Early Learning Newsletter | September 2021 | Early Childhood Resources for the New School Year


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

Early Childhood Resources for the
New School Year

September 2021

Back to School, with colored pencils

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In This Issue:

From the Directors

David Cantrell and Jamila Smith

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

It’s hard to believe that the new school year has begun. Whether this is your first school year or one of many, we hope that it is off to a good start. We would like to say “thank you” to all of the families, caregivers, educators, providers, administrators, and other staff who have been hard at work over the past several months so that children have the opportunity to receive in-person services this school year. In celebration of the new school year, we have included resources to support the transition back to school as well as to support children and families throughout the year. We have also included updated guidance from the Department of Education (Department) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For our Voices from the Field interview, we interviewed Rebecca Vitelli, an early childhood special education teacher in Delaware.

Thank you for reading "Early Learning"!

David Cantrell, Ph.D.
Acting Director and Deputy Director
Office of Special Education Programs
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

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


Project Spotlight

CPIR logo

Early Childhood Reopening Resources

The Department-funded Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) has a collection of resources focused on reopening early childhood programs and settings for young children with developmental delays and disabilities. Resources include materials, videos, and webinars produced by Department-funded early childhood centers that early childhood programs and providers can use to guide their reopening efforts.


Early Learning Updates

Return to School Roadmap

Return to School Roadmap

The Department recently released the Return to School Roadmap, a resource to support children, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to safe, healthy in-person learning this fall. The Roadmap provides resources about returning to classrooms this school year and how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning. Resources include a guide for schools and districts that outlines what schools can do to protect the health and safety of children and a checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall.


Voices From the Field

Rebecca Vitelli

Interview with Rebecca Vitelli

We recently interviewed 2020 Delaware Teacher of the Year Rebecca Vitelli, who shares how her work as a preschool special education teacher helps provide children with an exceptional early learning experience. We invite you to read the full interview on the OSERS blog.


This Month’s Recommended Resources

Girl at desk in mask

Updated COVID-19 Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools to align with CDC’s existing guidance for fully vaccinated people and to assist K-12 schools in opening for in-person instruction. Additionally, CDC has updated their Considerations for Case Investigation and Contact Tracing in K-12 Schools and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) and the exception to the close contact definition for students in K-12 indoor classroom settings guidance.

Enhancing Language Instruction in Early Childhood Education

Enhancing Language Instruction in Early Childhood Education

The Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) recently hosted a webinar highlighting practices educators can use to enhance the teaching of dual language learners (DLL). The webinar focused on the use of the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition Teaching Practice Brief: Integrating Language into Early Childhood Education, which highlights current research findings and evidence-based instructional practices for teaching DLLs in early childhood settings.

Dasy Center and ECTA Center logos

Child Outcomes

The Department-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) recently released an infographic that displays the three child outcomes measured by early intervention and early childhood special education systems that span across developmental domains.

Early Learning Network logo

Improving Early Childhood Measures

The Department’s Institute of Education SciencesEarly Learning Network has released a research brief that explores how the time children spend on preK and kindergarten activities impacts the gains made in early childhood education. Time-based measures are used for individual children as well as for groups.

Sleeping baby

Tribal Early Childhood

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and FamiliesOffice of Early Childhood Development has launched a new webpage dedicated to tribal early childhood development. A July 29 webinar kicked off an exploration of new opportunities for transforming tribal early childhood programs and systems.


Featured Webinar

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Connecting Families to Local Benefits

Please join the HHS Office of Head Start’s National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement on Sept. 23 for a chatathon to discuss the public benefits that were expanded in the American Rescue Plan. Experts will share guidance and resources on how to find benefits in a local community and strategies for connecting families. The session will be live, with staff available to answer as many questions as possible. A Spanish version will be offered on Oct. 7.



STEMIEFest logo


The Department-funded STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) has an exciting program lined up for this year’s STEMIEFest from Oct. 4–8, 2021. Join them for five days of interactive learning and discussions on supporting STEM learning with young children. All sessions will have ASL interpreters and captioning. Sessions will also be offered in Spanish. Continuing education units (CEUs) and/or professional learning certificates are being offered. Registration to the event is FREE for everyone and will open in early September! Access to last year’s program and sessions is also available.

NRCEC 2022

Save the Date: National Research Conference on Early Childhood (NRCEC) 2022

HHS’s Administration for Children and Families’ National Research Conference on Early Childhood 2022 (NRCEC 2022) will be held June 27–29, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. This event presents the latest research about Head Start, Early Head Start, child care, home visiting, child welfare, special education, prekindergarten, early elementary school, and other early childhood programs. Conference features include plenary sessions, symposia, poster symposia, poster sessions, and informal events.


Funding Opportunity

Child with magnifying glass

Study to Evaluate "Child Find" Early Identification Systems

HHS and CDC have issued a request for applications to fund a pilot study to evaluate Child Find systems. The project will support evaluation of Child Find activities in states using existing data from the state Part C program and at least one other early childhood program.

The application deadline is Oct. 15.


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Check out more early learning stories, including "Voices From the Field" posts, on OSERS Blog.