language and culture. More specifically, the now 34-member group has sought to promote equity in the areas of health, early learning and/or family support as well as to influence state-level policy. And there is proof that the ELAN has helped them improve their ability to do so: in an October 2016 survey of the project, 95% of fellows indicated they have learned skills and strategies through the ELAN that will help them better lead on racial equity and early childhood. In addition to gaining knowledge from the wealth of information and materials provided, participants have noted the support, encouragement and validation they receive from what many of them refer to as the “family” of faculty and fellows. As Fellow Aaliyah Samuel put it, “Being a part of ELAN has actually made me bolder. While I have carried this passion for the work that I do for children all my life, I have been emboldened by the other people around me. It’s actually been a surprise to me that just knowing people in ELAN had changed the way I approach the work.”

Others have said that they draw strength from feeling like a part of a group that shares their vision while some appreciate the “safe space” the ELAN provides to discuss sensitive issues. Fellow Neva Bandelow, whose ELAN project focuses on emerging racial equity leaders, summed up ELAN’s impact this way: “I could not have started this program without ELAN’s support. The information, the opportunities and the structure of ELAN is what have provided me with the knowledge I needed to launch a program like this.”

As the ELAN fellows continue to take action to reduce disparities through the choices and decisions they make, BUILD will continue to learn from these actions and share the learning, policies and practices throughout the early childhood field.

Susan Hibbard, formerly BUILD's Deputy Director, is named Executive Director. She brings 20 years of experience and leadership to the Initiative.

Read more here

Leaders from museums and libraries share the desire of early childhood state systems leaders to create high quality early learning opportunities for children. BUILD and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) are partnering in a year-long effort to better integrate these asset institutions into statewide early childhood systems. Learn more about the project here.

Visit the BUILD/IMLS Partnership page on our website here.

BUILD Comments Submitted on U.S. Department of Education Preschool Development Grants


Following is a summary of the key points that the BUILD Initiative submitted on May 16, 2014, during the comment period on the Preschool Development Grants authorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.

The points below are a summary of issues that the BUILD Initiative and its state and national partners have raised in response to the information released on the preschool initiative.

