Early Learning Newsletter | January 2021 | Happy New Year!


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

Happy New Year!

January 2021

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In This Issue:

From the Directors

Laurie VanderPloeg and Christopher Rinkus

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

Happy New Year! 2020 was full of uncertainty and presented a bundle of formidable challenges to all of us. Plans that were set in the beginning of the year had to be revised or redirected. However, hard work, commitment, and dedication by our early learning professionals, administrators, and families shined through during the most difficult of circumstances. We want to share our appreciation for all you have endured. We also would like to send our thoughts to everyone who has been affected by the pandemic. At the U.S. Department of Education (ED), we want to pause and reflect on what we have accomplished as we welcome the new year with a sense of hopefulness. 

ED continued its commitment to support our nation’s youngest learners through high-quality early childhood education. Through the administration of the Ready to Learn Television programming initiative and the co-administration of the Preschool Development Grant — Birth to Five program and the previously funded Preschool Development Grants program for 4-year-olds, ED continued to elevate early childhood education as a priority for the nation and supported increased access to early education resources and equitable access to early childhood education to increase school readiness and close learning and opportunity gaps.

ED’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) focused on system strategies and innovative practices to attract, prepare and retain early childhood interventionists and related service providers. OSEP also collaborated with other agencies to increase high-quality universal developmental screening in states, developed resources to increase child find activities, and supported high-quality inclusive practices. ED has several technical assistance centers in early childhood. Working through our technical assistance centers, we promoted young children’s social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes, access and participation within science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning opportunities, improved opportunities for family engagement, and access to high-quality early childhood programs. ED has developed and collaboratively disseminated resources to early childhood programs, personnel, and parents to support them during COVID-19.

ED’s work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) demonstrated to states and other early learning partners the importance of cross-agency collaboration and coordination. ED and HHS provided resources to support the improvement of early childhood education and the development of state tools to conduct needs assessments, strategic plan implementation, and program evaluations. 

The Early Learning newsletter has supported ED’s efforts to share information with stakeholders, families, and the field on the work that is happening for young children and their families. We hope that you enjoy reading the rest of the newsletter to find out about recent developments and resources to support our youngest learners, as well as their teachers, caregivers, and families.

Thank you, as always, for reading Early Learning!

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

REL Southeast

School Readiness Partnership

The ED-funded REL Southeast developed Professional Learning Community: Emergent Literacy to build the capacity of preschool educators to provide 3- to 5-year-old children evidence-based language and literacy instruction. In support of this learning community REL Southeast School Readiness Partnership, has developed a Professional Learning Community facilitator’s toolkit centered around early literacy. The toolkit is designed to engage preschool teachers in collaborative learning experiences to support implementation of evidence-based language and literacy strategies that benefit children.


Early Learning Updates from ED

OSEP Fast Facts

OSEP Fast Facts

OSEP collects data from states about infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities who receive early intervention services, special education, or related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). OSEP’s Fast Facts summarizes key facts related to specific aspects of the data collection authorized by Section 618 of the IDEA, such as child count, educational environments and settings, and exiting data.


This Month’s Recommended Resource

Logo: STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) Center

STEM Learning Resources for Young Children with Disabilities

The ED-funded STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMI2E2) Center aims to develop and enhance the knowledge base on engagement in STEM learning opportunities for young children with disabilities. STEMI2E2 held STEMIEFest 2020 this past fall and the archived presentations are now available on the STEMIEFEST page. Enjoy exploring collections of videos, media, and resources developed by those in the field of early STEM education. Also, consider participating in the “State of STEM and Inclusion in Early Education” survey. This survey is examining the experiences, beliefs, and practices in early STEM and inclusion to inform the development of STEMI2E2’s technical assistance and professional development resources.

Head Start logo

Communication and Connectivity: Family Supports for Remote Service Delivery

Phones, laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi, and charging capability are critical tools for remote service delivery. Families and children rely on these tools to access information about early care and education and other vital health and human services in their communities. This family supports document from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides resources for families to access internet and technology needed for remote learning and services.

