Early Learning Newsletter | March 2021 | Welcome Spring!


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

Welcome Spring!

March 2021

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In This Issue:

From the Directors

David Cantrell and Jamila Smith

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

Although it may seem hard to believe, Spring is only weeks away. This is the time of year when we think about change. Days are getting longer, and the weather will eventually get warmer. We have made the transition to a new administration and look forward to the Department of Education’s continued support of young children, families, and educators. We wanted to introduce ourselves to you and let you know how we support early learning within the Department.

I am David Cantrell, and in my leadership role in the Office of Special Education Programs, I know that the importance of early identification cannot be underemphasized. As a former preschool educator for children with disabilities, I have seen first-hand the benefit of early intervention services for young children and their families. I remember working closely with local child development centers, child care providers, and pediatricians to establish an effective community child-find program. Engaging state and local partners is integral to our work in early identification and is a priority of the Department, as is our collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services to support our youngest learners and their families.

I am Jamila Smith, Director of the Office of Innovation and Early Learning Programs, and I am excited for this opportunity to continue to provide you with information on early learning from the Department and across other federal agencies. It is my belief that everyone has an opportunity to succeed when they have access to high-quality early care and education programs and services regardless of their zip code. I am continually impressed by the resilience of our youngest learners, as well as the adaptability of the early learning workforce as schools move between in-person and remote learning due to the ongoing pandemic. I want to thank everyone for the continuous efforts to ensure the safety of our youngest learners every day. The Office of Innovation and Early Learning Programs is proud of its collaborative partnership with agencies, offices, and stakeholders focused on early learning and our collective impact on maintaining a strong and ever-improving early education and childcare system. Our work supports our economy, helps the nation’s families work, and – most importantly – gives children a great start for school and life.

In this issue you will find information about resources to support children’s wellness, physical health, and learning in a variety of settings. We hope that you enjoy reading the newsletter and using the resources in your practice.

Thank you, as always, for reading Early Learning!

David Cantrell, Ph.D.
Delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Jamila Smith
Director, Innovation and Early Learning Programs
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education


Project Spotlight

Logo: ED’s Institute for Education Sciences-funded Early Learning Network

Early Learning Network

The Department of Education’s (ED) Institute of Education Sciences (IES)-funded Early Learning Network (ELN) works to advance the understanding of policies and practices to narrow the achievement gap and to build upon children’s early learning success as they transition to elementary school. The ELN includes both research and assessment teams. The ELN has developed a variety of practice guides, policy briefs, videos, and webinars, which can be found on their website.


Early Learning Updates from ED

ED COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 1

ED COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 1: Strategies for Safely Reopening Elementary and Secondary Schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ED are providing recommendations and considerations based on the most recent scientific evidence to support school and district leaders and educators to reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic and maximize the amount of in-person instruction. ED recently released the COVID-19 Handbook, which provides strategies, practical examples, and roadmaps to provide educators and staff with the tools they need to implement CDC's recommended safe practices for in-person learning strategies. It also identifies ways to promote equity for communities of color and people with disabilities or chronic conditions who have borne a disproportionate burden of illness and serious outcomes from COVID-19. The first volume of this handbook supplements CDC's Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation

NCES logo

Now Available: Data From the 2019 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey!

The IES’ National Center for Education Statistics has released data files from the 2019 Early Childhood Program Participation (ECPP) survey. The data provide information about young children’s care arrangements, the cost to their families for care, factors parents considered when choosing care arrangements, reasons for difficulty finding care, home learning activities, and early learning skills. Data are now available. For questions about the ECPP survey or about the National Household Education Surveys program, contact nhes@ed.gov.


This Month’s Recommended Resources

REL Southeast

Materials to Support Practicing Foundational Reading Skills at Home

The IES-funded Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast has developed three guides (with a fourth one on the way) for teachers on how to support families as they practice foundational reading skills at home. It serves as a companion to the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide, Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade. The kindergarten, first grade, and second grade guides have already been released. The third grade guide should be published in either March or April of this year. There is a resource page specifically for families with activities and videos from the teacher guides.

Teacher and young child

Supporting Young Children’s Social and Emotional Wellness

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Child Care (OCC) announced a new initiative to further integrate social and emotional support strategies in child care’s mixed-delivery system. Through this work, OCC will support expanding access to research-based social and emotional and trauma-responsive practices in child care across the country. The first activity of this initiative is the publication of A Resource Guide for Developing Integrated Strategies to Support the Social and Emotional Wellness of Children, which highlights promising strategies and provides information about how some Child Care and Development Fund program grantees have already leveraged partnerships and funding to support implementation success.

Mother playing with infant child

Outside Activities When Learning from Home

Supporting children that are learning from home while balancing other responsibilities can be challenging. Taking breaks to move and explore outside provides opportunities to expand skills introduced in the classroom. Outdoor settings can also be used as an alternative classroom. The change in location may help children and adults feel better. The HHS, Office of Head Start has some fun outdoor activities as we move into Spring.

Star collection icon

Celebrating Being Connected to Culture and Community for American Indian and Alaska Native Young Children

The Center for Disease Control (CDC)-funded Star Collection celebrates some of the shared values and traditions across many American Indian and Alaska Native communities that help create safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments for children. The collection has books for children in K-third grades, which encourages them to identify people in their life and community they can turn to for support. Included are also great tools and guides for teachers, parents, and other caregivers. The Star Collection was written and illustrated by an American Indian artist.

Episode 1: Overview: Early Childhood Education in Extraordinary Times (video image)

Supporting Preschool Children in Virtual Services

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 has developed a multipart video series that focuses on children and families attending preschool and the staff that support them. Videos are from families in multiple states and highlight how staff and families partner to ensure that virtual services are inviting and engaging for the children.


Featured Conference Sessions

banner - NRCEC 2020

National Research Conference on Early Childhood Sessions Now Available

In 2020, the HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) held the National Research Conference on Early Childhood (NRCEC). This conference showcased research relevant to young children and their families and encouraged collaboration among stakeholders to build the evidence base for policy and practice. The full conference program is available to view or download. You can now view all sessions and posters from the conference.


Funding Opportunities

ED seal

FY 2021 Equity Assistance Centers (EAC) Grant Competition

ED published a Notice Inviting Applications for the FY 2021 Equity Assistance Centers (EAC) grant competition. The EACs provide technical assistance, including training, at the request of school boards and other responsible government agencies in the preparation, adoption, and implementation of plans for the desegregation of public schools – which in this context means plans for equity (including desegregation based on race, national origin, sex, and religion) – and in the development of effective methods of coping with issues regarding special education that may arise during desegregation.

The application deadline is March 29, 2021.

logo - Administration for Children & Families (ACF)

Grants to Tribes, Tribal Organizations and Migrant Programs for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs

HHS, ACF, Children’s Bureau has a funding opportunity to award grants to support community-based efforts in tribal and migrant communities that prevent child maltreatment and to strengthen and support families. Funded projects will develop new or enhance existing initiatives, programs, and activities to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect and to enhance the well-being of migrant and/or Native American children and their families, including those in rural areas.

The application deadline is April 20, 2021.

MCHB logo - Maternal and Child Health Bureau

Vision Screening in Young Children Program

HHS’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau has a funding announcement for their Vision Screening in Young Children Program (HRSA-21-033). The purpose of the program is to improve children’s vision and eye health through early detection, follow-up, treatment, and surveillance at the national, state, and community levels for children under 5 years of age, including traditionally underserved populations, and those residing in medically underserved areas.

The application deadline is April 12, 2021.

Connect With Us Online!

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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.