Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released non-regulatory guidance in the form of a question and answer document to address the use of Title I funds for high-quality preschool programs for eligible children. Citing concerns and questions raised by administrators, teachers and early learning stakeholders as the impetus for releasing this guidance, the Department answers numerous questions for the public.
The guidance provides clarity in eight areas:
- General Information
- Eligible Children
- Qualifications of Early Childhood Educators (Teachers and Paraprofessionals) in a Title I Preschool Program
- Parental Involvement and Family Engagement
- Transition from Preschool to Kindergarten
- Coordination with Other Federal Programs
- Use of Funds
- SEA Support of Title I Preschool Programs
Specific to children with disabilities, the document explicitly states that children with disabilities are eligible to participate in a Title I preschool program on the same basis as eligible children without disabilities. However, an LEA or school may not use Title I funds to provide services to preschool children with disabilities that they are otherwise required by law to receive because to do so would violate the Title I supplement not supplant requirements.
Additionally, the guidance states that while a test for accountability purposes is not given to children until 3rd grade, pursuant to ESEA/NCLB, it does acknowledge that assessments to help teachers better understand children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and health development results in better meeting the needs of children. In this context, the Department urges a school district to choose an assessment tool that has been validated for its intended purpose and population and should be appropriation for use with English Learners and children with disabilities.