Celebrating the 2021 Week of the Young Child

The National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Week of the Young Child is turning 50!  This weeklong celebration highlights the importance of high-quality learning opportunities for young children and their families through a variety of awareness building activities.  This year, the Week of the Young Child will be celebrated  April 10-April 16, 2021.

The Early Learning Team at the Department of Education wants to take this opportunity to acknowledge the week that brings attention to whole child growth and development across the birth-grade 3 span and to encourage educators, families, and anyone interested in supporting young children to be part of this celebration. Each day of this weeklong celebration offers a theme to promote engagement of educators, families and students in new and exciting activities. For more information and ideas you can check out the NAEYC website or our Maine affiliate, Maine Association for the Education of Young Children (MAEYC).

As an example, the Maine DOE would like to highlight one public Pre-K program in RSU 58/MSAD 58 where teachers and administrators have come together to plan a week filled with activities  for their local students and families. With a Pre-K teacher taking the lead, the RSU 58 team raised $500 dollars in donations to purchase books through Scholastic Book Clubs. This will allow every child in their school systems from PreK-3rd grade to take a book home. RSU 58 has three elementary schools and they will be holding a Week of the Young Child event in all three locations. There will also be a book walk, literacy games, a book basket raffle and flyers about ways to improve child development. Way to go RSU 58!

Additionally, the Maine DOE’s Early Learning Team would like to celebrate the work of a number of Maine educators over the course of the past year in developing interdisciplinary, asynchronous learning modules for young children (PK-3) that can be accessed through the Maine Online Opportunities for Student Learning (MOOSE) platform.

Furthermore, the department, with support from Maine educators, has just published a Foundational Skills module for parents and caregivers  interested in better understanding how children’s foundational skills develop between ages 3-9 in the areas of literacy, mathematics, motor development, and approaches to learning. This new module is also housed within the MOOSE platform.

More information pertaining to the high-quality early education, transitions and development of young children can be accessed from our Early Childhood home page. Questions and concerns should be directed to our Early Childhood Specialist, nicole.madore@maine.gov

PRIORITY NOTICE: Maine Department of Education’s Guidance for Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten Child Find Screening

Maine Department of Education Rule Chapter 101 includes federally mandated Child Find requirements, including timely screening procedures for incoming Pre-Kindergarten (PreK) and Kindergarten (K) students.  As Maine schools begin preparations for spring, summer or early fall screenings, appropriate precautions should be taken.  In addition to the supports that you would typically provide to families based on their needs (e.g. language, culture, transportation), the following screening guidance is provided for school administrative units (SAUs) and their Collaborative Planning Teams  to inform local procedures. 

Prior to In-person Screening
Maine schools are encouraged to use the time prior to scheduling in-person screening to build relationships with guardians of incoming students through an over-abundance of communication. 

The use of online registration for PreK and K students enables schools to identify the students who will be enrolling in programs in the fall of 2021.  As children are registering, schools could send welcome letters that include guardian surveys to begin the screening process.  Guardian surveys can be obtained or developed by: 

  • Accessing one that is already part of the school’s PreK/K screening tool (e.g. DIAL, ASQ, Brigance, etc.). 
  • Purchasing from available guardian screening tools (see Screening Compendium for examples). 
  • Use available standardized developmental screening tools, including the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) or Survey of Well Being of Young Children (SWYC) 

Guardian surveys could be mailed or could utilize technology-based applications.  Phone calls to guardians are recommended in order to answer questions guardians may have, provide reminders about returning the surveys, and obtain information about students that would be helpful in planning for any additional supports necessary to assist the child during screening or in-person instruction. Schools may also consider hosting virtual open houses/meetings to help guardians learn about the school, the staff, the guardian survey, and the screening process. As needed, provide translation and interpreter services throughout the entire screening process. 

Once surveys are collected, schools could use available information to prioritize screenings so that students with greater risk can be scheduled for in-person screening first. Once complete, schools should encourage families to share screening results with their child’s primary care providerThe following guidelines should be considered: 

  • If students were served in a public PreK and guardians /teachers had no concerns, screening does not need to be repeated for Kindergarten entry, this applies for those who had vision and hearing screening completed in PreK as well. 
  • If students were served by Head Start, schools should connect with the sending Head Start program to gather information from their screenings.  It is likely those students will not need to be re-screened. 
  • If students have current IEPs, screening is not needed. Transition planning should be occurring, and students will most likely be re-evaluated in the fall and/or can complete other screening requirements (e.g. health screens) later. 
  • Schools may consider seeking guardian releases for screening information, including lead testing, developmental, hearing, and vision screenings that have been conducted by health care providers and/or other private services. 
  • Of the remaining students who need to be screened, use the information from the guardian survey to prioritize students, scheduling students at greater risk first. 

To assist in providing a smooth, safe, and effective in-person screening process, provide guardians with an explanation of how the screening process will work prior to arriving, utilizing short videos which introduce the process, people, and materials.  This will help them know what to expect and will assist them in explaining the experience to their children.  Also, provide guardians with any additional forms that could be completed ahead of time to reduce the time onsite during screening. 