Improving Data, Improving Outcomes (IDIO) 2020 Virtual Convening

The ED-funded Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) in collaboration with the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA), the Early Childhood Personnel Center (ECPC), and the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) hosted the 2020 DaSy Improving Outcomes, Improving Data (IDIO) Virtual Convening on Oct. 19–22, 2020. With the theme “Data Leadership in the Age of COVID-19,” the 2020 DaSy IDIO Virtual Convening helped IDEA Part C and 619 Coordinators, IDEA Part C and B Data Managers, and parent leaders to:

  1. increase their knowledge and skills related to the collection, analysis, and use of data to support children and families, and 
  2. build the organizational capacity to support the implementation of evidence-based practices. 

Descriptions, recordings, and slides for all sessions at the Virtual Convening can be found on the DaSy website.


COVID-19 Resources

ECTA logo

COVID-19 Resources for Children from Birth to Age 5

The ED-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center developed a COVID-19 website with resources for states and local programs serving young children with disabilities and their families. ECTA recently hosted a webinar, “Supporting Social-Emotional and Mental Health Needs of Young Children Through Part C Early Intervention: Results of a 50-State Survey.” This webinar presents key findings from a 50-state survey on supports for social-emotional and mental health needs in Part C early intervention. The “National Survey Report,” from the National Center for Children and Poverty (NCCP) and Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF), is the webinar's focus.


Featured Webinars

Head Start logo

Providing Meal and Nutrition Services During COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, the number of children living in households with food insecurity has more than tripled. In this January 13 webinar, learn more about available flexibilities through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and other innovative ways Head Start and Early Head Start programs are meeting the nutritional needs of children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dasy Center and ECTA Center logos

Creating Effective Partnerships to Improve Early Identification

This interactive recorded webinar provides an overview of the purposes of Part C early intervention services for infants and toddlers and their families and Part B, 619 services for preschool special education. A collaboration between the ECTA and the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy), the webinar emphasizes that identifying young children as early as possible requires developing partnerships with families, communities, and programs. Viewers will learn about Rhode Island's partnership with their Act Early Ambassador. The Ambassador trains professionals in home visiting programs and other early care and education professionals on how to use “Learn The Signs. Act Early” developmental milestone resources to support earlier identification.


New Funding Opportunities

Institute of Education Sciences (IES) logo

IES Small Business Innovation Research Program

ED’s IES Small Business Innovation Research program (ED/IES SBIR) has released two Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Phase I solicitations.

  • Education Phase I Solicitation 9199002R0001 requests proposals for up to $200,000 for eight months for the research and development of prototypes of education technology products for students, educators, or administrators.
  • Special Education Phase I Solicitation 91990021R0002 requests proposals for up to $200,000 for eight months for the research and development of prototypes of special education technology products for infants; toddlers; or learners with, or at risk for, disabilities; or educators (or other instructional personnel, related services providers, or family members).

The deadline for proposals for both solicitations is Jan. 21, 2021.

Department of Education Logo

Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities

ED recently issued a notice inviting applications for new awards for FY 2021 for Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities—Improving Retention of Special Education Teachers and Early Intervention Personnel, Assistance Listing Number 84.325P. The purpose of this program is to support the capacity of state and local systems to retain personnel working in early intervention and special education systems.

The application deadline is Feb. 9, 2021.

Logo: HRSA

Promoting Pediatric Primary Prevention (P4) Challenge

The Maternal and Child Health Bureau, which is part of HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), launched the Promoting Pediatric Primary Prevention (P4) Challenge competition to respond to declining rates of childhood vaccination coverage and well-child visits due to COVID-19. The P4 Challenge will award $1 million in prizes for innovative approaches to increase access to and utilization of well-child visits and/or immunizations services within primary care settings. Partnerships with state and local organizations are encouraged, and submissions must include a primary care provider who delivers health services to children.

The application deadline for Phase 1 is March 15, 2021.

Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems:
Health Integration Prenatal-to-Three Program

HHS’s HRSA is accepting applications for the FY 2021 Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems: Health Integration Prenatal-to-Three Program. The purpose of this program is to build integrated maternal and early childhood systems of care that are equitable, sustainable, comprehensive, and inclusive of the health system, and that promote early developmental health and family well-being and increase family-centered access to care and engagement of the prenatal-to-3-year-old population.

The application deadline is March 15.


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.