March 2018 edition
An inside look at Pennsylvania's early education system.
What's New for March
Governor Wolf's proposed budget provided much needed supports for Pennsylvania families and children. A $25 million state-fund investment, matched with $5 million in federal funds expands access to high-quality early childhood education services and allows parents to work while their children are in safe, reliable child care. Read below for details on the proposed budget and hear what OCDEL Deputy Secretary Suzann Morris has to say about how this proposed budget would impact families and children.

Take a moment to read about PA Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller's recent visit to a Family Center in Bloomsburg. The press release shares how programs like these support vulnerable families throughout the commonwealth.

OCDEL is excited to announce a new resource, the Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRC), as a single point of access for families, early learning service providers, and communities to access both information and services supporting children and families. Read below how the ELRC will improve quality and accessibility of early learning services.

The Request for Applications for PA Pre-K Counts has been released. A few points to note: This is full, competitive rebid, which means current and potential grantees need to submit their application to be considered for funding. A letter of intent is required for any who may consider submitting a full application. See the announcement below for additional details that include deadlines, a pre-application recorded webinar, and dates for face-to-face bidders conferences. 

Congratulations to Dr. Deep I. Shah, D.M.D, , who was selected to receive the PA Head Start Oral Health Champion Award. Dr. Shah has served on the Luzerne County Head Start Board of Directors since January 2016, and has served on Luzerne County Head Start’s Health Services Advisory Committee since 2015. Throughout the Luzerne County Head Start’s relationship with Dr. Shah, he has served over 100 Head Start children, and also has graciously visited numerous centers, providing children and families invaluable dental services, resources, and follow-up advice.  
Early Education in Pennsylvania
Wolf Administration Announces Proposed Funding in Support of Families and Children
On February 13, 2018, the PA Department of Human Services (DHS) announced initiatives included in Governor Wolf’s 2018-19 budget proposal in support of Pennsylvania families and children. The budget items provide opportunities to expand access to services for self-sufficiency and sustainability. The proposed 2018-19 budget includes investments in high-quality early childhood education to support low-income families in Pennsylvania struggling to stay in the workforce due to the cost of child care.
Governor Wolf proposed a $25 million state-fund investment, matched with $5 million in federal funds to expand access to high-quality early childhood education services, allowing parents to work while their children are in safe, reliable child care.

The investment consists of:
  • $10 million to provide approximately 1,600 additional low-income children and families access to child care;
  • $10 million in state funds, and an additional $5 million in federal funds, to increase
  • STAR 2, 3, and 4 tiered payment rates;
  • $3 million to establish a pilot program focused on early childhood education programs for children under 3; and
  • $2 million to provide a rate increase for services provided through Nurse Family Partnership and Community-Based Family Centers to enhance capacity.

The PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Deputy Secretary, Suzann Morris, shared information about Governor Wolf’s proposed 2018-19 budget. Hear what she has to say about the impact this proposed budget has for families and early learning programs throughout Pennsylvania.

For more information on Governor Wolf’s 2018-19 proposed budget visit .
Early Learning Resourced Centers Set to Improve Quality & Accessibility of Early Learning Services
The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) is excited to announce a new resource for families and communities to improve the quality and accessibility of early learning services in Pennsylvania. Beginning July 2018, the Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRCs) will serve Pennsylvania’s communities and provide a single point of access for families, early learning service providers, and communities to access both information and services supporting children and families. ELRCs will allow OCDEL to deliver effective and efficient services to families, early care and education providers, and communities to support increased access to high-quality early care and education for children and quality-building supports for early learning programs.

ELRC agency selection occurred in coordination with the Department of Human Services (DHS) Bureau of Financial Operations (BFO) through a formal, competitive procurement process. All proposals were scored on technical points and reviewed for financial eligibility. DHS is in the process of finalizing the grants with the goal of announcing the successful ELRCs offerors in the coming weeks. Future communications regarding the ELRC awards, contact information, and transitions supports will continue to occur throughout Spring 2018. 

