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2022 Q2 Newsletter

New Content Type, Updated Foundational Courses, and Research Highlights

New Content

Three New Targeted Professional Development Modules Released

To help meet the need for evidence-based, high-quality, trackable professional development, the VLS has developed a new content type: Targeted Professional Development (TPD). TPD encompasses a variety of brief, comprehensive trainings on topics that are curated from across the existing Virtual Lab School site. These TPD offerings can fulfill several different requirements including (1) DoDI 6060.02 annual training requirements (2) specialized professional development, and (3) supplemental training.

We collaborated with the Department of Defense and Service Leadership to identify topics supportive of program leaders. The following Targeted Professional Development (TPD) modules are now available to program leaders, however additional TPD trainings will be made available to other roles in the future.

  • Supportive Partnerships: Communication & Collaboration with T&CSs

    This new TPD module is designed for program managers to strengthen their partnership with Training & Curriculum Specialists (T&CS) and focuses on the critical partnership between the program manager and the T&CS. Program managers will learn systems and strategies to help build and maintain collaborative relationships.

  • Staff Supervision: Performance Reviews to Support Program Quality

    This unit highlights the importance of conducting high quality performance reviews with staff, and provides program managers with key strategies for conducting meaningful performance reviews that support the professional development of individual staff members and enhance overall program quality.

  • Developing a Strong Team: Best Practices for Hiring & Onboarding New Staff

    Identifying, hiring, and retaining child care staff is one of the most challenging aspects of a program manager’s job. This TPD module addresses those challenges by helping program managers identify, use, and reflect on key systems and strategies for recruiting, collaborating, and onboarding highly-trained staff.

Selected Content Updates in Q2 2022

The VLS integrates the latest research and best practices into its professional development system on an ongoing basis. Our content team review new research and updates to national guidelines. Selected content updates over the last three months include:

  • Communication & Language Development Course Update

    The Communication & Language Development course has been updated across all Direct Care tracks to include new content, resources, and activities that are essential to support and promote communication and language skills at various ages. In Lesson 2 of all Direct Care tracks, the communication milestones now reflect the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2021 updated milestone guidance. Additionally, digital technology and non-screen media are becoming valuable tools in helping children and youth develop new skills, expand creative thinking, and become effective communicators. In Lesson 4 of all Direct Care tracks, a table has been added detailing experiences that promote media literacy skills, knowledge, and habits in children and youth.

  • Child Abuse: Prevention Course Update

    Understanding how children develop and learn is a protective factor against child abuse and neglect because it helps us recognize an opportunity to scaffold or strengthen a child’s experiences. The Child Abuse: Prevention course has been updated across all Direct Care tracks to include new content, resources, and streamlined activities that help support direct care staff prevent child abuse and neglect. In Lesson 2 of all Direct Care tracks, the developmental milestones have been updated based on the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2021 milestone guidance. Additionally, Lesson 2 of the Infants & Toddlers (IT) and Family Child Care (FCC) tracks now include new content focusing on shaken baby syndrome that details indicators as well as tips that may help prevent this type of abuse. Lesson 3 of the Preschool (PS) and School-Age (SA) tracks now include content on how teaching empathy can help prevent aggressive behavior in classrooms, and help prevent child abuse and neglect.

  • Creative Expression Course Update

    Promoting creativity through environments and materials is crucial for children and youth’s development. Children learn best when they are actively engaged in their environments. The Creative Expression course has been updated across all Direct Care tracks to include new content, resources, and streamlined activities that help support direct care staff in promoting creativity. In Lesson 2 , all Direct Care tracks now provide a clearer explanation of process-and product-oriented experiences, as well as updated strategies to include families by fostering culturally responsive creative experiences.

  • Cognitive Development MGT Track Course Update

    In addition to the updates we made to the Cognitive Development courses in the Direct Care tracks last July, the Cognitive Development course in the MGT track has been updated to include content and fillable HTML activities that help program managers support staff members in understanding how children and youth develop thinking skills. In Lesson 1, a video from Harvard University, Experiences Build Brain Architecture has been added that discusses the importance of early childhood experiences and how experiences influence the developing brain. In Lesson 2, the cognitive milestones have been updated to reflect the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2021 milestone guidance. The updated milestones are presented in a comprehensive table that is intended as a guide for when to expect certain skills or behaviors to emerge.

