NAECS-SDE - Supporting successful child development and continuous learning from birth through age eight

What is NAECS-SDE?

NAECS-SDE (National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education) is a national organization for state education agency staff members with major responsibilities in the field of early childhood education. The Association promotes high-quality services to young children and their families through improvement of instruction, curriculum, and administration of programs. Members of the Association have an opportunity to share ideas and to work together toward the solution of common problems.

NAECS-SDE is incorporated in the state of Delaware, and operates under approved by-laws

The Beginning

When was NAECS-SDE started?
NAECS-SDE was founded in 1972 by a small group of state early childhood specialists. At that time, few state departments of education had such a position. It was, however, a time when the potential of early childhood education to improve the life chances of young children was gaining the attention of state leaders. In the intervening years, many more states have designated early childhood specialists and created units focused on programs for young children and their families. As state resources for early childhood programs have increased, most of these new specialists have also become members of NAECS-SDE.


What are NAECS-SDE's goals?
The goals of the organization are:
  • Enhancing the efforts of state departments of education on behalf of young children
  • Strengthening communication and coordination among states
  • Influencing and supporting policies and legislation that affect the education, health, and welfare of children and their families
  • Offering assistance and leadership in researching, analyzing, and recommending standards for high quality early childhood and teacher preparation programs
  • Promoting communication and coordination between state departments of education and other agencies and professional organizations serving young children

State Early Childhood Specialists

What do State Early Childhood Specialists do?
NAECS-SDE members hold a wide variety of positions within their respective state education agencies. These positions typically include fiscal responsibility, programmatic decision making, and assuring program compliance with state policy.

Among these responsibilities are many programs with federal ties: Title I, Even Start, Head Start Collaboration, Federal Class Size, Special Education, Homeless, and Schools of the 21st Century. Additional responsibilities often include state-funded preschool programs; at-risk programming; school-age child care; school administration and improvement; curriculum and assessment in the early grades; and data collection about the health, education, and well-being of the young children in the state.

Members of the organization have a wide range of responsibilities, but their common bond is a commitment to the development and education of young children.

Partnerships & Collaborations

How does NAECS-SDE work with related organizations/agencies?
For many years, NAECS-SDE has worked closely with other professional organizations to achieve its goals:
  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children is a frequent collaborator on position papers issued by the Association.
  • The Council of Chief State Officers is a partner in ongoing work related to standards and assessment, as well as other projects having policy implications at the state level. 
  • The Early Childhood and Parenting (ECAP) Collaborative at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (formerly the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education) and NAECS-SDE have been long-term partners in a number of projects including this web site and the publication and distribution of Of Primary Interest, a newsletter of the Association.
  • The Association has assisted the Education Commission of the States in a number of data collection efforts.
  • Members have been active in the work of several regional educational laboratories. SERVE, located in Greensboro, North Carolina, has been particularly active in the early childhood area and has been a frequent partner with NAECS-SDE in work of mutual interest.
  • In the past few years, NAECS-SDE has also worked with the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University and the National Prekindergarten Center (NPC) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to improve the quality of research related to state-funded prekindergarten programs.
  • In addition, members of the Association are frequently consulted by federal agencies with responsibility for programs serving young children and their families. For example, members have been frequent contributors to task forces and conferences sponsored by the Head Start Bureau.


Who can join NAECS-SDE?
NAECS-SDE has three categories of membership:
  • Full membership in the Association shall be open to those persons with major responsibility for programs in early childhood education, serving in state departments of education or other state early childhood education agencies in the United States and its territories.
  • Associate membership shall be open to retired or former full members. Any early childhood specialist holding full membership in the Association is eligible for Associate Membership after leaving state agency employment .
  • Affiliate membership shall be open to related professionals who hold a current state-focused position in—or providing services for—a national not-for-profit organization related to the purpose of the Association.


When does the NAECS-SDE meet?
A national meeting is held annually, beginning in 2010 in conjunction with the National Association for the Education of Young Children's Professional Development Institute (PDI). The executive committee meets by phone regularly and in retreat annually. Standing committees meet by phone regularly, and on a project-by-project basis.