Early Learning Newsletter | December 2021 | Happy Holidays!


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

Happy Holidays!

December 2021

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In This Issue:

From the Directors

David Cantrell and Jamila Smith

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

Happy Holidays! It is hard to believe that we are at the end of another year.  For most of us the past year has been filled with unexpected events and uncertainty.  The silver lining for many was the gift of spending more time with members of their households.  With the approval of the Covid-19 vaccination for children 5–11 years of age, we look forward to more opportunities for our youngest learners to spend time with family and friends. As the year comes to an end, we can reflect on the lessons learned during 2021, and the best ways to apply the knowledge in 2022. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) continues to partner with other federal agencies to support children, families, and educators. In this newsletter, we have included new and updated Covid-19 resources as well as information for families and providers.

For our Voices From the Field interview, we interviewed Meedra Surratte, Executive Director of Parent Information Center of Delaware, whose work informs families about the special education process and the importance of advocacy.

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

Institute of Education Sciences (IES) logo

Joyful Reading

The Department’s Institute of Education Sciences Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West hosted a webinar series for pre-K and first grade educators on storybook reading, culturally affirming instruction, and connecting with parents and families. Resources available include recordings and slides from the events and reading activity worksheets in English and Spanish.


Early Learning Updates

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Joint Letter on COVID-19 Vaccinations

The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a joint letter urging school officials to host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at their school(s), distribute information about the COVID-19 vaccine to all families with children ages 5–11 years, and hold conversations with their school communities on the COVID-19 vaccine. Updated information will be shared on a webpage.

CDC logo

COVID-19 Learning Network

The Department has joined with the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Rockefeller Foundation to provide sessions for school and district leaders to learn more about ways to establish or improve Covid-19 screening and testing programs. Network sessions are available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through Dec. 22.


Leaders in the Department Out and About

NIEER and Home Grown Webinar screen

Miriam Calderon

Miriam Calderon, deputy assistant secretary of policy and early learning, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, was a speaker at a webinar that discussed ways to include family child care in pre-K programs that are funded by cities and states. The recording of the webinar is available.


Voices From the Field

Meedra Surratte

Supporting Families

We recently interviewed Meedra Surratte, who shares how her work at the Parent Information Center of Delaware supports families. We invite you to read the full interview on the OSERS Blog.

This Month’s Recommended Resources

CDC logo

Updated Covid-19 Guidance

The CDC has updated its COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs. Updates to the guidance emphasize the importance of universal masking for everyone ages 2 and older, provides more information on screening and testing, and updated guidance for fully vaccinated staff. The updated guidance also has strategies for Early Care and Education programs to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and maintain safer operations.

ECTA logo

Supporting Young Children

The Department-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) has a recorded webinar titled Supporting Social-Emotional and Mental Health Needs of Young Children Through Part C Early Intervention: Results of a 50-State Survey. The webinar discusses screening, referral, evaluation, and eligibility as well as services for eligible and ineligible children, and collaboration between systems.

Virtual Stem image with an astronaut, planets. rockets and other STEM-related objects

Virtual STEM

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has a website that offers STEM resources for families and educators. Resources include virtual field trips of DOE National Labs and a variety of K–12 activities from the Labs.

parent holding toddler

Infant Toddler Care

HHSOffice of Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE) released a brief that describes findings from implementation of the We Grow Together Program, a research-based professional development system for caregivers working with infants and toddlers in centers and family child care homes.


Featured Webinars

Baby chewing on toy

BabyTalks Webinar Series

HHS’ National Center on Early Childhood, Development, Teaching and Learning is hosting a three-part webinar series on development during the first three years of life from a child’s view. The first webinar on Dec. 9 will focus on how infants think and feel. The webinar will include English and Spanish captioning.

Mother hugging son

Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is hosting a webinar series highlighting infant and early childhood mental health projects in communities and lessons learned in the field.

Funding Opportunities

HHS’s Office for Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE)

Graduate Student Dissertation Grants

HHS’ Administration for Children and Families OPRE has forecasted and is considering funding Child Care, Head Start, and Behavioral Interventions graduate student dissertation grants in 2022. Scholars can visit grants.gov for the Child Care, Head Start, and Behavioral Interventions grant announcements to view the estimated application due dates and subscribe to email notifications.

Secondary Data Analysis of Child Care Data grants

OPRE has also issued funding forecasts for Secondary Data Analysis of Child Care Data grants to support researchers in analyzing existing data sets related to the Child Care and Development Fund and Secondary Analyses of Head Start and Early Head Start Data grants to conduct analyses of current data on Head Start programs and policies.

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Maternal and Child Health Secondary Data Analysis Research Program

HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is accepting applications for the Maternal and Child Health Secondary Data Analysis Research (MCH SDAR) Program. The purpose of the program is to support research that utilizes the secondary analysis of existing national data sets and/or administrative records to improve the health and well-being of maternal and child health populations. The program provides the opportunity for researchers to build the evidence base by using existing data sets to identify emerging issues, study new research questions, test hypotheses, and determine pathways for intervention.

The deadline for applications is Jan. 26, 2022.


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