In-Person Screening
When developing a plan for in-person screening, please consider the following guidance for developing a safe screening environment. 

  • Implement the six safety requirements for schools, and in addition, components of the SAU’s Emergency Operations Plan. 
  • Upon arrival, families must complete a symptoms checklist to ensure that the child and guardian have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19. 
  • Have hand sanitizer available at entry points.  The screener, child and guardian must use prior to beginning each session. 
  • Have supplies available to disinfect screening stations between appointments. Have custodial staff available to disinfect common areas when guardians and children may be traveling to reach screening stations. Follow appropriate guidelines for disinfecting facilities as found in the PK-12 and Adult Education Public Health Guidance. 
  • Work with and include your school nurse and school health advisor in the design of your screening process. Consider, if feasible, seeking support from community medical providers. 
  • Organize screenings to minimize exposures by having one screener completing all aspects of the screening with one student, rather than rotating children through stations with a different screener at each station.  If you want to accommodate more than one student at a time, have multiple screeners spread out, each in their own station, but do not have children rotating between stations.  Screening stations should be big enough to allow for the spacing needed to complete the screening while maintaining appropriate distance between stations.  Consider, in good weather, setting up screening stations outdoors. 
  • Ensure adherence to the gathering limits, established in Executive Order 35 FY 20/21. 
  • Limit screening to one guardian (when possible) per child with no other family members (such as siblings). 
  • Stagger the arrival times so that there is time between guardians and students entering the school and moving to their assigned screening locations. Make sure the entrance point for screening is clearly identified. 
  • Clearly mark the traffic flow for entering and exiting screening stations and for leaving the school.  Consider having a minimal number of additional staff on hand to help with traffic flow, as necessary. 
  • Guardians should remain outside of the screening area.  If children are uncomfortable about or unwilling to be separated from their guardian for the screening, it may be necessary to wait to complete the screening until after the school year begins and children have grown more comfortable. 
  • Screening of medically fragile students may need to be postponed until conditions improve, scheduled to avoid unnecessary exposure to others and should be done in consultation with their health care provider. 
  • If your school collaborates with a Head Start or CDS program, consider enlisting assistance from their trained screening staff. 

Other considerations: 

  • Some schools incorporate additional components in screening beyond what is required for Child Find.  Consider reducing screening to only what is essential, and/or receiving this information from the primary care provider. 
  • If screening during the summer proves to be too challenging, consider using the first couple days of the school year as a time to complete this process. 
  • Use of federal funds through the variety of COVID-19 relief packages to pay for additional expenses incurred by schools to complete screening (e.g. technology-based surveys, staff time in the summer to complete screening, etc.) might be allowable.  Please utilize the existing application approval procedures to inquire about this use. 

If you have additional questions, please reach out to Nicole Madore, Early Childhood Specialist, Nicole.madore@maine.gov or Emily Poland, School Nurse Consultant and Coordinated School Health Team Leader, Emily.Poland@maine.gov. 

 

Thoughts from a Virtual Session with 2020 National Teacher of the Year Tabatha Rosproy

On Wednesday, December 2, 2020, the Maine Department of Education welcomed 2020 National Teacher of the Year Tabatha Rosproy for a virtual question and answer session with Maine educators. Joining from her home in Kansas, Tabatha introduced herself and greeted a group of early childhood educators from the public, private, and special education sectors in Maine and beyond.

Ms. Rosproy spent the one-hour session discussing early childhood topics of interest in Maine, as well as responding to questions from participants. Tabatha’s honesty and passion for the field was evident through her down-to-earth and personable demeanor with session participants. By the end of the hour, it was apparent that Maine and Kansas aren’t all that different. And, although early childhood education has gained some traction nationally, there is still room for growth.

Key takeaways from the session included the value in making connections with colleagues and families, promoting classroom inclusion, and growing school leadership. Tabatha also emphasized the importance of early childhood educators “bring(ing) their seats to the table.” She encouraged each educator to, “Be an advocate for your students and get involved in your classroom, school, district and state.” She went on to inspire educators to think of leadership as an “activity, not a position.” Tabatha suggested it takes courage to do the right thing but that educators should feel empowered to be advocates, not reliant on individuals in positions of power. She also reminded participants that early childhood is not just the early grades of public school, but birth through eight years old. This time in a child’s development is critical and special. and they need a whole system of supporters, not just teachers.

When interacting with families, Tabatha shared that engagement and communication are crucial to building positive relationships and learning atmospheres. “Think of it like a bank account, you make deposits and withdrawals. The deposits are those positive daily comments about each child. The withdrawals are the occasional conversations of concern and goals for growth. Let’s make regular deposits!”

By the end of the hour, participants were thankful for Tabatha’s insights. While Tabatha has many doors open for her now, she shared she “has a hard time not seeing herself in the Pre-K classroom.” When asked what final advice she has for early childhood educators, she responded, “Keep speaking up! In some way, keep using your voice.”

