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February 2014
In This Issue

Animals in Winter

Cold winter weather and the snow that is piling on the ground lend itself to great science projects and research to build children's approaches to learning and literacy skills.  


Gather books about animals in winter and talk about the ways in which different animals live in winter. Explain that animals can hibernate, migrate or adapt to winter temperatures. Bears, chipmunks and snakes, for example, sleep (hibernate) to protect themselves from the cold and scarce food. Birds migrate (fly south) where it's warmer and where food is more plentiful and some animals, like deer and rabbits, adapt to the winter and make homes in holes or under the ground and search for food.  


Talk about how people adapt to winter too.  



  $1.5 Million Grant from Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to Support Development of

Early Learning Data System


The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation awarded a $1.5M grant to the Office of Early Learning and Delaware Department of Education for initial work in early childhood data to create a way to track data on child formative assessments currently being conducted.  In addition, dashboards will be created to display the data visually in a way that is quick and easy for early educators and kindergarten teachers to see.  Those teachers will use the information to develop individualized learning approaches and improve instruction for the children. 
The initial work will focus on the Delaware Early Learner Survey for children in kindergarten and the TSI Gold birth - age 5 formative assessments conducted in Delaware Stars early learning programs.  
Harriet Dichter, Executive Director for the Office of Early Learning said, "we are excited to be making concrete steps, applying both foundation and Challenge grant funding and to continue Delaware's forward momentum in the early learning data area."


OEL Logo
Year Two Challenge Grant - Successful Roll-Out of
New Delaware Stars Supports


As reported in the January E-News, important Delaware Stars targets for the Challenge grant were met.

Overall, Year Two for the Challenge has been a year of many successes resulting from the committed, hard work of many, many individuals and partners. 

  • Launched Compensation, Retention and Education (CORE) awards totaling $3.8M to 1,337 individuals working in Stars programs who have improved their education and credentials, raising the standard of care for young children in Delaware Stars.
  • Engaged nearly 200 early educators in the Early Learning Leadership Initiative (ELLI).
  • Through the Infrastructure Fund, provided financial assistance for improvements to the physical plant or technology to 33 Delaware Stars programs that enroll children with high needs, enabling the programs to move to higher Stars quality ratings. 
  • Through the birth to age 5 formative assessment pilot, trained more than 150 early childhood program staff and screened over 2,000 young children in 2013.  This initiative goes to full scale in 2014.
  • Trained over 560 educators to use the Ages and Stages Developmental Questionnaire (ASQ-SE)  
  • 580 early childhood program staff obtained specialized expertise credentials. 
  • Over 560 early childhood program staff were trained in the Child - Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE) 6 hour course to enhance relationship skills with their young charges.
  • Specialized technical assistance for Delaware Stars programs has been expanded to include health and nutrition, formative assessment, developmental screening and infant/toddler early education.

In addition to the Stars-related successes above, two additional accomplishments are noteworthy:  

  • Instituted a kindergarten-entry assessment, the Delaware Early Learner Survey, used by 315 kindergarten teachers used the tool with more than 6,000 children in 2013.
  • Established public-private partnership with 19 site-based Delaware Readiness Teams with broad community participation in high-needs communities to improve linkages between early learning (birth to five) and K-3 systems to improve outcomes for children and their families.

The Office of Early Learning is grateful to the many individuals and partners who made Year Two so successful!  


Delaware Invited to Offer Testimony at  

Congressional Early Childhood Hearing  


OEL Logo Delaware Office of Early Learning executive director, Harriet Dichter
was invited to testify at a February 5 congressional hearing focused on early childhood education and care programs. The invitation to offer testimony came from George Miller (D-CA), House sponsor of the bipartisan legislation developed to implement the President's early childhood proposal in his FY 2014 budget.  The initiative is viewed as an important approach to addressing unmet need and quality concerns for children from low-income families. The legislation would establish a new, coordinated federal-state-local effort to increase quality early learning programs for young children.


The hearing, titled "The Foundation for Success: Discussing Early Childhood Education and Care in America," examined funding, research and programmatic issues and focused on educating members about current federal investments in early care and education and the impact of those investments.

