High-Quality Programs and Services in Early Learning!

The U.S. Department of Education's Early Learning Newsletter

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April 2017: In This Issue

From Acting Assistant Secretaries Monique M. Chism, Ph.D. and Ruth Ryder

Elementary and Secondary Education | Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Hello Early Learning Leaders!

This month we are delighted to discuss the importance of not only increasing opportunities for early learning, but also of expanding quality in early learning programs and services. In this edition of the Early Learning newsletter, we have highlighted resources that focus on high-quality early learning. 

We also are pleased to spotlight a recent interview with the secretary of Alabama's Department of Early Childhood Education, Jeana Ross, who has led her state in expanding its voluntary pre-K program to all of Alabama's counties, as well as increasing funding to home visiting and family support services. Ross expounds on strategies used in Alabama for maintaining high quality in early learning programs while expanding opportunities. 

In addition to our focus on high-quality early learning, this month's newsletter touches on the importance of building the birth-to-third-grade continuum and supporting local efforts to do so. The Department's early learning work has long emphasized the need to align education across the pre-K and school-age "divide." We are excited to share the successes of Pennsylvania's Early Learning Challenge grant program, which does just that, using collaborative community-based solutions to strengthen partnerships that support the continuum.  

Thank you for reading!

Grantee Spotlight: Pennsylvania's Early Learning Challenge Grant

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Providing Pennsylvania’s children with quality early learning experiences has become a collaborative effort involving families, schools, and communities. While supports at the state level are important, Pennsylvania's early education programs have found that the most innovative and successful strategies are borne from local collaboration and solutions. 

Pennsylvania leveraged its Early Learning Challenge grant to create the Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone (CIZ) Grant Program, which has offered 50 community innovation grants to at-risk elementary schools and neighborhoods. During the course of three years, CIZ grant recipients will receive intensive supports to increase the use of developmental screenings and implement the Kindergarten Entry Inventory reporting tool. They will also receive local grants to strengthen relationships between early childhood providers and schools; to build birth-to-third-grade alignment; to increase family supports and engagement; and to strengthen community networks of organizations supporting families. Best and promising practices identified under CIZ are being documented and shared with other communities throughout the state.  

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Early Learning Updates From ED!

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April is Autism Awareness Month! An Office of Special Education Programs-funded project, Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules (AFIRM), has developed modules that are designed to walk practitioners through the processes of planning, using, and monitoring evidence-based practices for learners who have autism spectrum disorder, from birth to age 22. Supplemental materials and handouts are available on the AFIRM website, in addition to an explanation of the modules.

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2Gen Toolkit: A tool kit developed by ED and Ascend at the Aspen Institute2Gen Tools to Help Children and Families Thrive: A Resource for Staff Implementing Federal, State, and Local Programs Serving Children and Families, is intended to support early learning stakeholders in embedding a 2Gen approach in their work. This approach applies to practice, policy, and research. Its goal is to provide opportunities for, and meet the needs of, children and their parents in low-income families so that they achieve educational success and economic stability.

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Resources for You: Privacy and Suspension and Expulsion Policy

Some of this month's most recommended resources!

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  • The Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently published Information and Resources to Assist States in Developing Policy on Early Childhood Suspension and Expulsiona report that delves into current research on the impact and prevalence of suspension and expulsion in early childhood programs. The report also provides an overview of emerging state policy, descriptions of effective approaches for prevention, and considerations for states in developing policy in this area.

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  • The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a brief that discusses privacy and security considerations related to the use of technology in early childhood settings. The brief is entitled The Use of Technology to Support Early Childhood Practice: Protecting Child, Parent, and Practitioner Privacy. It provides best practices to guide early childhood programs in strengthening the safeguards to protect child, parent, and practitioner information as programs increasingly incorporate technology to improve practice. It draws on guidance developed by ED's Privacy Technical Assistance Center

Webinars from our grantees!

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  • Webinar of the Month: The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) will debut the second webinar in their family engagement series, "Enhancing Trusting Partnerships at the Systems and Practice Levels:  Reciprocal Opportunities for Professionals and Families" on April 20, from 3-4 p.m. ET. Presenters will focus on the nature of trusting partnerships among professionals and families, and will describe six research-based partnership principles. Tools for measuring the effectiveness of partnerships and family engagement will also be discussed.

  • Recently archived is the "New Concepts in Language and Literacy Professional Development" webinar, in which ED's Preschool Development and Expansion Grant Technical Assistance program investigates an online professional development series designed to strengthen teacher practice and support for young children’s language and literacy skill mastery. The webinar shares how to access this free 14-module resource, and presents three different approaches for training with the modules. 
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Recommended Research: Report Breaks Down Nonparental Care Cost and Trends

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In March, ED's National Center for Educational Statistics released The Years Before School: Children's Nonparental Care Arrangements From 2001 to 2012. This report examines the nonparental care arrangements of children in the United States, from birth to age 5, who are not yet enrolled in kindergarten. The report describes children's relative, nonrelative, and center-based care arrangements and discusses (1) overall trends regarding children's participation in types of nonparental care arrangements, (2) the number of hours that children spend in nonparental care arrangements each week, and (3) the average out-of-pocket hourly expenses that households bear when caring for their young children. 

Key findings show that about 60 percent of children from birth to age 5 who are not yet in kindergarten participate in nonparental care arrangements. The report also indicates that parents paid more for child care arrangements in 2012 than they did in 2001, even after adjusting for inflation.

Data analyzed in this report came from the Early Childhood Program Participation Survey (a component of the National Household Education Survey) of 2001, 2005, and 2012. 

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Voices From the Field: Jeana Ross, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education

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As secretary of Alabama’s Department of Early Childhood Education, Jeana Ross is leading her state in the expansion of early learning programs with a focus on maintaining their high quality. Since she became secretary in 2012, the state’s voluntary high-quality pre-K program, First Class Pre-K, has grown from 211 to more than 800 classrooms located in all 67 counties in Alabama. Through Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting grants and additional state funds, the state's early learning home visiting and family support services have grown from serving 13 counties to a total of 43 counties throughout the state. In an interview available on the OSERS Blog, Ross shares the strategies her state has used to maintain quality while expanding services to Alabama’s youngest learners.   

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