Early Learning Insights
Newsletter of the Illinois Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development
In This Issue
About OECD
Alignment. Quality. Access.
OECD leads the state's initiatives to create an integrated system of quality, early learning and development programs to help give all Illinois children a strong educational foundation before they begin kindergarten.  Learn more.
Upcoming Events
04/18/2017 Home Visiting Taskforce Committee Meeting

04/26/2017 Family Engagement Subcommittee Meeting

05/04/2017 Inclusion Subcommittee Meeting

See calendar for more events and details.
New Resources
Supporting Immigrant, Refugee, Undocumented, or Mixed Status Families
CDC Child Obesity Fact Sheet 
Infant Immunizations
OECD Initiatives

Additional Resources
Contact OECD
Stay Connected
April 13, 2017
Dear Early Childhood Community,
Spring has sprung, reminding all of us who work with and on behalf of young children of the power and potential of nurturing new life. The Office of Early Childhood Development continues towards our shared vision for all our state's children - that they are safe, healthy, eager to learn, and ready to succeed when they enter kindergarten. 
While I encourage you to read ALL of this month's features, I hope you will pay particularly attention to some important information and resources about suspension and expulsion in the preschool years. I'm also thrilled to announce the last round of child care centers and schools that have earned Awards of Excellence. Finally, read to the end of the newsletter to learn about a newly published children's book written to help children and families understand and cope with the impact of stress and trauma in a child's life. 
We always appreciate your comments, questions, and suggestions for future editions of the newsletter. 
Best Regards,
Cynthia L. Tate, Ph.D.
Executive Director, OECD
Top Stories

Early Childhood Block Grant Re-Competition Delayed until FY 2019


The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has announced that a revised plan for the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) funding for FY 2018 is being put in place to allow predictability and stability for currently funded grantees while also allowing for program expansion opportunities. Due to delays in the release of the Requests for Proposals, the full re-competition of the ECBG is being delayed until FY 2019, pending final Board approval. Currently funded Preschool for All (PFA), Preschool for All Expansion (PFAE), and Prevention Initiative (PI) grantees will receive continuation funding for FY 2018 and will complete continuation applications. For FY 2018, there will be two RFPs, one for PFAE and one for PI, released in May 2017 that will be open to new applicants and continuing programs. Awards for these two RFPs will be based on additional funding being appropriated to the ECBG.


For the full re-competition for FY 2019, there will be three RFPs: 1) Preschool for All, 2) Preschool for All Expansion, and 3) Prevention Initiative. The anticipated release date for these RFPs is fall/winter 2017. Information will continue to be posted on the Early Childhood RFP webpage.


Future issues of our Early Learning Insights newsletter will spotlight different priorities and approaches that are likely to be included in the re-competition.

Awards of Excellence Awardees

The Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development is pleased to announce the final list of programs that have achieved Awards of Excellence in ExceleRate Illinois. With these three new awardees, ExceleRate Illinois has recognized a total of 87 programs with Awards of Excellence since 2015 .
Inclusion of Children with Special Needs:
  • Barbara Vick Early Childhood and Family Center, Chicago Public Schools
Preschool Teaching and Learning:
  • Early Education Center, Round Lake District 116 
  • Jugando Se Aprende, Aurora
The Awards of Excellence were an initiative of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant.  As that grant winds down, OECD and its partners are working to develop sustainable approaches to continue the supports that promote excellence in early learning.  While the formal Awards process is on hiatus, the frameworks, content and learnings from each will inform ExceleRate implementation going forward, including the development of Tier 5. Look for a newsletter article later this spring with more information. 

