Supporting and Serving Learners With the Greatest Needs

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

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February 2018: In This Issue

From Acting Directors Sylvia Lyles and Ruth Ryder

Office of Early Learning (OEL) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

Lyles and Ryder official portraits

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

Thank you for taking the time to read this month's Early Learning newsletter. We have focused this edition on supporting our nation's most at-risk, vulnerable, and under-served young learners, including those who are English Learners (ELs), in rural communities, neglected or abused, and coming from low-income families. 

Our "Grantee Spotlight" features a project to train educators supporting these populations, and our "Voices From the Field" interview features a behavioral specialist who has recommendations for serving at-risk early learners in the best way possible. We've also included information about an upcoming webinar series that will address the under-representation of students identified as having disabilities or developmental delays, or who are at risk for developmental delays, among students who are abused or neglected. 

New from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is a student-centered funding pilot for local educational agencies (LEAs). This pilot will allow LEAs to weight their funding based on the students with the highest needs in their schools.

Finally, be sure to check out ED's new English Learner Data Story. We share more information about the data story website below, which explores the diversity of our nation's ELs in a visually striking and easy-to-use way. More on these resources and others can be found below.

Grantee Spotlight: OSEP-funded Project Is Strengthening Rural, Inclusive, and Diverse Early Educators

Northern Arizona University logo 1

As a grantee of OSEP’s personnel development program, the Northern Arizona University College of Education's Project STRIDE  (Strengthening Rural, Inclusive, Diverse, Early Educators) will train and support 20 Project STRIDE Scholars over five years to earn certification and a master’s degree in early childhood special education. This innovative program seeks to involve educators throughout the state of Arizona, particularly in rural regions that are serving culturally and linguistically diverse, under-served young children. With an emphasis on using evidence-based and inclusive practices with young children, Project STRIDE uses online and distance education to reach educators in rural districts who want to earn a master’s degree. 

In 2017, the first cohort of scholars graduated, and the second cohort started their program. The Project STRIDE faculty provides ongoing mentoring to the scholars and collaborates with local school districts and community programs to coordinate classroom experiences.

Early Learning Updates From ED: English Learner Data Story and Pilot for Student-centered Funding


English Learner (EL) Data Story Answers Questions With Captivating Images

ED recently launched a new interactive website dedicated to data on EL students in grades K–12. The site's colorful maps, bar graphs, and charts provide a clearer understanding of America's diverse EL population through a data story. 

English Learner data story website image

The story takes users through three main queries

  • Who are ELs?
  • Where are ELs?
  • What languages do ELs speak?

 The data story reveals that nearly every U.S. state has at least one school district where the EL population has increased by more than 5 percent since the 2010 school year. The data displayed, now made accessible by this story, will serve to dispel commonly held misconceptions about ELs and help educators better understand the needs of this diverse group of learners.

ED Pilot for Student-centered Funding System Now Accepting Applications

A new pilot program, authorized by the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, is seeking LEAs interested in the flexibility to implement a student-centered funding system. In the context of the pilot, a student-centered funding system is one based on weights that allocate substantially more funding for students from low-income families, ELs, and other educationally disadvantaged student groups. ED can approve not more than 50 LEAs to participate in this pilot. 

The official application for the pilot was published on Feb. 9, 2018. The application deadline is March 12 for LEAs planning to implement in SY 201819 and July 15 for LEAs expecting to do so in SY 201920. Frequently asked questions and other resources will be posted on the program's website soon. If you have questions about the application, please email

Resources for You: Supporting Families, Building Capacity, and Identifying Children in Need


New! Preschool Development: Kindergarten Transition Brief 

Research has shown that the quality of children’s transition to kindergarten has implications for their future academic and social outcomes, and can forecast the level of family engagement the child will experience throughout kindergarten. As such, the Preschool Development and Expansion Grant Technical Assistance Program (PDG TA) has released a brief, Smoothing Out the Bumps of Transitioning to Kindergarten. The brief examines policies and practices that can be implemented to increase the likelihood that all children will have positive transition experiences. It includes a sample of state- and local-level promising practices, and describes a model for creating successful transitions to kindergarten.

New Jersey Brief From Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO)

CEELO recently shared Building Capacity to Enact Change for Classroom Quality Improvement in New Jersey, a policy brief exploring how the state set out to build the capacity of early childhood educators, teachers, and leaders through the New Jersey Early Childhood Academy. The Academy brought together teams of early learning professionals to learn and share best practices during a series of seminars led by renowned researchers and policy makers. This brief describes the state’s theory of change for this work, identifies the project's impact at the state and local levels and lessons learned, and concludes with next steps for the New Jersey Department of Education.


FEATURED WEBINAR: Promising Practices for Abused or Neglected Children

DEC and ECTA Center logos

In March, the Council for Exceptional Children's Division of Early Childhood (DEC) will join the OSEP-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) to present a free series of webinars, Promising Referral Practices: Improved Collaboration between IDEA Part C and Child Welfare. This two-part series will show that greater collaboration between early intervention and child welfare systems can positively impact the issue of under-representation of children identified to receive Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C services among children who have been maltreated. 

The series will provide viewers with a background of requirements under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). CAPTA requires that referral provisions and procedures to IDEA Part C services be in place for children under age 3 who are involved in substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect. The webinars will also highlight successful collaborative state and local efforts to combat this issue.

Part 1: March 7, 4–5 p.m. EST (register here)

Part 2: March 21, 4–5 p.m. EST (register here)

Recommended Research: This Year's National Research Conference on Early Childhood (NRCEC)


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is hosting NRCEC 2018 on June 25–27, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. The goals of NRCEC 2018 are to

  • identify and disseminate research relevant to young children (birth to 8 years) and their families, and
  • encourage collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to build upon the evidence base for policy and practice.  

The conference will present the latest research surrounding child care, Head Start, Early Head Start, home visiting, child welfare, special education, prekindergarten, early elementary, and other early childhood programs. 

HHS Administration for Children and Families

Voices From the Field: Monica Adrian, California Behavior Specialist

Photo of Monica Adrian

This month, we had the opportunity to interview Monica Adrian, a program manager and behavior support specialist for the Merced County Office of Education in California. In the interview, Adrian shared her experience as an Act Early Ambassador to California for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. campaign to promote developmental screenings. She also discusses her work related to supporting positive social skills and behavior for some of her county's neediest children. Check out the full interview on the OSERS Blog