California MAP* to Inclusion and Belonging… *Making Access Possible February 2023 Newsletter
Opportunities to Expand Inclusion in California: IEEEP and Universal Prekindergarten
Although inclusion has been mandated by the federal government for over 40 years, the latest data from 2019 indicates that only 27.3 percent of preschoolers with disabilities in California receive services in regular education settings at least 10 hours per week. The Inclusive Early Education Expansion Program (IEEEP) and Universal Prekindergarten are both intended to expand access to quality inclusive preschool settings. The California MAP to Inclusion & Belonging… Making Access Possible team has gathered information and resources to help child care and early education providers gain access to information and resources related to these important programs starting with two opportunities for professional development:
- Professional development on inclusion, endorsed by the current IEEEP, is available through the Beginning Together Inclusion Facilitators Institute. Read about it in the November MAP newsletter . The deadline for submitting applications is February 8, 2023.
- Universal Prekindergarten and inclusion is the topic of the CPIN/SIP UPK Seeds of Change Webinar Series that runs from January to March. You can register now for the free series and get access to a Padlet of resources, including recorded sessions of previous webinars. Visit the SIP Events web page to find out more and register .
How Inclusion is Addressed in Universal Prekindergarten
This article provides a brief explanation of UPK and elements specifically related to inclusion. It includes a brief explanation of the legislation, the role of the California State Preschool Program (CSPP) and UPK as a mixed delivery system. Also highlighted are the UPK FAQ’s and inclusion and how the UPK Guidance documents address inclusion.
In 2021, legislation was passed that requires any local educational agency (LEA) operating a Kindergarten to also provide a Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program for all 4-year-old children by 2025–26. California’s Universal Transitional Kindergarten (UTK) will be universally available, and free of cost, for all four-year old children as part of California’s public education system by the 2025-2026 school year. California’s goal is to serve more children ages 3-to 4-years-old, statewide, in high-quality preschool programs. California intends to meet this goal through the implementation of universally available TK, as well as investments in other state-funded programs, such as funding to expand the CSPP and other state-subsidized programs that offer a preschool learning experience.
Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) is an umbrella term that includes the California State Preschool Program (CSPP), TK at the California Department of Education, as well as Head Start, district and local community-based preschool programs, early learning services for students with disabilities, private pay preschool, and expanded learning options to support access to a full day of services.
California State Preschool Program (CSPP)
The 2022-2023 California State Budget expands eligibility to the CSPP by guaranteeing 24-months of Early Learning and care to all 3-and 4-year-old children with exceptional needs and expands eligibility to all families with incomes at the state median. It also provides new funding for IEEEP and establishes the California Universal Planning Grant Program with the goal of expanding access universally to 3- and 4-year-old children through a mixed delivery system (50 million). In addition, it provides 2 million dollars for the CDE to develop a process and tools for early identification of children at risk for developmental delays or learning disabilities. (Early Edge’s 2022-2023 California State Budget Summary Highlights: Early Learning and Care ).
UPK offers a mixed delivery system that includes the CSPP, operated by the California Department of Education (CDE), along with other prekindergarten programs serving three- and four-year-old children, including the federal Head Start Program, subsidized programs that operate a preschool learning experience and are operated by community-based organizations (CBOs)--including family childcare--, and private preschool. As such UPK seeks to maximizes access for all children and ensure parental choice of preschool options. In striving for a high quality mixed delivery system, AB 185 SEC. 2 established the Universal PreKindergarten Mixed Delivery Quality and Access Workgroup. This 32 member workgroup, representing a diverse group of people from the early childhood field throughout California, is charged with providing recommendations on best practices for increasing access to high-quality UPK programs for 3- and 4-year-old children offered through a mixed-delivery model that provides equitable learning experiences across a variety of settings; to provide recommendations to update preschool standards in line with a mixed delivery system and ensure recommendations are line with the Master Plan for early learning and care.
The California Department of Education has been moving quickly to help LEAs be successful in developing the knowledge, infrastructure and staffing necessary to build TK programs. Efforts to expand access to inclusive preschool programs is happening at the same time.
Universal Prekindergarten Frequently Asked Questions
Universal Prekindergarten Frequently Asked Questions identifies how CDE is supporting inclusive practices and particularly support for challenging behavior. The FAQs cite the revision of the California Preschool Learning Foundations to be released in 2023, as well as CDE’s Preschool through Third Grade (P-3) Alignment Initiative to address any potential for inequities, address bias, and promote equitable opportunity for all children. It points out the legislation that sets forth specific steps that must be taken when a child exhibits serious challenging behaviors before a California State Preschool Program (CSPP) can expel or disenroll a child. The most substantial support is through the Inclusive Early Education Expansion Program (IEEEP) that provides funding to increase access to inclusive early learning and care (ELC) programs for children with disabilities, including children with severe disabilities. In addition, the FAQs cite the UPK guidance documents around early education concepts, structures, and rationale for the importance of early childhood education in addition to resources for curriculum to support LEAs in the development of their UPK Plan. Below lists descriptions of the specific references to children with disabilities in Universal PreK Guidance documents.