OCDEL is committed to supporting the on-going professional development (PD) of all of Pennsylvania’s early learning professionals. OCDEL believes early learning professionals should have the flexibility to focus on areas of need and/or interest as well as attain college credit-bearing coursework in early childhood-related fields of study. Early Learning program leadership teams and their staff are encouraged to personalize each staff member’s professional development plan and/or focus on college credit bearing coursework resulting in a degree. Programs should work with their Quality Coach to ensure a solid understanding of their staff’s needs as well as all available PD opportunities. The expectation is that programs will continue to utilize PQAS approved events to ensure their staff are receiving the very best PD. Non-PQAS PD is intended for high-quality PD opportunities from nationally known experts or credit bearing coursework. Please contact your Quality Coach if you need additional clarification around PD and STARS.

OCDEL made it a priority to develop and implement a professional development (PD) system for the early childhood workforce that integrates services and reflects the focus of the new Keystone STARS performance indicators. In February 2017, OCDEL solicited a Request for Information for Early Learning Professional Development Organizations. In an effort to support professionals in a time of significant transition and based the feedback OCDEL received, implementation of the Early Learning PDOs will occur in July 2019. PD offerings will continue through the agencies currently offering those supports to early learning programs for the 2018-19 year. 
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Request for Applications Announced: Action Required
Required Letter of Intent due March 30
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is seeking applicants for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts. Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts provides children with the opportunity to experience a high-quality pre-kindergarten program. The program standards ensure a high return on the investment in the preparation of young children for school and will help to close the achievement gap. Early education through Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts can open the doors of opportunity for every child to do well in school, in the workforce, and in life.
The Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts grant program operates on a five-year cycle of continuation. FY 2017-18 represented the end of a five-year cycle, therefore; PDE is issuing this full, competitive rebid Request for Application (RFA) to evaluate equitable distribution of funding. All FY 2017-18 Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts grantees wishing to serve children in FY 2018-19 MUST submit an application as part of this competitive rebid process. In addition, applications from those seeking to become new Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts grantees will be reviewed.

See the Announcement for additional details, including the pre-application recorded webinar and dates for the face-to-face bidder’s conferences .
Request for Proposals Being Accepted for Shared Services Pilot
RFP Webinar March 15
RFP Deadline April 13
The Tuscarora Intermediate Unit (TIU), on behalf of the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), has issued a Request for Proposals for a new Shared Services Pilot. With funding from The Heinz Endowments, the goal of the initiative is to build both pedagogical and business capacity in early childhood programs so programs can provide quality staff support.
The project includes three key components:
  1. identification of further policy and structural opportunities for OCDEL to operationalize the shared services model within the framework of the new Keystone STARS and Early Learning Resource Center structure;
  2. identification, planning, and implementation of sustainable shared services practice at the local level; and,
  3. evaluation of the pilot phase of the shared service project to ensure the developed policy recommendations fully support scaling of statewide shared service implementation.

This Request for Proposal (RFP) is designed to identify shared services practice at the local level, and to support planning around and implementation of these practices. RFPs will be due on April 13, 2018 at 5 pm.

For more information on the shared services RFP process, please read the documents and join the Shared Services RFP webinar on Thursday, March 15 at 10:00 am.  Register here for the webinar.
Pennsylvania Selected As Pilot State for CCDBG
Pennsylvania was selected by the federal Office of Child Care (OCC) as a pilot state for the development of its monitoring process to measure states’ compliance with the requirements of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). During the February 2018 visit, representative from OCC focused on ten topic areas:

  • Statewide Disaster Planning
  • Consumer Education, specifically the posting of health and safety inspection results
  • Twelve-month eligibility periods for families receiving help with paying for child care
  • Ability to receive continued child care assistance in the event of job loss
  • Graduated phase-out that supports two-tiered income eligibility
  • Staff to child ratios in regulated child care settings
  • Health and safety requirements for child care providers
  • Health and safety training requirements for child care providers
  • Inspections for child care providers
  • Provider compliance with mandated child abuse reporting

The compliance visit included a review of Pennsylvania’s regulations, policies, and procedures to verify compliance in one or more of these areas. The site visit also included field trips to the Central Region Certification Office and the local Child Care Information Services Offices in Chambersburg (Adams County) and York (York County).
Although this was a “hold harmless” review, the site visit was a resounding success. This was an excellent opportunity of which OCDEL took full advantage so it can be better prepared when OCC begins formal monitoring for CCDBG, slated for FFY 2019.
Suspension & Expulsion Webinar Helps Early Learning Programs Develop Policies
Watch Relationships Matter: Reducing Suspension and Expulsion in Early Learning, a recorded webinar featuring OCDEL Deputy Secretary Suzann Morris. This 25 minute, self-paced video is designed to assist programs as they develop their own policies surrounding expulsion and suspension of children. For more resources on Suspension and Expulsion, please visit the PA Key website.
Early Learning Professionals Invited to Take Inclusion, Suspension & Expulsion Survey
Deadline March 21
A new survey from OCDEL is gathering information to determine how OCDEL is meeting professional development needs when it comes to the suspension and expulsion policy. 

