Early Learning Newsletter | July 2020 | Make the Most of Your Summer!


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

Make the Most of Your Summer!

 July 2020

Dad and daughter on a summer beach

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In This Issue:

From the Directors

Laurie VanderPloeg and Christopher Rinkus

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

Despite the unusual circumstances and challenges caused by COVID-19, we know that our early learners continue to grow and meet important milestones. We want to celebrate parents who have taken over their children’s care full time, often while juggling work and care for other family members. We also want to celebrate early childhood professionals who have been serving children and families in safe and creative ways. While this year’s summer looks very different than previous years, we hope that you are enjoying and making the most of what the summer has to offer. As we are awaiting the new school year with much uncertainty, it is even more important than ever for families, children, and early childhood professionals to take some time to care for their physical, and mental well-being. In this edition of Early Learning, we continue to highlight resources to support families’ well-being and children’s development at home.  

In addition to exploring the resources presented in this newsletter, please continue visiting ED’s COVID-19 Information and Resources page for COVID-19-related resources and updates.

This month, for our Voices From the Field  blog, we interviewed Mona Qafisheh, the president-elect for Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (AzAEYC). Qafisheh talks about her work to support and improve child care programs in Arizona.

Thank you, as always, for reading Early Learning. We hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe!

Laurie VanderPloeg
Office of Special Education Programs

Christopher Rinkus
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
Discretionary Grants and Support Services
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education


Project Spotlight

Hero Elementary

You Belong at Hero Elementary!

On June 1, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) Ready to Learn Television grants, debuted a new PBS show, “Hero Elementary™.” “Hero Elementary” is about a school for up-and-coming superheroes, where kids learn to master powers like flying and teleportation while exploring science along the way. The series pushes children ages 4 to 7 to think like scientists to solve problems while also touching on social issues, like kindness and empathy. One of the main characters, AJ Gadgets, loves all things “super,” makes super gadgets and has the power of thought projection. He is also on the autism spectrum. AJ is accepted and appreciated for the unique skills he brings to the “Sparks Crew.” The show offers its viewers more awareness, acceptance, inclusion, and appreciation for people with disabilities. A preview episode is available now on YouTube.


Early Learning Updates from ED


Implementation of IDEA Part C Evaluation and Assessment Timelines

ED’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) recently released Questions and Answers (Q&A) documents in response to inquiries concerning implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C evaluation and assessment timelines in the current COVID-19 environment.

You can review other Q&A documents that OSEP has provided related to COVID-19 here.


Voices From the Field

Mona Qafisheh

Power to the Early Childhood Education Profession

We recently interviewed Mona Qafisheh, the president-elect for Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (AzAEYC). She talks about her work to support and improve childcare programs in Arizona. We invite you to read the full interview on the OSERS Blog.

Resources For You

Download: A Kindergarten Teacher’s Guide to Supporting Family Involvement in Foundational Reading Skills (PDF)

Supporting Children’s Reading at Home: Family Resources

Learning to read begins at home through everyday interactions with children long before they attend school. The ED-funded REL Southeast provides these family activities with easy-to-follow instructions to help children who are starting kindergarten through third grade practice foundational reading skills. We invite you to view the short family videos for tips on how to use the activities to help your child grow as a reader. Using the family activities at home can help your child develop language, link sounds to letters, blend letters and word parts to read and write words, and read for understanding.

ECTA logo

COVID-19 Resources for Children from Birth to Age Five

The ED-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) has developed a COVID-19 webpage with resources for states and local programs serving young children with disabilities and their families. Committed to promoting equity in the systems and services that support young children with disabilities and their families, ECTA has developed a tool to help states begin to examine their own systems and services during the pandemic. The document provides four equity statements and questions that help guide discussions on equity among system leaders, administrators, teachers, or direct service providers.

Four promising factors to close opportunity gaps among children of color

Factors to Close Opportunity Gaps Among Children of Color

Many students and families, particularly those who are Black or Latinx, are experiencing trauma and losses due to COVID-19 and the racial unrest. Given the impact of these current events, it’s important to note there are promising ways to build a more equitable education system for our youngest learners. Since 2016, the ED-funded Early Learning Network teams across the country have been working to understand, explore and identify factors programs and schools have the ability to change to narrow early learning gaps and help children maintain the preschool boost through early elementary school. Learn about the four important factors, each with a set of actions, that may help eliminate or reduce early opportunity gaps based on race and income.


Featured Webinars

Open book. Image by Kranich17 from Pixabay

Re-opening Schools Safely:
New Evidence on Mitigating
COVID-19 Spread

The ED-funded REL Mid-Atlantic hosted a webinar on considerations for reopening schools safely. Presenters shared lessons learned from a rapid-turnaround study in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to inform their guidance for reopening schools in the fall. They discussed: 

  1. input from stakeholders;
  2. lessons from a rapid review of emerging evidence on the COVID-19 pandemic and best practices in blended and remote learning; and
  3. lessons from an agent-based modeling simulation that estimated the level of COVID-19 transmission in schools under various scenarios and mitigation strategies.
Webinar:  BabyTalks Series: Supporting Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities or Suspected Delays

Supporting Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities or Suspected Delays

Young children vary in their skills, interests, backgrounds, and abilities. Effective teaching requires individualized instruction and chances for all children to access, participate, and thrive in early learning settings. This webinar from the Department of Health and Human Services-funded National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning (NCECDTL) focuses on responsive environments and interactions that support infants and toddlers with disabilities or suspected delays as they grow and learn. In addition to learning in classrooms and centers, the presenter discusses tips and strategies for supporting learning at home.


Funding Opportunities

CDC logo

State Leadership Opportunities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published requests for applications for the following state and territorial early childhood leadership opportunities:

Support for Early Childhood State Systems Through the Act Early Network to Support Recovery and Strengthen Resilience Skills, Behaviors, and Resources of Children, Families, and Communities —  Applications are due Aug. 4 at 5 p.m. ET.

Act Early Ambassadors: State or Territorial Liaisons to CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Program — Applications are due Aug. 4 at 5 p.m. ET.


Connect With Us Online!

Check out ED's Early Learning website for updates on all of ED's early learning activities, and to view the Early Learning newsletter archive.

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OSERS is on Twitter with the latest tweets from special education and early intervention advocates, educators, families, and students. Be sure to follow @Ed_Sped_Rehab and tell your friends.