The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning supports families and their children, from prenatal through school age, by using data, research and stakeholder guidance to assure high quality services.
August 2016 Top News
Early Education in Pennsylvania

Message from Michelle Figlar

I wanted to share with you that I will be leaving OCDEL to return to Pittsburgh. I have accepted a tremendous opportunity as Vice President of Learning for the Heinz Endowments to focus on learning for children of all of ages, their families, and the professionals in their lives. To bring all that I have learned here at OCDEL to the Endowments, to return to my home town, and to expand my work beyond children's first years to their full development, proved an irresistible offer.  It also means a lot to be back closer to my mom, whose health is delicate. She really needs my support. 

It has been a tremendous honor to serve on your behalf as Deputy Secretary. Each day, I carry with me a commitment to the children, the families and the providers and caregivers. This past year we have built a tremendous team at OCDEL, and by working with you, our stakeholders, we have moved OCDEL and the field of Early Learning to an even greater level. We have pushed ourselves to think differently, to collaborate, and to make our priorities of integration, family engagement, STARS Revisioning and inclusion come to life.

It has been an honor to work on behalf of the children of the Commonwealth for Governor Wolf, Secretary Dallas, and Secretary Rivera to implement their vision and commitment to OCDEL programs. They have assured me that OCDEL's work will continue with their leadership and support.

Most importantly, I want to thank each and every one of you for YOUR commitment to the most important asset we have, our children.

OCDEL will announce an Acting Deputy Secretary as soon as possible. I look forward to working with you in my new role and to continue to improve the lives of children.

Reducing Occurrence of Fraud

The Federal Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a report, More Effort is Needed to Protect the Integrity of the Child Care and Development Fund Block Grant. The OIG canvased states earlier this year to learn what measures they had in place to identify and to limit occurrence of fraud in the subsidized child care program.

Pennsylvania is one of several states that utilizes every method, process and data source recommended by the OIG to help in reducing occurrence of fraud. Pennsylvania's performance in error rate reporting (Improper Payments Reviews) is among the best in the country. During the last federal reporting year, Pennsylvania's error rate was less than 1% - .34%. This was one of the lowest payment error rates reported for all states. Read the full OIG report

OCDEL 2016-17 Budget Update

The Governor and General Assembly enacted a $31.63 billion state budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Governor Wolf proposed significant increases to early childhood education for this budget, including a new line item to expand evidence-based home visiting, funding to reduce the Child Care Works waiting list, and increases in Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental.  

The enacted budget (PDF) includes increased funding for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, and Early Intervention. 

Increases services for 
  • 1,000 children in Early Intervention, birth - five (90,500 children total); and 
  • 1,000 children in Keystone STARS (171,500 children total).
Maintains services for 
  • 18,800 children in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts: 
  • 5,800 children in Head Start Supplemental; 
  • 211,360 children to receive Child Care Works; and 
  • 9,870 children in home visiting programs. 
The move of the Family Centers to the OCDEL suite of programs will allow for alignment of program standards, coordinated resources, and more effective services for families with young children. 

Supports for Keystone STARS programs. 
Moving child care programs to higher STAR levels and increasing the opportunity for quality funding in Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental to be utilized in the child care programs remains a priority for the Administration and OCDEL. OCDEL is seeking opportunities to address efficiencies within Keystone STARS to support quality for all children. A first step is to refine the grants and awards program that supports quality classrooms:
  • Continuation of increased tiered reimbursement for Keystone STARS programs. In 2015-16, Keystone STARS add-on tiered subsidy rates increased up to 100 percent for STAR 3 and 4 programs serving preschoolers, and STAR 2, 3, and 4 programs serving infants and toddlers that enrolled children receiving Child Care Works subsidy. STARS add-on subsidy rates were also delineated by age group (infant, young/older toddler, preschooler) to better reflect the cost of care for each age group. For example, in 2015-16, a Keystone STAR 4 program serving 10 older toddlers receiving Child Care Works can receive, on average, nearly $8,000 more than 2014-15 rates.  
  • Director Credential Policy Clarification. Based on provider feedback, a barrier to reaching a STAR 3 level was completion of a Director's Credential, especially when there is director turnover or coursework to complete the credential isn't available. To address this barrier OCDEL issued a policy clarification that recognizes a director's enrollment in a Director Credential program and an action plan to complete the Director's Credential to meet this program standard. Commonwealth-wide approximately 60 programs are expected to move to STAR 3 in 2016-17 that would not have been able to move up otherwise. 
  • Rising STARS Tuition Assistance will also be available. 
  • Adjusted STARS Grants and Awards. 2016-17 STARS grants and awards are being adjusted to reflect budget constraints. Eligible programs currently waitlisted for 2015-16 STARS grants and awards will receive 2015-16 amounts. The methodology used to adjust the grants and awards was provided by the STARS Stakeholders group. 
In 2016-17, OCDEL will continue to gather feedback on the most effective supports for programs providing high-quality early learning services to at-risk children, including children receiving Child Care Works and Early Intervention services.