Those who play a role in child care or pre-k should complete the survey, including those who have received the guidance documents, and/or received the initial policy announcement and timeline in July 2017. This includes:

  • Director or administrator at a child care center based program
  • Teacher Group Supervisor or Assistant Teacher Assistant Group Supervisor at a child care center based program
  • Director or primary staff person or administrator at a group child care home
  • Teacher or assistant teacher Secondary staff person at a group child care home
  • Operator or staff at a family child care home
  • PA Pre-K Counts Staff
  • Head Start Staff
  • Infant Toddler Early Intervention Staff
  • Preschool Early Intervention Staff
  • School District Staff

The results will be aggregated and shared with the community. OCDEL will then use the information to guide in the development of tools and to provide additional support to early learning programs in developing and implementing their own best practices suspension and expulsion program policy.

Click here to take the survey by March 21, 2018.
New State Resource Provides PA Specific Early Learning Data
A new resource from the PA Department of Human Services offers a variety of Pennsylvania specific data and information about the PA early learning programs Early Intervention, PA Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. Information within the PA Early Learning Dashboards can provide resources to community leaders to support the early learning infrastructure, as well as provide parents and families with information to assist them in making informed decisions regarding availability and location of quality care. Early learning providers can also use this information in planning how to meet the needs of parents and families, including in communities that are currently underserved. 

The PA Early Learning Dashboards, the first phase of public-facing dashboards, was created using Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funding. OCDEL will continue to incrementally create dashboards to make information available about more early learning programs in Pennsylvania, with a targeted completion of December 2018.
Meet OCDEL Staff: Weeks 10-13
What Are Your Plans for Month of the Young Child?
April kicks off Month of the Young Child, when we celebrate and plan how to better meet the needs of all young children, their families, and caregivers. What are you doing to celebrate Month of the Young Child? Send it to Kelsey at . We can share the event itself or highlights of the event after it has occurred.
Save the Dates
Pennsylvania's PD Registry: Things To Know and Do
4 Ways to Receive Assistance with the New PD Registry
The Registry team wants you to be supported as you use the PD Registry. There are several ways to receive assistance with the new PD Registry.

  1. Visit the PA Key website for a variety of tip sheets from basic information on creating an account to more in-depth topics such as submitting a course for Instructors.
  2. Email and a PD team member will get back to you as soon as possible.
  3. Call 1-800-284-6031 and select extension 1 to connect with one of the PD team members.
  4. Like us on Facebook to stay up-to-date with the latest PD Registry news.

T he hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm. When contacting the PD Registry team, please have your name, contact information (including email), organization (employer) information, and your Registry ID number. If you do not have this information, one of the PD Regsitry team members can help you find it.
Of Interest
Enter the Bookmark Contest for the Book Festival of Johnstown
Deadline March 23
Entries are being accepted for the Bookmark Contest for the 10th Annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown. Any public, parochial, private or home school student may submit a bookmark for the contest. If a school is not participating, individual students may submit creations independently. There is a pre-K and K division. Bookmarks will be displayed at the Festival and voted on by attendees. Teachers get a chance to win a classroom set of age-appropriate books including selections written by this year’s headlining authors. Winners in each age bracket receive a basket full of age-appropriate books! Get info about entering the bookmark contest or about the 10th Annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown.
Make the Magical Connection
Reading aloud is not only the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to help prepare a child for reading and learning; it’s also a magical connection through the interaction between you, a child, and the book.