Universal Prekindergarten Planning and Implementation Guidance, Volume 1 introduces LEA leaders to early education concepts, agencies, and structures to support LEA’s in development of their Universal PreK Plan that was due to be reviewed by the LEA Board for consideration on or before June 30, 2022. The Guidance specifically addresses children with disabilities as part of “Research on Why Early Education Matters.” It explains the importance of “Early identification and intervention for learning disabilities: Access to early education environments also increases access to early screening for learning disabilities, developmental delays, and intervention services. Children who are identified earlier and receive specialized support prior to elementary school tend to fare better in later schooling on academic achievement and demonstrate fewer instances of behavior problems.”
Also, under “Research on Why Early Education Matters” the guidance points out the benefits of inclusion: “Inclusion is better for children with disabilities and their peers: Research has clearly shown that children with disabilities can, and do, benefit from quality preschool experiences, and that these impacts are more robust when children are served in inclusive settings alongside their typically developing peers. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that all children benefit from inclusive preschool settings. Research shows that typically developing children demonstrate developmental, social, and attitudinal benefits from inclusive experiences.”
Universal PreKindergarten Planning and Implementation Guidance, Volume 2 includes a section entitled, “PreKindergarten through Third Grade Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment - Supporting Children with Disabilities.” This section (pages 65-76) includes an overview of select instructional practices to support children with disabilities in UPK, including descriptions of and resources related to implementing effective curriculum, instruction, and assessments for children with disabilities. Below are the topics addressed:
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
- Providing high-quality care and education to all of California’s children, including those with disabilities
- Adaptations to instructional materials, for children with disabilities
- Specialized services (for example: occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy)
- Social-emotional strategies, such as the Pyramid Model, Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), and so on
- Additional staff to support participation in instruction
- Screeners (Ages and Stages Questionnaire [ASQ], ASQ- Social Emotional [ASQ-SE], Brigance, and so on)
- Evidence-based teaching strategies and professional development opportunities
- Family Engagement
The UPK Guidance, Volume 2 outlines the key components of a high-quality inclusive preschool, further indicating the commitment of the California Department of Education to an inclusive UPK.
For an easy-to-follow overview of UPK see the PowerPoint in the Universal PreKindergarten Communications Materials that were released in November 2022. They can be found on the UPK California’s Great Start web page . The photos used in this article are from the UPK PowerPoint.
Inclusive Early Education Expansion Program (IEEP)
The Inclusive Early Education Expansion Program (IEEP) is the legislation that has done the most to prepare early care and learning sites for inclusion all over California. In addition to funding, IEEEP has provided guidance and recommendations for high quality inclusive settings through the resources and training endorsed by the program.
The purpose of the IEEEP funding is to increase access to inclusive early learning and care (ELC) programs for children with disabilities, including children with severe disabilities; and to fund the cost to the California Department of Education (CDE) of conducting an evaluation of the IEEEP. Funding for the IEEEP is in accordance with Assembly Bill 1808 (Chapter 32, Statutes of 2018).
IEEEP funding can be used for:
- Facility construction, repairs and renovations to increase access to inclusive programs;
- Adaptive equipment to improve accessibility to indoor or outdoor environments to increase participation of children with disabilities; and
- Professional Development to ensure that early learning and care staff are prepared to serve children with disabilities
Note that the three areas of funding reflect the defining features of inclusion found in the DEC/NAEYC Position Statement: Access, Participation and Support. This is the first time in California history that the state has provided resources to address comprehensive supports for building high quality inclusive programs.
The IEEEP grant period began on June 15, 2020 and continues through December 31, 2024. The 2022 California Budget provided another 200 million dollars of funding for 2022-2027. It will be awarded to select LEAs. According to the latest data on the CDE website (CDE Funding Results IEEEP FY 2018-2019 ) IEEEP Grants have been awarded to 65 LEAs in 33 different Counties. Applications for the next round of IEEEP funding are expected to become available in February 2023. The new funding will significantly expand resources for implementing inclusion throughout the state.
*Pictures in the IEEEP article are from Riverside County Las Brisas Child Development Center
The Inclusive Early Education (IEE) web page provides an IEE Program Overview that sets a vision for inclusion in California. It contains a compilation of resources to support the field of early education professionals and families of children with disabilities to increase identification, access, participation and supports of children with disabilities in early care and education programs. It contains brief descriptions and links to information on the IEEEP Grant programs and the IEE Resource web page with links to resources recommended by CDE.
It also includes a description of and link to the Impact Inclusion Work Group that was formed as a result of the IEEEP grant legislation with state and local representatives to share challenges, barriers and best practices around access to inclusion. The vision of the work group is: One system, All Children: Better Together. Their mission statement explains their purpose:
The Impact Inclusion Workgroup exists to lift, advocate for, and advance early childhood inclusive programs for children with disabilities in and across all sectors and systems in the state and tribes. We recognize and value the need for a culturally and linguistically responsive system reflective of our communities that honors individual strengths, differences, similarities, and perspectives, as essential to a quality inclusive system. Thus, a unified inclusive early learning and care system driven by an equity lens, will lead to equitable access, meaningful participation and a strong sense of authentic belonging for ALL of California’s children, their families, and the communities that serve them.
Visit the web page to read the guiding principles, call to action and definition of high quality inclusion adopted by the work group. The Impact Inclusion Work Group provides proactive oversight of inclusion that is developing statewide and includes plans for the future of the expansion of inclusion. The work of this group may be a strong source of leadership for the future of inclusion.
As UPK becomes a reality and if it is implemented as intended, supported by increased access through IEEEP grants, options to attend high quality inclusive preschool will be significantly expanded for children with disabilities in California.
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