We also recognize the accomplishments of eight sites that achieved multiple Awards:
  • Stock School, Chicago Public Schools: Inclusion of Children with Special Needs; Preschool Teaching and Learning
  • Jugando Se Aprende, Aurora: Linguistically and Culturally Appropriate Practice; Preschool Teaching and Learning 
  • Educare West DuPage, West Chicago: Family and Community Engagement; Preschool Teaching and Learning; Infant and Toddler Services
  • Barbara Vick Early Childhood and Family Center, Chicago Public Schools:, Inclusion of Children with Special Needs; Preschool Teaching and Learning
  • Early Learning Center, Schaumburg District 54: Inclusion of Children with Special Needs; Preschool Teaching and Learning
  • Educare Chicago: Preschool Teaching and Learning; Infant and Toddler Services
  • Green Bay School, North Shore School District 112: Inclusion of Children with Special Needs; Linguistically and Culturally Appropriate Practice
  • Casa Central Early Learning Academy, Chicago: Preschool Teaching and Learning; Infant and Toddler Services
Finally, we congratulate the following agencies and school districts with Awards achieved across multiple sites. 
Family and Community Engagement:
  • Allison's Infant Toddler Centers, Chicago (3): Racine, 71st Street, 115th  Street 
  • Catholic Charities Head Start, Diocese of Joliet (5):  Alexandria, Broadway, Good Shepard, St. John, and Felman Centers
  • Concordia Place, Chicago (2):  Whipple Street, Seeley Ave.
  • YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago (7): Effie O. Ellis, Garfield, High Ridge, Logan Square, Orr, Rauner, and South Side Centers
Inclusion of Children with Special Needs:
  • Rockford District 205 (3): Summerdale Early Childhood Center, Fairview Early Childhood Center, and Dennis Early Childhood Center
  • Tinley Park District 146 (3): Kruse Education Center, Fierke Education Center, and Memorial School
  • St. Charles District 303 (3): Ferson Creek Elementary School, Norton Creek Elementary School, and Fox Ridge Elementary School
Linguistically and Culturally Appropriate Practice :
  • West Chicago District 33 (2): Early Learning Center, Trinity Center
  • Early Childhood Developmental Enrichment Center (ECDEC) (2): Partners for Our Community (POC), Palatine (District 15); Miner School, Arlington Heights (District 25)
Preschool Teaching and Learning:
  • Williamson County Special Education District/Early Childhood Collaborative (3): Tri-C School in Carterville; Jefferson and Longfellow Schools in Marion 
  • ECDEC (6): Thomas Jefferson School, Hoffman Estates and Central Road School, Rolling Meadows (District 15); Poe School, Arlington Heights and Longfellow School, Buffalo Grove (District 21);Timber Ridge School and Poe School in Arlington Heights, Longfellow School in Buffalo Grove (District 21); River Trails School, Mt. Prospect (District 26); Timber Ridge School, Arlington Heights (District 57)
Inclusion of Children with Special Needs:
  • ECDEC:  Dwight D. Eisenhower School, Prospect Heights District 23
Congratulations to all the awardees!
Birth to Three Continuity Conference

Recognizing that sustained and aligned early childhood programs from birth through third grade (B-3) have the potential to be an educational game-changer, the Illinois Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and the Center for the Study of Education Policy (CSEP), is pleased to announce an opportunity for community and school leaders to participate in the Illinois Birth Through Third Grade (B-3) Continuity Conference.  

Illinois B3 Continuity Conference
June 14-15, 2017

Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center
Normal, IL

Illinois Birth-to-Third (B3) Continuity Project 's third annual conference aims to build the capacity of early childhood and elementary education staff to provide informed leadership about research-based practices to develop an effective system of supports and services for children birth through third grade. This conference is open to school districts and community leaders working towards birth-to-third grade alignment strategies in their community.
Communities are encouraged to bring a team of 2-5 stakeholders with representatives from early childhood, K-12 schools, and the broader community. Examples of appropriate team members include: superintendent/assistant superintendent, school board member, elementary principal, kindergarten and PreK-teachers, child care center directors, Head Start director, Early Childhood coordinator, Community Schools Resource Coordinator, Innovation Zone Coordinator, Before/After School partners, community-based partner(s), municipal staff, and United Way staff. Communities that are working with multiple districts may bring a team composed of educators and community members representing the community work as a whole, while entities holding Preschool Expansion Grants and Preschool for All Expansion Grants should be included within applying communities.

Interested communities should apply to participate in the conference. Preference will be given to existing Preschool Expansion Communities and communities that include on their team both a high-level district administrator with decision-making authority (e.g., superintendent or assistant superintendent) and an early childhood administrator from either the school district or subgrantee community-based organization.
Dates to Remember
May 5 (Friday) 

May 12 (Friday)
Accepted conference participants will be notified

Participation in this conference is FREE , but participants are responsible for their own up-front travel costs and meals (no meals are provided by the conference).