Crawford County: PA HSSAP Request for Applications.  
LOI Deadline August 12 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has released a $1,050,120 competitive Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program Request for Application. PDE is seeking applicants for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) to serve children in Crawford County. PDE is issuing this Request for Applications now in order to support providers in preparing to serve additional children and to assist in being ready for enrollment by September. This competitive opportunity will select eligible grantees for a one-year grant period beginning this year. The following entities are eligible to apply in the competitive process for FY 2016-17: Current Head Start grantees and Current Early Head Start grantees. For more information, see the Announcement.

Updated PA Position Statements Now Available 

Updated PA Position Statements for use with the ERS scales are now available on the ERS page of the PA Keys website. All PA Position Statement documents have been updated. Early learning programs should download the Position Statement that reflect the ages of children enrolled in their facility. Updates include removal of Playground Information Sheets and new guidance to access current playground information on the ERSI website (all scales) and elimination of the Position Statement for the SACERS-U regarding communication between the child care staff and children's classroom teachers.

Rising STARS Tuition Assistance application streamlined 

Effective July 1, 2016, applicants for the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program may enter multiple courses for a Semester into one application. Applicants are also no longer required to submit a PA State Certificate of Compliance or a Keystone STARS Certificate with their supporting documentation. Learn more about the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program and how to apply

Meeting New Federal Requirements for Health & Safety Training 

The Federal Reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) will require all staff in certified/licensed child care programs to participate in trainings on 10 critical health and safety topics by September 30, 2017. Child Care Certification Representatives will be available to help programs meet this deadline. Learn about the options available for child care staff to meet this new federal training requirement at the PA Key website.

New Online Options For ECE Professionals  

The Keystone STARS Core Series online course,
21st Century Skills in Young Children, and the PQAS Applicant Course recently went live in the PD Registry to make professional development more accessible to early learning programs.  

Individuals interested in providing instruction to child care programs may now apply for or renew their Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System (PQAS) number online. 2015 paper applications will be accepted through December 2016. Learn more about how to apply for a PQAS number

C2P2EIFamilies Get Informed, Get Support as C2P2 Parents, Application Deadline September 30 

Competence and Confidence: Partners in Policymaking Early Intervention (C2P2) is a free leadership development training for families of children in infant, toddler or preschool Early Intervention (EI) programs. During this training, families learn how to navigate the Pennsylvania Early Intervention System, identify best practice supports, and connect with community resources. Applicants should be Pennsylvania residents who: 
    • Have a child (infant to school age) who receives Early Intervention services; 
    • Desire to advocate for themselves and others by building leadership skills; and 
    • Are willing to commit to all four two-day trainings to be held in 2016-17. 
Visit the C2P2EI website for more information, and share this opportunity with families in your region. Families can apply online or contact Cathy Roccia-Meier at 215-204-1772 or cathyRM@temple.edu

carseatNew Legislation to be Enacted Affecting All Current and Future Child Care Providers 

Effective August 12, 2016, children under two years will be required by Pennsylvania law to ride in a rear-facing car seat when being transported in a vehicle. If a child under age two has outgrown the maximum height and weight limitations of the child's rear-facing car seat, a child would be permitted to transition to a forward-facing seat before the child's second birthday. 

The new law reflects best practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics when it comes to supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in the event of a crash. The current requirements that all children under four years of age are restrained in an approved child passenger restraint system, and children between 4-9 years of age are restrained in a booster seat have not been changed.  

The new legislation is an amendment of 75 Pa. C.S. 4581 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, relating to restraint systems. This law is reflected in 55 Pa. Code 3270.175(a) of the Child Care Regulations, pertaining to safety restraints. For additional information, please see the Pennsylvania General Assembly website for the specific legislation regarding this bill.

homelessnessSupporting Pennsylvania Infants & Families Experiencing Homelessness 

A recent policy brief, Babies in Emergency Housing: Is Philadelphia Doing All That It Should? from People's Emergency Center focuses on infants in Pennsylvania experiencing homelessness who tend to experience more risks to positive development than their housed peers. Findings suggest that home visiting programs and quality early education may be of particular benefit for infants/toddlers experiencing homelessness. The results support the importance of conducting developmental screenings and assessments of infants and toddlers experiencing homelessness, as well as ensuring that children identified with developmental delays have access to early intervention services. Also identified as a priority was that early childhood service providers should prioritize the needs of young children who experience homelessness. 