  • Continue the Approach Begun with RTT-ELC: We strongly urge all federal grant initiatives to maintain, and strengthen a systemic approach, which was so well represented by the RTT-ELC competition that is now helping 20 states accelerate systemic work to support children birth to five with high needs. The systemic focus of the Early Learning Challenge is efficient and makes great sense for what could be one-time money. Our early efforts to document the impact of Early Learning Challenge are extremely encouraging. States are building the infrastructure, making system component revisions, and testing ways to improve quality so that the early learning system can thrive, be sustained, and advance toward equitable outcomes for young children. It is precisely these types of changes (e.g., program standards, professional development systems, educator qualifications, and comprehensive screening and assessment systems) that will lead to sustainable high-quality services for all children, including children served in state pre-k
  • Competitive Priority: The competitive priority as written may be easily met by applicants without making a real difference. We strongly urge you to rewrite this priority to emphasize a diverse delivery system as well as a delivery system that emphasizes the integration of a part-day, part-year program with full-day child care services and to provide the time necessary to allow the development of a strong community-based mixed delivery system approach. No one program can meet the needs of every family, and the options need to be strengthened – not made so uniform that it becomes too unyielding for our most complex families. To that end, the Department should also provide a clear definition for “full day” programming. If the Department chooses the typical school day of not less than five hours as “full day,” those proposals that provide before and after care in the same location as the pre-k program should also receive competitive advantage. The number of daily transitions a child experiences when going from child care to pre-k and then back to child care causes stress and is counterproductive to successful learning experiences. 
  • Quality Improvement and Infrastructure Spending: Provide greater flexibility for states to determine the appropriate balance between quality improvement-infrastructure spending and subgrants for new slots. Both the development and expansion grants provide rigid percentages in terms of how federal funds may be used within the grant period, which could serve to be a burden for states when thinking about how to best spend dollars in ways that can lead to sustainable improvements in their states. The Departments should give states even more flexibility in deciding between the best uses of federal dollars that lead to improvements in pre-k quality and access. 
  • Serving Three-Year-Olds: More than half the states currently providing pre-k programming include services for three year olds (NIEER, 2014). Research such as the Early Head Start Impact Study (2010) and others have clearly demonstrated that for high-needs children, there are increased gains when participating in high quality early childhood programming for at least 2 years. States should be allowed the flexibility to serve 3 year olds, provided the programming is developmentally appropriate and includes age appropriate staff to child ratios and group sizes.
  • Understand the Impact on the Local Early Education and Care Systems: Throughout the competitive priorities and the selection criteria, the importance of collaboration and alignment with other parts of the early childhood systems is well articulated. As proven in states where public pre-k is already established, there can be significant community tension when an LEA chooses to establish a program and does not consider the impact upon the existing child care market in the community. We strongly urge the Department to include a requirement of an assessment of the current availability of high quality privately operated pre-k programs, including Head Start, within a selected community or region, as well as the amount of regulated child care available for infants and toddlers. This requirement would emphasize the importance of a birth to 3rd grade systems perspective beyond the competitive priority. This will expand the awareness of K-12 leadership of the extensive opportunities available for services coordination, provision of comprehensive services within a pre-K model, and work toward promoting successful transitions from infant and toddler services to pre-k.
  • Collaboration with Head Start Programs and Leveraging Head Start Resources: The Departments can best support this collaboration by encouraging innovative blended funding models and simplified cost allocation methodologies that result in greater ability for Head Start programs to enroll more children in economically diverse classrooms. 
  • Continuous Birth to Five Services: States that propose plans that create opportunities for continuous birth to five services for families through collaborations with EHS-Child Care Networks and preschool development grant subgrantees should be at a competitive advantage in this competition. 
  • Community Collaboration: We strongly recommend that Memorandums of Understanding (selection criteria D (4) require states and subgrantees to specify data exchange and plans related to the following: formative assessment, professional development, curriculum/instructional tools, family engagement, cross sector and comprehensive services efforts, and workforce and leadership development.
  • Family Engagement: While family engagement is represented with the definition of TQRIS, we strongly urge that the Department require states to describe a plan for parent engagement at the state and local levels, similar to the requirements established in Title I and the Head Start standards. 
  • School Readiness Definition and Alignment: Because school readiness is the responsibility of communities, families, early childhood providers and schools, we recommend that the Department consider requiring that LEAs work with community leaders and early childhood providers to develop a common and comprehensive understanding of school readiness that can be reflected in a horizontal and vertical alignment of curriculum, assessment, and program standards. 
  • Systems Infrastructure: We strongly support the requirement of reserving funds to strengthen infrastructure, however, we are concerned that percentage will be too limiting for some states. We recommend the department require states to describe how they will build from and align with existing systems such as the professional development delivery system funded with CCDF, the licensing and monitoring systems for child care, the TQRIS, and the K-12 IDEA monitoring and professional development system. The grant presents a tremendous opportunity for states and local communities to move closer to the desired horizontal and vertical alignment of systems serving children birth through third grade. 
  • Leadership Development: We strongly urge that a portion of the 10% investment in infrastructure include leadership development and training for principals and superintendents to increase their awareness and understanding of early childhood best practices. States that have taken this approach, such as New Jersey, have seen significant gains in the capacity of LEAs to implement and sustain developmentally appropriate pre-k programs. 
  • Ensuring Participation of Children Most Likely to Benefit: As the Future of Children report on racial and ethnic disparities in school readiness estimates, high quality preschool experiences can reduce the gaps experienced by African American and Latino children – if all were able to participate – by somewhere between 20 and 39 percent overall. This reduction will not be achieved unless there are concerted efforts to engage these children and address the barriers (transportation, language, and social distance) to participation. Without concerted attention, simply expanding preschool on a first-come, first-served basis will do little to address (and may even exacerbate) disparities in certain populations, particularly those who have been subject to historical discrimination or marginalization.
  • Diversity and Equity: Poverty or low-income status is a very crude measure of need, particularly as nearly half of all young children reside in households below 200 percent of poverty. As part of states efforts to target high need communities, the federal guidelines should emphasize that states need to describe how their plans take into account participation disparities and how the proposed expansion works to close gaps in participation and readiness by race, language, culture, and socioeconomic status. 
  • Workforce Diversity/Preparation: And, ensure that teachers are prepared to work with dual language learners. States should articulate specific plans to create a workforce that is well prepared to serve dual language learners. This could include certifications, endorsements in bilingual education, or professional learning experiences that prepare teachers to support first and second language development, including through partnerships with families. 
  • Defining High Needs Communities: If states are provided the flexibility of defining High Needs communities, we suggest that all communities meeting that definition be identified by the state and rationale provided for the two communities or regions selected to benefit from this funding. Additionally, as part of the sustainability plan within the proposal, clearly defined goals for extending the reach of this effort to the other high needs communities in the state should be required.