For any questions, you may contact one of the Illinois B3 Continuity co-directors: Pam Reilly (reillyreillypc@gmail.com) or Ashley Long (amlong3@ilstu.edu). Agenda and conference updates will be posted to the conference website .
Preschool Absenteeism Survey

The Northern Illinois P-20 Network is gathering information about preschool absenteeism across the region and state. Preschool program directors who have attendance data from September 1-November 30, 2016 can take this 10-minute survey . Results will only be reported in the aggregate and will be open until April 15, 2017. For questions about the survey, please contact the NIU P-20 Center, Amy Jo Clemens at  ajclemens@niu.edu.
Policy Corner
Preschool Expulsion and Suspension

There has been a stark increase in the stories of young children suspended or expelled from preschool or kindergarten over the past decade. Research shows that preschool children are expelled at three times the rate of children in kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition, there are racial and gender disparities in preschool expulsions that may be based in part on implicit bias : African American boys are only 19% of preschool students, but they represent 45% of preschool expulsions. Data also show that students with disabilities and/or English learners -- children who could benefit from daily attendance in preschool programs -- are disproportionately suspended.
Expulsion and suspension have shown to influence a number of adverse outcomes that are related to children's development, health, and education. Children who are expelled in prekindergarten are much more likely to be ill-prepared for kindergarten and elementary school, and are at a higher risk for school failure.

It is critical that the early childhood system prevent, reduce, and work toward eliminating these harmful practices by establishing developmentally appropriate and fair policies and enhancing supports to early childhood teachers and staff. The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a joint policy statement on this topic, suggesting several practices including: developing and clearly communicating policies around preventive discipline, suspension and expulsion; setting goals and analyzing data; and accessing technical assistance to develop a highly skilled workforce and strengthen family partnerships.

To address this growing concern, the Illinois House recently passed HB2663, which would limit early childhood programs from expelling vulnerable students with perceived behavioral issues. Instead, providers would be encouraged to use community services to work with children and families to address the underlying behaviors. The bill currently awaits action in the Senate.
The following resources can help early childhood practitioners in knowing more about preschool expulsion and suspension and what can be done to prevent, reduce, and eliminate these practices.

Partner Spotlight
Illinois' Early Childhood Innovation Zones: A New Model for State Policy?

" The IZ project represents a bold and audacious experiment for improving the early childhood system in Illinois -- a state-level capacity-building policy process that sets forth broad goals, yet defers to (and relies heavily on) local expertise for creating local solutions to local problems using local resources."
The Illinois Education Research Council (IERC) released a report evaluating Illinois Action for Children's (IAFC) Early Childhood Innovation Zones initiative  to spur experimentation with systemic change strategies to increase the number of Illinois' most vulnerable children enrolled in high quality early learning programs. Funded by the Race to the Top-Earl y Learning Challenge, this initiative supported 11 underserved communities across Illinois in serving as venues for testing evidence-based strategies that aimed to increase: 1) the enrollment of children from priority populations in high-quality early learning programs and 2) the number of early learning programs participating in ExceleRate Illinois, the state's quality rating system. Using a mixed methods approach, the report identified the different innovative solutions employed to build communities' capacities, increase enrollment, and improve quality. Challenges, impacts, and sustainability efforts were also discussed.

Over the d uration of the grant, zones obtained modest gains in en rollment overall and quality ratings increased across all zones and within each zone. This initiative marks a new approach to delivering statewide education policy allowing communities to develop context-sensitive strategies and promoted creative solutions to common problems in the early childhood system.

Wheaton/Warrenville Early Childhood Collaborative

The Wheaton/Warrenville Early Childhood Collaborative (WWECC) is  a group of community agencies, early childhood providers, and supporters of early childhood in DuPage County working together to improve kindergarten/school readiness for children in Community Unit School District (CUSD) 200.  WWECC is focused on increasing access to services for those in under-resourced areas of the community and has prioritized the development of a community-wide developmental screening system.
WWECC is one of 17 community collaborations in Illinois participating the ABLe Change Pilot .  Through that process WWECC leaders have learned to use a robust toolbox of powerful and feasible strategies to pursue transformative community change.  Their starting point was seeking to understand the root causes of a complex community problem-- not all Wheaton/Warrenville children are reaching their developmental milestones.  Through a team approach, WWECC worked to understand the barriers to having children routinely screened, understand partner and community beliefs about developmental screening, and what processes are in place to get all children screened at appropriate stages of development. The system scan revealed 4 main challenges: some partners may not be thinking about developmental screening in the same way; some partners do not conduct developmental screenings; many partners are not referring families for developmental screening; and it is difficult to track the outcomes of the developmental screenings for individual children.
With the help of their ABLe  team, WWECC conducted surveys of  parents and early childhood providers to help inform their strategies moving forward. In October  2016, the WWECC developed materials and resources to help stakeholders understand where to refer families for developmental screenings. The Developmental Screening Flowchart helped streamline the screening and referral process, resulting in an increase in the number of screenings conducted by partner organizations and improved the efficiency of referrals to the school district and Early Intervention for further evaluation.  Another significant systemic change is the release  of information to organizations who wish to get their clients' screening results and help families access additional resources and services that they may need. By making the process easier for families, WWECC hopes that more families will participate in developmental screening to ensure that children are meeting their milestones.
In the News