Apply now for the I am Moving, I am Learning Training: Deadline August 19 

Early childhood programs are invited to register for the I am Moving, I am Learning Training, sponsored by the PA Head Start State Collaboration Office, the OCDEL EHS-CCP Program and Pennsylvania Head Start Association, to be held September 27-29, 2016 at the Blair County Convention Center. While all early childhood programs are encouraged to apply, priority will be given to EHS-CCP programs and their partners. Program teams of up to four people are encouraged to apply. This training opportunity will be provided by Dr. Linda Carson, CEO and founder of Choosy Kids, LLC. Dr. Carson has served as an expert trainer for the obesity prevention initiatives, "I Am Moving, I Am Learning " and "Little Voices for Healthy Choices," launched nationwide by the Office of Head Start. 
Get additional details and the application instructions.

Early Childhood Education Summit Scholarships Available: 
Deadline August 19

The 2016 ECE Summit will be held October 17-19, 2016 at the Penn Stater Conference Center, State College, PA. This annual event provides early care and education practitioners, parents and advocates an opportunity to dialogue and learn while building a stronger early learning community.

For the first time since 2009, scholarship funding is available from the Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development & Early Learning to support staff working in certified child care programs -- center, group and family to attend the ECE Summit. Additionally, staff from the 32 state-funded Family Centers are also eligible to apply for scholarships to the ECE Summit. Scholarship funding may be used to pay for summit registration and/or overnight accommodations. Scholarships are available for both full and partial summit registrations. Scholarships will be awarded with consideration given to geography, availability of funds, and financial need. Get info about how to apply for an ECE Summit Scholarship. Questions? Contact Laurie Litz at (717) 657-0916 or laurie.litz@pacca.org.

Nearly two-thirds of eligible preschoolers not receiving publicly-funded high-quality early learning services

In 2015-16, 64.2 percent, or 114,329 of three- and four-year-old children living in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (FPL) did NOT have access to publicly-funded high-quality early childhood education pre-kindergarten programs such as Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start. The latest flyer from OCDEL illustrates the percentage of preschoolers eligible for PA Pre-K Counts not receiving publicly-funded high quality early learning services by county. (PDF)

minigrantPA Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care Mini-Grant Opportunity: Deadline August 28 

A mini-grant opportunity is available to support early childhood educators to enhance their nutrition and physical activity practices to guiding children's health and wellness. PA NAP SACC is an interactive, easy-to-use online tool that provides professional development for child care administrators and their staff. This completely web-based process includes self-assessment, action planning, implementation, post-self-assessment, and reflection. The implementation process includes free, online professional development opportunities in CBK knowledge area 7 (K7): Health, Safety and Nutrition that once completed, become part of your transcript on the Registry. Centers that complete the PA NAP SACC continuous quality improvement process can apply to receive $500 to purchase materials to support their planned changes. Get more information and fill out the application

ECELS Health and Safety Professional Development Update 

As of August 1, ECELS offers self-learning modules on a fee-for-service basis. ECELS is committed to offering high quality health and safety professional development. 

There are now two options available via ECELS Health and Safety Professional Development. 
  • Online Self-Learning Module: $30.00 per person/per module, $50.00 per person for two modules 
  • Online Recorded Webinars: $20.00 per person/per webinar, $30.00 per person for two recorded webinars 
Other Health and Safety Professional Development options include taking the three credit Child Care Health Advocate Course online through Northampton Community College. Directors, lead teachers and others in the early education field learn to assess, identify, and prioritize health and safety needs of children and staff, and to collaborate with a nurse or physician child care health consultant. The course provides 15 health and safety modules and seven web-based live interactive sessions with instructors and classmates. Get more details and registration information at the ECELS website. Visit the PA Key Professional Development Registry to access additional PQAS-approved in-person and online courses. Contact ECELS at ecels@paaap.org or 800/243-2357 with any questions or for any technical assistance.