Grants Awarded to Improve KEA, Build Field 

BUILD Initiaitive photo on KEA EAG GrantsThe U.S. Department of Education has awarded more than $15.1 million in Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAGs) to three state education agencies – North Carolina, Maryland and Texas – to develop or enhance their kindergarten entry assessments. North Carolina, as part of a 10-state consortium that the BUILD Initiative helped bring together, has received a $6.1 million grant to support the development of a kindergarten to grade three (K-3) formative assessment. The system will help improve student outcomes and promote early learning.

Additionally, the Maryland-led consortium, which received a $4.9 million grant award, includes the BUILD states of Ohio and Michigan. As a follow-up to our early development support, we look forward to assisting the consortium further.

Improving Kindergarten Entry Assessments

Early childhood professionals know that a child who is ready for kindergarten has a strong start toward success in school and in life. The U.S. Department of Education is supporting the grant states’ development of high-quality assessments in order to provide educators and parents with more tools for understanding a child’s cognitive and non-cognitive development.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Arizona on Thursday, September 12, 2013, to highlight that state’s participation in the North Carolina-led consortium. In addition to Arizona, other states in the consortium include Delaware, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., and South Carolina, as a collaborating state.

The primary measure of schools’ success under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is proficiency on state assessments. The EAGs can be used to:

  • Improve the quality, validity, and reliability of state academic assessments.
  • Measure student academic achievement using multiple measures.
  • Chart student progress over time.
  • Evaluate student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments.

The Maryland grant, in the amount of $4.9 million, is part of a seven-state consortium, including Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Nevada. The grant will be used to enhance a multistate, state-of-the-art assessment system composed of a KEA and aligned formative assessments. The award received by Texas, totaling $3.9 million, will fund a proposal to implement the Texas KEA system.

Identifying and Promoting Common, Essential Standards

“BUILD’s support for the North Carolina and Maryland consortia was an ambitious and timely piece of work that we conducted with an eye to significant, broad goals for the field,” states BUILD Initiative Executive Director Gerrit Westervelt. “This includes creating better formative assessments and advancing the effort to identify and promote common, essential early learning standards.”

For additional information on the program and these new awards, visit the EAG secton of the U.S. Department of Education website.

Read Our New Blog Posts

The BUILD Initiative’s BUILDing Strong Foundations blog features leading-edge early childhood thinkers on all aspects of systems building from quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) to health equity, financing, community engagement and more.

In Rallying Economic Support for Early Care and Education, Andrew Brodsky, principal at Brodsky Research and Consulting, shares proven strategies for communicating the economic benefits of early care and education interventions.

In her blog post The K-3 Formative Assessment Consortium, BUILD State Services Director Gerry Cobb writes about North Carolina’s visionary approach to kindergarten entry assessment. With funding from an Enhanced Assessment Grant, the state is banding together with nine other states to think collectively about developing a KEA that will guide instruction and give teachers and students a meaningful tool for adjusting teaching and learning.

Check back every other Thursday to find our newest BUILDing Strong Foundations post. Join the conversation –share your ideas in the Comments section..