In her testimony, Ms. Dichter focused on two points:

  1. First, there is no one silver bullet, no one size fits all answers. What does matter for outcomes, for every child and every family, is quality.  In other words, States want the flexibility to structure programs to best meet our needs, but establishing and growing a high-quality foundation is absolutely critical to success; and
  2. Second, the federal government has not been sufficiently proactive in this area, leaving too much to the states to do, notably on funding and financing....New funding is needed to help close the staggering gap between those children with access to our quality early learning programs and those without. We need to assure a sustained public funding base for early education, not only to improve access, but to also improve quality in every early childhood setting.

To review the written testimony, PLEASE CLICK HERE.  Click here for a VIDEO of the hearing webcast.


Rising Stars Shining Bright!

Wow!  Eleven early learning programs attained 5 Star program status in the past month! Star Level 5 is the highest level of achievement for programs in Delaware Stars.   


The new Star Level 5 programs are: Boys & Girls Club @ Georgetown Robinson Site, Discovery Island Preschool & Childcare, LLC, Early Learning Center UD Neighborhood House Partnership, Kindercare (Naaman's Road), La Fiesta, Our Future Child Care, LLC, Pooh's Place, Project Village - Indian River School District, St. Michael's School and Nursery, The Little People Child Development Center, Inc. and Crystal Wheatley. 


Programs achieving Star Level 4 are: Academy for Creative Enrichment, Bear Early Learning, Center,

Bernice's Educational School Age Center, Carmen Rocio Bregante, Developing Minds Preschool,  

Kidz Ink II, Lessons Learned Day Care and Preschool II and Derricka Lewis. 

We also congratulate the Delaware Stars programs that have attained new status as a Star 3 programs during the past month!.  As Delaware families look to the Stars when searching for early childhood programs for their children, they find quality early learning programs such as the Stars programs that have moved up in quality rating!   


  See the complete list of who is moving up!   

High School Students Explore Opportunities in Early Childhood


Polytech/Del. Tech. ECE Dual Enrollment Class 2014
Teacher - Tina Lykens, Students - Courtney Blacknall, Caitlin Murphy, Sonya Beachy,  Chyvante' Floyd, Angie Acevedo, Cassidy Sluder, Jasmin Burden, Brandee Deibel, Morgan Konnick,   Grace Ruiz Cooper, Mikayla Caldwell, Hailey Heverin, Selena Williams, Kassi Laise, Paige Copenhaver, Megan Garrison, Tori Brakefield and Christen Sanchez(not pictured).

Delaware's high school early childhood students have had new opportunities to explore the early childhood field this school year.  Here's how!


College courses have made their way into Polytech High School. Its students are taking Del Tech's ECE 111 and ECE 120 during their regular school day so they can graduate with 6 early childhood graduates and begin Del Tech ahead! Additionally, they are better able to make decisions about their college and career plans after experiencing the college life in a familiar environment. 


Student Megan Garrison states, "The college courses have been great. They will help me to become a teacher."  "I think they have given us the independence we will need to succeed in college," said Selena Williams. New Castle Vo Tech students will begin a similar experience in the Fall of 2014.


Students from five of the comprehensive high schools visited early learning centers during the fall to discover first-hand the services childcare offers children and families. Middletown High School teacher, Michelle Semonelle, described the experiences for her students, "The students had wonderful, positive things to say about the program and it really accelerated their desire to take the next level early childhood class.  Some students had never been exposed to an actual infant, toddler, or preschool program before and were in awe at the things these students can do."


The high school students at McKean were also excited by their visit, "Perhaps the best part of the experience involved the few students who didn't seem very interested in the assignment or school work in general. When they were actually there observing young children they just lit up! Their enthusiasm has carried over to the rest of the course.  This experience gave them a practical application of all they have been learning and gave it real meaning, and they are eager to have similar learning opportunities in the future," observedLisa Gonzon, teacher at McKean High School.


Participating high schools will visit community-based early learning centers in the spring for an additional experience.