PA Key is Seeking Infant Toddler Coaching Consultants 
Deadline: August 26
The Pennsylvania Key is seeking several Infant Toddler Coaching Consultants to work directly with the OCDEL Early Head Start- Child Care Partnership agencies to support infant/toddler staff in child care facilities through a coaching initiative designed to address the fundamental work around classroom environments, pedagogical perspectives, child-staff interactions and engagement of children in learning/activities. The consultant would also be asked to provide training as needed for staff. This is a one-year initiative and consultants may be contracted between 22 hours and 90 hours per month depending on the region and the need. This is a contractor agreement that will discontinue at the end of the initiative (June 30th, 2017). Counties in need of consultants include: Lawrence, Venango, Lancaster, Lebanon, Huntingdon, Berks, Chester, Philadelphia and Montgomery. Interested candidates will possess at least 5 years of direct coaching/mentoring experience, a conceptual understanding of early learning systems in Pennsylvania and a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in early childhood education or relevant degree. Education and or expertise in infant/toddler practices and a familiarity with Early Head Start standards is preferred. For consideration and more details please contact Kelly Williams at 717-213-2064 or kelwil@berksiu.org. Deadline to respond is August 26, 2016.
Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge

The Impact of the Community Innovation Zones, Northwest Pennsylvania

Community Innovation Zone grantees in the Northwest region of Pennsylvania are making strides with reaching families around early learning opportunities. Meadville Children's Center's Going Places Project in Crawford County is reaching families, students and community members with the brightly wrapped Going Places trailer at learning events. Child Development Centers, Inc. School Psychology Project in Venango County is expanding its preventive school psychology program from which it has seen some excellent results that greatly benefit children. Read more about these and other grantees in Northwest PA in the Community Innovation Zone Update, August 2016.

Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Grant 2015 Annual Performance Report 

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have released a report, At a Glance: Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Year 2015 Progress Update, that highlights some of the work undertaken by the twenty States during 2015. The report includes progress in the areas of Kindergarten Readiness and Access to Quality, as well as individual states' progress. 
This initiative is a part of Pennsylvania's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant. For more information on other initiatives funded by this grant, visit the
Federal News

Preschool Suspension and Explusion in Preschool Development States: Policies and Practices

A new brief, Suspension & Expulsion in Preschool Development States: Policies and Practices, from the U.S. Department of Education's Preschool Development Grant (PDG) compares what states are doing around preschool expulsion policies and practices. This brief sets the stage by detailing why preschool expulsion and suspension rates should matter to states. There is a discussion of relevant federal and state policies as well as various state practices used to impact this issue. The brief concludes with appendices that include excerpts of PDG states' policies or guidelines, and descriptions of their preventive practices. The states highlighted are only those that received one of the federal preschool development/expansion grants, but gives a snapshot of a number of states and the approach they are taking.

Early Childhood Systems Building Resource Guide 

The Child Care State Capacity Building Center has published a new, expanded version of the Early Childhood Systems Building Resource Guide. This online tool is designed to support Child Care and Development Fund leaders and their partners in their pursuit of state systems building initiatives. The ultimate goal of early childhood systems building is to create an efficient, coordinated, and comprehensive system of programs and services for young children and families. Systems building efforts are complex and require work across multiple sectors. 

The guide provides information focused on important core aspects of the systems building process. The new, expanded version includes 
  • An overview of state systems building; 
  • State highlights and examples; 
  • A searchable resource database organized by topic; and 
  • Eight systems building guides that support key components of the process, including new guides on program design and implementation, financing, and evaluation and improvement.
Trends & Reports

issuesEarly Childhood Workforce Index Demonstrates Key Issues In the Childhood Workforce 

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment recently released the new Early Childhood Workforce Index. The report provides an overview across the country of key issues related to the early childhood workforce. There are also individual profiles for every state and give comparison data from state to state. Pennsylvania's profile reports the median wage for a Child Care worker in PA is $9.42/hour. Preschool teachers in PA don't fare much better at $12.40/hour. The report can be used within communities to build awareness around the severe lack of compensation for the early childhood workforce.  

Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8 

The National Academies of Medicine released a new consensus study, Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8, which reviews the state of the research on parenting and family engagement - including parental knowledge, attitudes, and practices that support healthy child development- and provides a robust set of policy recommendations and future research directions to help move this work forward. The report also recommends ways agencies and others can support interventions that help more parents learn about effective parenting practices.

