Spring Newsletter 2021

Enhancing the Visibility of Early Education in California School Districts

We recently collaborated with the DIAL EE fellows to develop a toolkit called Enhancing the Visibility of Early Education in California School Districts. This toolkit was developed in response to the 2021 DIAL EE report, A Survey of ECE Visibility and Alignment in California School Districts. We tried to develop practical tools for the field with feedback from DIAL EE fellows about what will be helpful to them and their districts as they increase visibility of ECE within their districts. The toolkit has four sections for how early learning can be visible within a district:

  • Website
  • Organizational Chart
  • Vision Statement
  • Information


It takes years to fully implement and systematize any strategy. Therefore, a superintendent’s tenure directly impacts the success of any school district’s mission. This is even more apparent for an ECE initiative that could involve multiple agencies, grades, or departments. DIAL EE fellows recognize the important role of superintendents to elevate an Early Education Strategy during their tenure, with some or most of the work sustained after their departure. The fellows labeled these superintendents “Unicorns” and the residuals of their work “Unicorn Dust.” For DIAL EE, a Unicorn is a superintendent or administrator who visibly supports an early education strategy in a district setting. The visibility is seen and understood by all district staff, early education community leaders, and families. The strengths of the effectiveness of their strategies are measured in the long-term impact on districts. The superintendent or administrator’s efforts survive their future departure. The fellows call these efforts Unicorn Dust. Because these superintendents, with an understanding of and focus on the value of ECE for districts, are rare and special, our fellows have likened them to unicorns. Actions of the Unicorn include but are not limited to the following:
  • A written early education strategy
  • Early education embedded in district-wide written plans and processes, e.g., strategic plan, vision, LCFF, CEIS
  • Early education embedded in district fiscal models e.g. LCFF
  • A district early education administrator
  • The early education administrator is on the superintendent’s leadership team
  • The district’s early education leader is grounded in ECE pedagogy and practices
  • The early education strategy is embedded in the district’s curriculum, instruction, and assessment departments and systems
DIAL EE seeks to elevate the Unicorns’ actions scattered throughout the state of California’s 1000 plus districts by highlighting a superintendent or administrator during a bi-monthly podcast. Stay tuned for more updates on when our first podcast episode will be available. Let us know if there is a ‘Unicorn’ superintendent or administrator that you’d like us to interview.

Legislative Summaries

California’s Master Plan for Learning and Care laid out an ambitious plan for the early learning and care system. In support of the plan, legislatures penned a robust set of bills. DIAL EE identified seven bills that could impact school districts in one or two ways—fiscal or pedagogical impacts. DIAL EE recommends districts conduct a preliminary analysis to determine the impacts on their districts.

There are seven bills to watch. The four bills highlighted in blue could significantly modify the district’s early education budget. The bills highlighted in yellow provide information on systems, e.g., data.

Opportunities and announcements

DIAL EE is sponsoring 3 sessions at the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators 2021 Professional Development Summit that will focus on equity. These sessions are:

Silent Suspensions: How do we identify and disrupt the practice?
Christie Herrera, Executive Director of Early Learning, Early Childhood Education Department, Oakland Unified School District
Jason Okonofua, Assistant Professor, Psychology Department, University of California, Berkeley

Research, Policy and Practice: Decolonizing Early Care and Education
Keisha Nzewi, Director of Public Policy, California Child Care Resource & Referral Network
LaWanda Wesley, Director of Quality Enhancement & Professional Development, Early Childhood Department, Oakland Unified School District
Ashley Williams, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, Berkeley

Shoestrings: MH Program Disrupting the Preschool-to- Prison Pipeline
Crystal Hawkins, Founder/Senior Consultant, C Hawkins & Associates

Our partner, the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, has a new podcast episode out, A Child’s Education Journey With Patricia Lozano, Director of Early Edge . Listen to it here.