Early Learning Newsletter | January 2022 | Happy New Year


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

Happy New Year

January 2022

Happy 2022

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In This Issue:

From the Directors

Valerie Williams and Jamila Smith

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

Welcome 2022! We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the families, educators, and providers over the past year. Your commitment to our earliest learners remained constant during periods of uncertainty. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) continues to develop resources in partnership with other federal agencies. In this newsletter, we have included resources to support the physical and social emotional well-being of young children in their homes, learning environments and communities.

Thank you for reading "Early Learning"!

Valerie C. Williams
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


New to the Department

Valerie C. Williams

Welcome Valerie C. Williams

Valerie C. Williams joins the Department as director in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the administration of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Williams most recently served as senior director of government relations and external affairs at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. She has decades of experience supporting state-level special education leaders by overseeing federal government public policy activities, federal regulatory affairs, public relations, and key initiatives to promote equity and guide positive systemic change, thereby improving outcomes for students with disabilities. She also served as the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Public Policy Fellow, on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advancing disability policy and civil rights.

Williams brings a unique perspective to OSEP having worked with members of Congress and staff on Capitol Hill, advocacy organizations, and in support of state special education leaders, and most importantly, being the parent of a son with Down syndrome.

We invite you to read more about Williams’ vision for young children with disabilities and their families on the OSERS Blog.


Project Spotlight

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Math Facilitator Toolkit

The Department’s Institute of Education Sciences’ (IES) Appalachia Regional Educational Laboratory developed a Community Math Night Facilitators’ Toolkit to help plan and implement Community Math Night events. Community Math Nights use interactive math activities to engage families in building positive math attitudes, facilitate their participation in children’s learning, and build a community of educators, students, families, and other caring adults. It includes planning and organizational resources, research findings on community engagement and math instruction strategies, and instructions and printable materials for the interactive activities. A workbook that can be used as a professional learning resource is also included.


Early Learning Updates

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ED Launches Two Communities of Practice to Help States Address Impact of the Pandemic on Students

The Department launched the Toward an Equitable Education and Recovery: Transforming Kindergarten Community of Practice in partnership with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the Department’s T4PA Center, among other partners. This community of practice will engage a cohort of state and district teams to share best practices, policies, and initiatives that will allow the kindergarten year to become a more effective path to early school success and learning recovery, especially for those children who have been historically underserved and most adversely affected by the ongoing pandemic. The community of practice will consist of a series of virtual convenings on topics such as social-emotional development, family engagement and supportive transitions that respond to disparities in access to in-person learning and nationwide under-enrollment for young children.


Leaders in the Department Out and About

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Katherine Neas Marked IDEA 46th Anniversary

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Katherine Neas marked the 46th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act with some reflections posted on the OSERS Blog.


This Month’s Recommended Resources

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Updated Covid-19 Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its flowchart What to Do if a Child Becomes Sick Or Receives A New COVID-19 Diagnosis At Your Child Care Program, including adding a PDF version to provide more information on the actions that need to be taken with vaccinated versus non-vaccinated close contacts. CDC has also added information on test-to-stay practices to its K–12 transmission science brief and K–12 webpages. Test-to-stay is another valuable tool in a layered prevention strategy that includes promoting vaccination of eligible students and staff, requiring that everyone age 2 and older wear a mask inside schools and facilities, keeping at least three feet of distance between students, screening testing, ventilating spaces, handwashing, and staying home when sick.

Crawling babies

National Birth Defects Awareness Month

January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month. In conjunction with its partners, CDC has developed materials and resources to help raise awareness about birth defects and ways to improve the health of people living with these conditions across their lifespan. Information is also included on the impact on parents and families.

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Telepractice for Part C Early Intervention Services

The Department-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center and The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems, in collaboration with the Infant and Toddler Coordinators Association, have developed a resource to support states in securing Medicaid coverage for telepractice as a method of service delivery in IDEA Part C beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The resource includes tools to help states develop their own state-specific policies, procedures, and written guidance for using Medicaid dollars to reimburse for telepractice.

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Supporting Mental Health

The Department of Health and Humans Services’ (HHS’) Office of the Surgeon General released an advisory: Protecting Youth Mental Health. The advisory discusses recommendations for families, communities, and other stakeholders to support the mental health of children.


Featured Webinars

Listen and Learn

Listening and Learning Series

IES’ National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research will be hosting a series of virtual listening and learning sessions on broadening participation in research grant programs, as well as diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in education research. Events in December included a webinar hosted jointly with the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics and a webinar hosted with the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans, with printed versions of the presentations available. Additional sessions will be held in the upcoming months.

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Vision Health of Children with Special Needs

The HHS-funded National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health is hosting a webinar to discuss the importance of eye care for children with special needs, vision related components of IDEA, and ways to support families, educators and providers. The webinar is scheduled for Jan. 19.


Funding Opportunities

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Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Research Network

HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is accepting applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2022 Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Research Network (CYSHCN-RN). The CYSHCN-RN will provide national leadership in research to address critical knowledge gaps related to the implementation and measurement of a comprehensive, coordinated, family-centered system of services for CYSHCN and the families it serves.

Applications are due April 4, 2022.


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Enhancing Systems of Care for Children with Medical Complexity

HRSA is also accepting applications for the FY 2022 Enhancing Systems of Care for Children with Medical Complexity program. The purpose of this program is to optimize the health, quality of life, and well-being for children with medical complexity and their families. The program will accomplish this by funding up to five demonstration projects to implement and evaluate evidence-informed, patient- and family-centered models of care delivery, and by funding a coordinating center to support the demonstration projects in meeting their program objectives, developing and disseminating resources, and providing leadership in the field.

Applications for both are due March 7, 2022.


Connect With Us Online!

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