2019 Q3 Newsletter Update

Latest in VLS content, technical and research updates
Published: 27 Sep 2019

Content Update

Council on Accreditation Accepts VLS Courses as Meeting Staff Qualification Requirements

The Council on Accreditation (COA) has approved Virtual Lab School (VLS) courses as meeting staff qualification requirements.

New Course Content Goes for Review

As noted in the Quarter 2 Newsletter, we have developed three new Focused Topics courses. These courses will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy’s Children, Youth, and Families (OMFRP’s CYF) division and Service headquarters personnel this fall. After implementing their feedback, we will release these courses over the winter and early in 2020. We’ll alert you in the news when these are live and ready to use.

Selected Content Update

Supporting Children’s Emotional Wellness

Information on suicide risk factors, warning signs, and how to respond when a child or youth expresses suicidal thoughts has been added to the School-Age track, Healthy Environments course, Lesson Three. For details, see the July 11 announcement at https://www.virtuallabschool.org/news/supporting-childrens-emotional-wellness.

Professional Competencies

While no unified early childhood educator competencies have been adopted across the nation, professional competencies are gaining visibility because they are seen as tools to ensure that the early childhood education workforce is both professional and stable. The Lesson One Apply section in the Infant & Toddler, Preschool, and School-Age tracks have been updated to help direct care staff reflect on their professional competencies and identify strengths and goals in this area of their practice.

Highlights from the Field and Recent Research 

Social Emotional Skills Development and the Promise of Adolescence

At the Brookings Institute, Research Fellows H. Kim and K.M. Ross summarize a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report, The Promise of Adolescence: Realizing Opportunity for All Youth, which highlights that the crucial development that occurs from ages 12 to 24 is a period of “resilience that can ameliorate childhood setbacks and set the stage for a thriving trajectory over the life course.” The report points out that today’s adolescents make up a quarter of the U.S. population and that social and emotional development is non-linear during this stage of life. This means educators, families, and others who support adolescents may observe social and emotional skills develop in a “two steps forward one step backwards” pattern and should adjust expectations accordingly. The authors also emphasize that social emotional skills are frequently lumped together, when instead skills such as decision-making and self-awareness have distinct growth patterns. See the full report here: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2019/08/09/how-do-social-and-emotional-skills-develop-in-youth/.

Updated materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Milestone Tracker

Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention released an updated version of their “Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign. The CDC now offers a free “milestone tracker” app that can help families track their child’s developmental milestones and get quick tips and activities to support their child’s development. In addition, there are new resources for early care and education as well as family child care programs. Find all the updated materials and information here: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/

Strengthening the Military Family Readiness System for a Changing American Society (2019)

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently released an extensive new report, “Strengthening the Military Family Readiness System for a Changing American Society.” The report compiles the evidence-based information about the well-being of military families and analyzes the systems available to support military families’ capacities to adapt to challenges they face. The report stresses:

  • that military families and their support systems face increasing challenges as family dynamics have changed in general, and also for civilians;
  • the importance of coordinated services across military and civilian sectors that are sensitive to the specific needs of military families and military-serving professionals;
  • the need for clearer definitions of what defines military family well-being; and
  • using data to target screening and services to specific sub-populations at critical points in time

The report also emphasizes a continuous improvement model that incorporates data gathering and evidence-based decision making. The full report is accessible here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25380/strengthening-the-military-family-readiness-system-for-a-changing-american-society 

VLS Momentum Pilot Project Kicks Off

The Virtual Laboratory School (VLS) is partnering with Future Ready Columbus [http://www.futurereadycolumbus.org/] and the City of Columbus on a pilot project, “VLS Momentum,” aimed at helping local child care providers earn their Child Development Associate credential, (CDA).  Child care providers who work in programs serving children receiving publicly funded child care have the opportunity to engage in complementary training and coaching to expand their knowledge and skills, while building their careers in the field of early childhood education.  Centers with staff who earn their CDA can boost their program’s quality rating and improvement system level in Ohio (i.e., their Step Up to Quality rating), thus increasing the payment rate their program receives from the state. The project kicked off this summer and is expected to run through December 2020. The pilot also offers the opportunity to gather additional data to support the continuous improvement of the entire VLS system.

ELM Updates

Purdue University recently released additional finalized materials for the Infant and Toddler portion of the Early Learning Matters (ELM) curriculum. We will continue to update the ELM resources as the final set of materials are made available this fall. Purdue is set to release some additional training materials and the Infant Toddler User Guide in the near future; continue to check the ELM curriculum page for the latest materials available: https://www.virtuallabschool.org/elm-curriculum

Earn Your Associate of Arts degree from OSU in Early Childhood Development and Education

For details on how VLS users can apply their coursework to an online AA degree from Ohio State in Early Childhood Development and Education see: https://www.virtuallabschool.org/osu-online-aa-degree

Tech Update

Infant & Toddler Track Activities Update

During the August 10th site update, all VLS-produced activities in the Infants & Toddlers track were updated to a new fillable HTML format.  The new activity format allows users to complete Learn, Explore, and Apply activities online by filling out responses using a web browser and brings many improvements such a clickable answer keys, integrated print capabilities, and smaller file sizes.  Activity responses are not sent to the VLS servers, but instead remain client-side in the browser and can be printed, saved to a non-editable PDF file locally, or discarded as needed. Activities in the Preschool track are next in line to be upgraded with these enhanced features. For more details, see the August 5 announcement about this enhancement at https://www.virtuallabschool.org/news/infant-toddler-activity-rework.