Join the Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign during the month of March and discover the benefits of reading aloud to children. At there are tons of great resources to share with others to inspire reading every day. New items in the Partner Toolkit include:

If you’re looking for new books to share with or explore with children of various ages, check out the book selections webpage that is also available.  Please use these resources and share them with others to help promote reading aloud every day.
Latest on Social Media
Research and Reports
Many pre-K teachers face significant barriers to obtaining bachelor’s degrees.   A new report,  Pre-K Teachers and Bachelor’s Degrees: Envisioning Equitable Access to High-Quality Preparation Programs , from New America highlights strategies currently available to increase access and quality as well as recommendations for new strategy development. It also pinpoints six issues that need to be addressed to better support the goal of ensuring all pre-K teachers have the core knowledge and competencies needed to effectively teach three- and four-year-olds.
Researchers at Temple University’s Language Learning Lab found that children are less likely to learn a new word when a phone call interrupts the child’s conversation with their parent. In their experiment, researchers asked parents to teach their child two words, but answer a cell phone call partway through teaching one of the words. The team’s analysis showed that when parent-child conversations were interrupted, children did not learn the new word. Check out the below video Q&A session with researcher Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek .
Can Too Many Toys Be a Bad Thing for Toddlers?
A recent study, The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play, published in Infant Behavior and Development, found that an abundance of toys present reduced quality of toddlers’ play. Availability of fewer toys allowed toddlers to have a deeper level of exploration of the toys, which can lead to increased imaginative play, supporting expression and affective development.

Child care providers, educators, health and rehabilitation professionals, and social service providers are positioned to support and promote children’s participation in play. Toys are the tools of play, and these professionals can make recommendations to shape the environment in the most appropriate manner to enhance toy play. Following from the findings of this study, one recommendation may be to opt for having fewer toys available in a play environment for any one play session. When there is an abundance of toys, small collections can be rotated into play while the majority is stored away, providing opportunities for novelty without creating the distraction posed by having too many toys available. This may enhance opportunities for the development of creativity, imagination, and skill development.
Graduates of Early Childhood Program Show Greater Educational Gains as Adults
A National Institutes of Health study, NIH-funded study observes higher attainment of college degrees, recently published by JAMA Pediatrics provides new evidence that multi-year quality early education, from preschool through third grade, can promote long-term educational success contributing to positive health and economic outcomes well into adulthood.

The study followed nearly 1,400 children through 35 years of age—much later in life than most research tracks early education effects—who participated in the Chicago Child-Parent Center Program providing school-based educational enrichment and family services from preschool to third grade. Participating families lived in high-poverty neighborhoods.
Findings demonstrated a 48 percent higher rate of post-secondary degree completion among those with four to six years in the program. Even looking only at preschool, participation was associated with enhanced outcomes including more years of education completed, with greater benefits for those whose mothers had not completed high school. 
Preschool participants had higher rates of postsecondary degree completion of 15.7% vs 10.7% for earning an associate degree or higher.
Yet duration of participation did make a difference. Compared with fewer years, preschool to second or third grade participation led to higher rates--18.5% vs 12.5% -- of earning an associate degree or higher.
New CACFP Training Resources
USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative annouced the availability of six new training worksheets for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) providers and operators: 

  • Methods for Healthy Cooking 
  • Serving Meat and Meat Alternates at Breakfast 
  • Grain-Based Desserts in the CACFP 
  • Offer Versus Serve in the CACFP 
  • Calculating Sugar Limits for Breakfast Cereals in the CACFP 
  • Calculating Sugar Limits for Yogurt in the CACFP 
Know When Not to Screen
The ECHO Initiative released a resource in its February 2018 issue of Probes & Tips that offers a list of situations to consider before screening a child's hearing. For example, if the practitioner notices a Cochlear implant, a significant ear malformation, drainage, or a blocked ear canal, screening should not be attempted. 
The Brain-Changing Power of Conversation
According to the February 2018 issue of Usable Knowledge, a blog series from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, recent studies have found that "Conversational interplay between caregiver and child is enough to transform the biology of kids' brains. The quality of these exchanges is more important than the quantity of words children hear." Conversation is a social interaction that is essential to literacy skills and cognitive development for all children and should begin at birth.
Did you receive this from a friend? 
Click here  to subscribe and get the PA Early Ed News directly to your email.
The PA Early Ed News is a project of the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning, and the PA Departments of Education and Human Services to inform early learning professionals, the early childhood community, policymakers, community leaders and the public on developments in early childhood education and care in Pennsylvania.

Find more information about Quality Early Learning in Pennsylvania 

Please share this email with friends, family and colleagues.