For more information about Tabatha Rosproy and CCSSO’s National of Teacher of the Year Program, visit https://ntoy.ccsso.org/. You can also follow Tabatha on social media at: @NTOY20 on Facebook, @NTOY2020 on Instagram, and @TabathaRosproy on Twitter.

Any questions or comments about this opportunity can be directed to Nicole.madore@maine.gov.

Free Inclusive Practices Training & Technical Assistance for Public Preschool Programs

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is pleased to announce a professional development opportunity designed specifically for Public Preschool Programs. This initiative will support a third cohort of public preschool educators and administrators in providing inclusive practices within high quality preschool environments for 4-year-olds.

This offering is available to any district in Maine with a Public Preschool Program. The 2020-21 cohort will consist of 3 classrooms of 6 participants each. Teams must include the preschool teacher, ed tech, principal, special ed director, elementary special ed teacher and a regional CDS consultant or teacher. The purpose of team participation is to ensure consistent understanding and application of the course content so that high quality inclusive practices will be supported and sustained.

The DOE Inclusive Initiative is a collaboration with Child Development Services (CDS) and Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN), a University of Maine System partnership between University of Southern Maine (USM) and University of Maine (UMaine).  The partnership includes the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS) which has expertise in providing training and technical assistance around inclusion, equity and access.

The project faculty will deliver a continuum of learning and support activities through a blended learning model that equips teams to learn about, reflect on, practice and apply the information and strategies to build and strengthen instructional practices that promote high quality preschool environments. Each team will participate in and have access to:

  • Online training covering a range of topics with the objective of helping early educators develop a deeper understanding of how to promote inclusion in the classroom.
  • Consultation to expand on the training content and use the materials to personalize learning within your own setting.
  • A facilitated professional learning community (PLC) with other peers as “thinking partners” to share and explore topics and application strategies.
  • A suite of resources and tools to support this work.

Benefits of Participation for Maine Schools

Opportunities for administrators, teachers, educational technicians and CDS staff to:

  • Devote dedicated time as a team to focus on preschool pedagogy.
  • Develop a shared understanding of the components of high quality inclusive preschool classrooms.
  • Identify, plan and work toward a common goal to continue to support equity and excellence.
  • Receive certificates of contact hours which support certification renewal and/or local professional development requirements.
  • Gain access to other early care and education professional development opportunities.
  • Enhance teacher recruitment, retention and quality.

Please visit here to hear from past participants about their experiences in this initiative.

Districts are asked to apply by November 30, 2020 to take advantage of this exciting professional development opportunity.  The tentative timeline is outlined in the table below.

The project requirements include: Projected timeline:
Completing the On-demand training: Inclusive Environments in Public Pre-K. By December 11, 2020.
Participating in a half-day virtual orientation session. Mid December 2020
Completing an 18 hour online training: Creating Inclusive Preschool Settings Classrooms. January  – March 2021
Participating in 2 PLC’s scheduled as follow-up support during the online training (is there a better way to say this?) January  – March 2021
Participating in consultation

  • 2 (1-2 hour) classroom based consultations (onsite or technology-based).
  •  2 (1-2 hour) administrative consultation (onsite or technology based)
February  – April 2021
Participating in wrap up meeting hosted by the DOE to evaluate the project and short district team presentations to showcase their learning. May 2021

The application is available at this link. For more information, view the FAQ  or contact Nicole Madore at Nicole.madore@maine.gov  .

Early Childhood Text Studies: Free Professional Development for Educators

Specialists from the Maine Department of Education’s Early Learning Team are excited to offer a web-based professional development opportunity for early childhood educators in the Pre-K and Kg grade span. Participants in this opportunity will get the chance to explore strategies for managing student trauma and mental health behaviors through a text study of both Responding to Student Trauma by Stephanie Filio, M.Ed. and A Practical Guide to Mental Health & Learning Disorders for Every Educator by Myles Cooley, Ph.D.

The text studies will take place virtually in hour-long sessions on a weekly basis between November 30, 2020 and April 2, 2021:

  • Responding to Student Trauma by Stephanie Filio, M.Ed is tentatively set to run Nov. 30-January 8, 2021 (with a scheduled holiday break).
  • A Practical Guide to Mental Health & Learning Disorders for Every Educator by Myles Cooley, Ph.D. is tentatively set to run January 11, 2021 through April 2, 2021.

The learning groups will be limited to 48 participants each. Goals of this professional learning opportunity are to improve participant awareness and understanding of what causes student trauma and to acquire strategies for how to better educate our students exhibiting behaviors related to trauma, mental health, and learning disorders.

Those interested are welcomed to register for one or both studies. Participants will receive a copy of the book(s). Contact hours will be provided at the end of each text study.

Registration is free and can be completed here. Registration closes November 13th at 5pm. Participants will be notified on a first come, first served basis.

For further information, please contact Nicole Madore, Early Childhood Specialist at Nicole.madore@maine.gov.