Media and Young Minds

A recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),  Media and Young Minds , addresses the influence of media on the health and development of children from 0 to 5 years of age. The first five years of a child's life is considered a time of critical brain development, building secure relationships, and establishing health behaviors.
The AAP statement reviews the existing literature on variety of traditional and new technologies, their potential for educational benefit, and related health concerns for young children aged 0 to 5 years. It also highlights areas in which pediatric providers can offer guidance to families in managing the content and time limits of their children's media use, and emphasizes the importance of parents interacting with their children during media use and the importance of not displacing other developmentally healthy activities -- sleep, exercise, play, reading aloud, and social interaction. Access this document at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/10/19/peds.2016-2591.
Available Resources

Leaders for Early Childhood


Ready Nation: Connecting the Early Childhood and Business Sectors


Collaboration is a key to success in effectively serving children and families, and it is important for early childhood programs and collaborations to connect with all local resources, including businesses. ReadyNation leverages the experience, influence, and expertise of nearly 2,000 business executives to promote public policies and programs that build a stronger workforce and economy. Recognizing the importance of early childhood as a backbone of success in the global marketplace, ReadyNation has worked to raise the visibility of the issue of early childhood with key members of Congress - developing effective messages for business leaders and generating attention to the importance of early childhood in improving the future workforce and the need for state funding.


Learn more about how we can engage and work with our business leaders in helping secure a better future for our children.


Early Childhood for Leaders

Erikson Institute's Early Childhood Leadership Academy is seeking Illinois leaders from various sectors for three leadership programs. A brief description and link to each webpage is included below for each program, as well as corresponding information for the registration/nomination process. Deadlines to nominate and apply are fast approaching.Please direct any questions to ecla@erikson.edu.


McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows Program

This program is for Illinois elected officials, judges, high ranking police officials, heads of state agencies, school board members, superintendents, and community leaders, to provide a deeper understanding of the policy opportunities to support young children and child development, based on the most up-to-date research from national experts. The deadline for nominations is Friday, April 21, 2017.


Board Training Program

This program is designed for leaders who are serving on boards of organizations with a focus on early childhood. Organizations are encouraged to send more than one board member to maximize the learning impact. The deadline for registration is Monday, April 17, 2017.


Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows Program

This program is designed to enrich the perspective and enhance the capacity of diverse child advocates with a commitment to racial equity who want to influence early childhood policy. The program will equip program and policy leaders with content knowledge, tools for assessing public policy levers, and hands-on practice to make a difference in early childhood policy. The deadline for nominations is Friday, April 21, 2017.

Once I was Very, Very Scared



Through the use of story, cute characters, and her background in clinical psychology, Chandra Ghosh Ippen aims to help children and families recover after stressful or traumatic events. "Once I Was Very, Very Scared" is the story of a little squirrel discovering that he was not the only animal who was scared. By talking to the other animals, he learns more about their scary experiences, and how they react in different ways -- turtle hides and gets a tummy ache, monkey clings, dog barks, and elephant doesn't like to talk about it. The animals eventually get help from grown-ups who help them feel safe and learn ways to cope with difficult feelings.

Written to help children and grown-ups (parents, teachers, and other important adults) understand how stress can affect children and ways to support them, the story illustrates how young children react to stressful events and the importance of parents/caregivers in helping them regulate their emotions. Access the book and other resources here

Brain Building Activity Books -- Now Available in Spanish


Brain Building activity books for parents and families of children from birth to age five are now available in Spanish. They can be ordered from http://www.minervapromotions.com/excelerate_literature/ at no cost.  Please note they come in packs of 25; so if you order a quantity of 1, you are actually ordering 25 books. Take a moment and order your activity books - available in both English and Spanish. 


Possible uses for Brain Building Activity Books

  • Parent Fairs
  • Local community events
  • Parent referral packets
  • Parent walk in hand outs
  • Libraries
  • Doctors' Offices
  • WIC offices
  • Family and Community Resource Centers
  • Any community location that allows for you to leave a stack of handouts. 
These books were produced through a partnership between the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (INCCRRA) and Vroom with funds from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant.

Illinois Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development | | Diane.Carasig@illinois.gov | earlychildhood.illinois.gov
160 N. LaSalle St. Suite N-100
Chicago, IL 60601