Early Learning Newsletter | August 2020 | Early Childhood Resources to Share!


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

Early Childhood Resources to Share!


August 2020 

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In This Issue:

From the Directors

Laurie VanderPloeg and Christopher Rinkus

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. To honor this designation, our Voices in the Field interview with Cindy Hillyer, director of the Office of Early Childhood Education at Minneapolis Public Schools, highlights the importance of collaboration between service delivery systems. Hillyer leads a Minnesota Early Childhood Screening program that provides a universal, required health and education screening touch point for 3- through 5-year-olds before kindergarten, including a vision health screening. We invite you to read the full interview on the OSERS Blog.

We are also excited to celebrate that “Molly of Denali,” a PBS Kids TV show funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) Ready to Learn Television grants, won a Peabody Award, a distinguished achievement and one of media broadcasting’s oldest awards given for excellence in broadcasting. We highlighted the show’s July 15, 2019, premiere in the July 2019 “Early Learning” newsletter. Learn about the show’s accomplishment in Project Spotlight below.  

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.

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

Molly of Denali

Molly of Denali™

In the July 2019 “Early Learning” newsletter, we announced a new ED-funded PBS Kids television show, “Molly of Denali,” that premiered on July 15, 2019. The show is groundbreaking in that it is the first nationally distributed children’s series to feature a native Alaskan lead character.  The series has involved over 60 Alaska natives at every level of production, including developing stories and writing scripts, serving as advisors on culture and language, serving as voice talent, writing and performing music, and more. In June, “Molly of Denali” won a Peabody Award, a distinguished achievement and one of media broadcasting’s oldest awards given for excellence in broadcasting. The Peabody team eloquently expressed that the award was given “for helping to shift the ways that the next generation will think about indigenous people and for giving native media-makers a central role in shaping their own representation, ‘Molly of Denali’ deserves a Peabody.” You can learn more about “Molly of Denali” on the Peabody Awards page.


Early Learning Updates from ED

Parents Teaching Their Child

Parent Involvement in Their Children's Education

ED’s Institute of Education Sciences released the First Look report, which presents findings from the Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2019. The focus of the report is on parent and family involvement in the education of U.S. students in kindergarten through grade 12 during the 2018–19 school year, as reported by the students’ parents. It includes the percentage of students who participated in selected family activities. Demographic information about students and families is presented, including students’ poverty status and parents’ education and language spoken at home, as well as school characteristics, such as school size and school type. These data represent parent and family involvement prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voices From the Field

Cindy Hillyer

Promoting Equity in Children’s Vision Health

We recently interviewed Cindy Hillyer, director of the Office of Early Childhood Education at Minneapolis Public Schools. She talks about the importance of collaboration among service systems to promote equity in children’s vision health. We invite you to read the full interview on the OSERS Blog.


This Month’s Recommended Resource

Download: Fighting the Big Virus: Trinka, Sam, and Littletown Work Together (PDF)

Fighting the Big Virus Children’s Book

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)-funded National Child Traumatic Stress Network, developed a children’s book, Trinka and Sam Fighting the Big Virus: Trinka, Same, and Littletown Work Together to help young children and families talk about their experiences and feelings about COVID-19 and the need to shelter in place. The story, which is available in multiple language, opens doors to conversations about COVID-19, including ways that families and communities are working together to keep safe from the virus, family and community strengths, common challenges and reactions in children and adults, ways that families support children and each other, and communities’ gratitude for frontline workers. A caregiver guide is available in the back of the book that provides ways parents can use the story with their children. A companion story, Fighting the Big Virus: Trinka's and Sam's Questions, about how to answer children's questions about the virus is also available.

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. The ECTA Center answers frequently asked questions from state Part C and Part B, 619 coordinators regarding service delivery practices during the pandemic. Topic areas covered on the web page include consent, child find, evaluation and assessment, transition, remote service delivery and distance learning, schools reopening, child and family outcomes, and fiscal matters.

The Leadership Team’s Guide for Re-Opening Programs (PDF)

The Leadership Team’s Guide for Reopening Programs

The ED-funded National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations recently published a document designed to guide education program leadership teams on considerations for supporting children, families, and staff as they return to their programs. The Leadership Team’s Guide for Re-Opening Programs includes Pyramid Model practices and encourages people to think about those strategies from a trauma-informed perspective. While the leadership team may not know who among children, families, and staff has had or is experiencing trauma, a trauma-informed approach guides programs in providing a safe and nurturing environment where children, families, and staff can build resilience, feel safe, and recover.

Featured Webinar

Pediatrician and patient

Strengthening Vaccine Confidence in Pediatric and Family Practice Offices During COVID-19

Pediatric vaccine ordering and administration have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic as families have been sheltering at home. Maintaining routine childhood immunization is essential in order to prevent outbreaks of preventable diseases. This Aug. 19 webinar from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases discusses how to strengthen vaccine confidence among parents and ensure safe well visits.

New Award Announcement

Logo: Early Childhood Training and Technical Assistance System (ECTTAS)

New National Center for Preschool Development Grants Birth Through Five
Funding Opportunities

We are pleased to announce the award of a new Office of Child Care technical assistance (TA) contract that will support the work of the departments of HHS and of ED in jointly administering Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B–5) grants. SRI International, in conjunction with several partner organizations, will provide TA to PDG B–5 grantees, particularly on capacity-building. The new National Center for Preschool Development Grants Birth Through Five (NCPDG B–5) will join the Administration for Children and Families’ Early Childhood Training and Technical Assistance System. More detailed information on NCPDG B–5 will be available soon.

New Funding Opportunity

Federal Register 07-29-2020 B

State Personnel Development Grants program

ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services recently published a notice inviting applications for fiscal year 2020 for the State Personnel Development Grants program, Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance number 84.323A. The purpose of this program is to assist state educational agencies “in reforming and improving their systems for personnel preparation and professional development in early intervention, educational, and transition services in order to improve results for children with disabilities.” Applications are due Sept. 10.


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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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