The State of America's Children 2014

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) has released a new report entitled "
The State of America's Children 2014." The report noted that Early Head Start funding served only 4% of the 2.9 million eligible poor infants and toddlers on any given day in FY2012 and Head Start funding served only 41% of the 2 million eligible poor 3- and 4-year olds.


Click Here for Report 


Science Teachers Support STEM in Early Ed

The National Science Teachers Association has released a position statement in support of teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) during early childhood education, affirming "that learning science and engineering practices in the early years can foster children's curiosity and enjoyment in exploring the world around them and lay the foundation for a progression of science learning in K-12 settings and throughout their entire lives."


Early Learning a Hot Topic
The New York Times
has published a series of opinion editorials that focus on the importance of early education. The articles cite various early childhood research, notes the bipartisan support for early education, and argue for high quality programs for children that show positive results. Read more
HERE,  HERE, and  HERE. 
Early Childhood Champions

The 82nd Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors convened on Jan. 22 and adopted a cradle-to-career agenda, with the goal of eliminating the achievement gap. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan participated in a working meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors'Education Reform Task Force

. Topics included recommendations for improving access to early childhood education.  


View video of Secretary Duncan's remarks here.



Strengthening the Early Childhood and School-Age Work Force 

To support the Office of Child Care's and the Office of Head Start's priority of a strong early childhood (EC) and school-age (SA) workforce, the PDW Center developed the Strengthening the EC and SA Workforce briefs, guide, presentation, and tool. These resources are designed to help State/Territory decision makers increase and retain a skilled workforce by improving their workplace conditions, compensation, and access to professional development.


Click HERE for briefs, guide and tool. 




New Series to Ensure Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) Support the Developmental Needs of Infants and Toddlers

ZERO TO THREE's Policy Center released the first two documents of a new series, Supporting Babies Through QRIS.  These documents aim to ensure that Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) are supporting the unique developmental needs of infants and toddlers. They present a national review of existing QRIS and illustrate examples of QRIS standards and supports that promote young children's development and learning.  



Don't STEM the Tide of Curiosity

This Preschool Matters blog post by Kimberly Brenneman, Assistant Research Professor, NIEER, makes the case that the curiosity exhibited by preschoolers from birth to five years creates the perfect environment for introducing STEM learning as early as possible. In fact, failing to do so widens the gap between lower income preschoolers and their peers.  

 Click HERE for Article


Bonding with Baby 

ZERO TO THREE is offering a series of parent guides including one for new parents to make the most of every day moments.  There are also some excellent guides on language and fine motor development.





The Powerful Impact of Stress

This article, by Victoria Tennant published under New Horizons for Learning by the Johns Hopkins School of Education, discusses the cause and effect of toxic stress in young learners and offers strategies to help children develop coping techniques.

Click HERE for article. 
The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the U.S.

While this generation is more diverse than any in recent history, it is characterized by multiple inequities. This report, commissioned by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, focuses on infants and toddlers, their parents, communities, the challenges they face and the resources that exist to support them.

 Click here for REPORT


Subprime Learning: Early Education in America Since the Great Recession

The New America Foundation has published a new report, Subprime Learning: Early Education in America since the Great Recession (January 2014), by Lisa Guernsey, Laura Bornfreund, Clare McCann, and Conor Williams. Reviewing indicators related to early care and education over the past five years, the authors note that although progress has been made in home-visiting programs, infrastructure-building, standards, and accountability across many states and federal policies; there has also been an increase in child poverty, a lack of attention to the growing population of dual-language learners, reduced funding, and widening achievement gaps between rich and poor. They conclude that the past five years have not worked in the favor of young children who need access to opportunities that would give them a strong start in school and life.





Robust preschool experience offers lasting effects on language and literacy

This research by Vanderbilt University, published in Science Daily discusses the impact of preschool teacher's sophisticated vocabulary and analytic discussion of books combined with early support of literacy can predict fourth grade reading comprehension and word recognition. 

 Click here for article. 


How early experiences get into the body:
A Biodevelopmental Framework: 

This interactive feature, published by the Harvard Center on the Developing Child,  explains how early experiences are biologically embedded in the development of the brain and other organ systems and have lifelong impacts on learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.




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