Child Care Costs Rival Families' Annual Expenses 

According to the new Child Care in America: 2016 Fact Sheets report from Child Care Aware in America, the cost of child care in every state rivals families' annual expenditures on housing, transportation and the cost of tuition at a four-year, public university. Further, in 38 states, the cost of infant care exceeds 10 percent of the state's median income for a two-parent family. Ensuring that all children have access to high quality and affordable early childhood programs is essential; however, in every state, this type of care can be hard to find and difficult to afford. Although the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act has raised the floor for health and safety standards and encourages quality programming for all child care settings, there is still much work to be done. In particular, researchers have identified the education and training of child care providers as one of the most important components of a quality child care setting. 

Head Start and Early Head Start State Profiles

CLASP's recently released annual Head Start by the Numbers profiles provide data on Head Start participants, families, staff, and programs for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Drawing on data from Head Start grantees' Program Information Report, CLASP's profiles are a unique resource for early childhood policymakers, researchers, and advocates who are working to strengthen the system. The 2014 profiles provide information on all Head Start programs in a state, including Early Head Start, Head Start preschool, and Migrant/Seasonal Head Start.

50-State Comparison: K-3 Quality and Companion Report

The new 50-State Comparison: K-3 Quality from Education Commission of the States explores key state-level policies that impact the quality of K-3 programs. The Companion Report for this 50-State Comparison highlights significant research findings in key K-3 policy areas. It highlights information about basic requirements; school readiness and transitions; assessment, intervention and retention; instructional quality; family engagement; and social-emotional learning, with includes 20 data points for all 50 states. The report can be a resource for policymakers choosing to work on improving the quality of kindergarten through third grade.


transitionTransition Resources for Children and Families

Children and families transitioning to Kindergarten, or even from one early learning classroom to another, may experience challenges related to the transition. Pennsylvania has several transition-focused resources available on the PA's Promise for Children website. Download one-page sheets or Activity Guides to share with families, sign up for the monthly enews, or choose a book that families recommend about transition. There are even resources available in Spanish!

Engaging Families with August's Book-A-Day Giveaway

Are families and children in your community preparing to start the school year? Do you want to promote early literacy in your community? Let Pennsylvania's Promise help with the Book-A-Day Giveaway! From August 1 to 31, 2016, PA's Promise will select one random winner each day to receive a copy of a PA One Book selection and early learning resources. You can promote the drawing to families in your newsletter, via your social media, on your website, or at your event. Entering is quick and easy--Just visit the PA's Promise website to enter, then check back to see if you or members from your community are on the Winner's List.

Menu Planning Tool

Looking for quick and easy guidance about improving the meals you serve at your center or family home? The Minnesota Department of Education has great menu planning tools to help centers and family homes provide healthy and nutritious food for children. The tools are user friendly and can help you plan and build menus, evaluate your menus, reduce waste, and spend less on fruits and vegetables. 

July Edition of Baby Talk

The July edition of Baby Talk from Camille Catlett features information about the benefits of having preschoolers understand and discuss their emotions, building relationships with infants, how to raise concerns about a child's speech and language development, and more.

Tipping the Scales: The Resilience Game 

An interactive feature, Tipping the Scales: The Resilience Game from the Center on the Developing Child Harvard University, helps make the connection between how the choices we make can help children and the community as a whole become more resilient in the face of serious challenges. Participants only have 20 'Resilience Bucks' to spend. Certain positives will better counteract certain negatives and have a greater positive effect on children in the community. The goal is to tip as many children's scales as possible toward positive outcomes. At the end of the game, participants have an opportunity to interact with the scale more directly and see what happens when they add or subtract positive and negative weights, or move the fulcrum.  

Video: The Case for Science-Based Innovation in Early Childhood 

"How do we take the best of what we're doing right now and say, in a constructive way, 'It's not good enough'?" That's the question that Jack Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child, poses in a new, 2-minute video from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Learn what's at the heart of the Center's mission: using cutting-edge science and an R&D approach to not just make progress against the most challenging problems facing children and families today, but to achieve breakthroughs. 

Video: Connecting Families to Afterschool Learning

The video The Transition to Afterschool: One City's Approach to Connecting Young Children and Their Families to Learning and Enrichment Opportunities from the Harvard Family Research project demonstrates how Cambridge, Massachusetts, is helping to connect families to afterschool learning and enrichment opportunities prior to school entry.

Resource to Help Complement Efforts of Libraries, Museums & ECE Programs

The Boston Children's Museum hosts an exhibit that is an actual kindergarten classroom. Based on this experience, it offers other Massachusetts museums and libraries a step-by-step guide to create a "pop-up" classroom. Resources to promote family-educator partnerships in transition include a guidebook, activity packet, and related materials.

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