Highlights from the Field and Recent Research

  • Repairing Our Child Care System by Demanding Change

    In March of 2022, Child Care of America (CCAoA) released the report Demanding Change: Repairing Our Child Care System that is a follow-up to 2020’s Picking Up the Pieces, that focused on how the COVID -19 pandemic was affecting child care supply, affordability, and quality. This report focuses on four aspects of the child care system and the issues impacting them: supply, demand, affordability, and child care workforce.

    In addition, Demanding Change features case studies that highlight critical issues and how they impact the child care system including equity, COVID-19, the role of data, and the economy.

    Full report, "Demanding Change" via childcareaware.org.

  • Zero to Three Releases 2022 Yearbook

    Zero to Three has released the State of Babies Yearbook: 2022, a comprehensive report on how state and federal policies, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, have impacted the lives of families and their young babies. Good health, strong families and positive learning experiences were the three policy framework domains that the report used to compare national and state data on the well-being of infants and toddlers. Key findings from the State of Babies Yearbook: 2022 include:

    • Access to Early Learning Programs: Fewer than 1 in 7 federally eligible families (4.6 percent) receive help paying for child care under the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), and the floor for the quality of care families receive through CCDF varies widely from state to state. Only 11 percent of eligible infants and toddlers were reached by the EHS program.

    • Use of Child Care: Overall household use of non-parental child care (center-based or non-center-based) substantially increased over the course of the year, from 53.3 percent of surveyed families in January to 66 percent in December. However the return to non-parental care was lower among families with low income.

    • Services for Young Children with Disabilities/Developmental Delays: Early intervention to identify and address developmental delays is critical, but only one in three babies received a developmental screening and only 7.2 percent received Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C services. Additionally, the number of infants and toddlers with disabilities from birth to 2 years old who received early intervention services under IDEA Part C during the most recent 12-month period was virtually unchanged at 7.3 percent, up from 6.8 percent in the previous year.

    • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Infants and toddlers in families with low income (12.7 percent) were significantly more likely than those in families above low income (3.6 percent) to have experienced two or more ACEs, with a rate nearly 4 times higher.

    • Food Insecurity: Families with low income (40.5 percent) reported food insecurity at a rate approximately 5 times higher than reported by those above low income (8.4 percent). When analyzed by race and ethnicity, the incidence of food insecurity was higher than the national rate prior to and during the pandemic among Latinx and Black families with babies.

    • Access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Less than 1 in 5 (18.5 percent) of families who could benefit from TANF’s basic cash assistance receive it—a decrease of 3 percentage points from previous reports.

    The Yearbook can help policymakers and advocates understand the potential threats to development, and policies that support well-being of babies and families.

    Full report, "State of Babies Yearbook 2022" via stateofbabies.org

  • A Study That Highlights the Benefits of Pre-K

    A recently published Child Trends study of the Tulsa, Oklahoma state-funded universal pre-K program, followed students from pre-K through middle and high school. The study highlights the following key findings:

    • Middle school students who had attended pre-K demonstrated higher standardized test scores and lower rates of grade retention or repeating a grade than similar students who hadn’t attended pre-K.
    • For high school students, pre-K was associated with lower rates of grade retention and fewer days absent
    • Students who attended the program were also significantly less likely to fail a course and more likely to take an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate course, relative to similar students who did not attend the program.

    The universal pre-K program in Tulsa, with well-trained and well-compensated teachers, created positive academic outcomes for children, in comparison to other pre-K studies.

    For more on this, read "New Study Can Guide Policies To Maximize Pre-K’s Benefits to Students" via childtrends.org

Technical Updates

Resolving Focused Topics End of Course Assessment Issues

Some users have reported an issue with one or more online EOCAs not being made available after all lessons in a Focused Topic course are completed.

We have recently developed and deployed a solution for users experiencing this EOCA issue. In order to fully resolve the issue, users must un-enroll and re-enroll in any affected courses. This re-enrollment step will update your progress status and access to the EOCA will be restored. Direct Care and Support Specialist users will need to ask a T&CS or PM user to perform this un-enrollment/re-enrollment step for them. All other user roles may un-enroll and then re-enroll themselves.

If you or your staff members are still experiencing issues after un-enrolling and then re-enrolling in a course, please reach out to VLS Support at support@virtuallabschool.org