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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced that 35 states and Puerto Rico are applying for federal Preschool Development Grants. The program will distribute $250 million in funding to “25 high-need communities in approximately 12-15 states.”

This welcome announcement shows a sweeping national desire to invest in preschool programs that help children thrive.

The goal of these grants is to help states build, develop, and expand “voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities for children from low- and moderate-income families,” according to a press release.

Jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the grants “will lay the groundwork to ensure that more states are ready to participate in the Preschool for All initiative proposed by the Obama Administration.” Continue Reading »

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Reading, writing, arithmetic – and computer coding?

Coding is a crucial part of being literate, according to educators and employers who say that America’s students should learn how to code so they can participate in the high-tech economy.

When should children start? They’re already getting started in kindergarten. So we decided to take a look at news stories about how this trend is playing out in classrooms.

When adults code, they use a coding language such as Java or Python to write instructions for computers. Now researchers have come up with an easier way for children to code using images.

In the eSchool News article, “Coding with the Kindergarten Crowd,” Laura Devaney writes, “Introducing coding to kindergarten students helps them reflect on their own learning as they develop 21st-century skills such as problem solving and creativity, experts say.”

Continue Reading »

Next Tuesday, November 4, 2014, is Election Day in Massachusetts. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To preview your ballot, go to the website of Secretary of State William Galvin and enter your home address.

 Galvin’s office has also posted information about the four statewide ballot questions that voters will be asked to vote “Yes” or “No” on.

For more information about how to advocate for young children and families this election season, visit our Election Year webpage.

And please vote. It’s one of the most potent forms of public policy advocacy there is.

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

How can policymakers help struggling schools turn around? One answer is to expand high-quality preschool programs, so that year after year, “underperforming” schools are consistently enrolling more children who are ready to learn and succeed.

What makes early learning so powerful? It “addresses a significant issue that to date no other turnaround strategy has tackled: [that] the gaps turnaround schools aim to address emerge well before kindergarten entry,” according to a recent report from the Ounce of Prevention Fund and Mass Insight Education called “Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies.”

Too often, the report says, the strategic importance of helping children access high-quality preschool is being overlooked as education leaders scramble to meet short-term accountability deadlines for children who are already in elementary school.

The Challenge of Turnaround Schools

At September’s meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, department staff gave a presentation on the status of the four Level 5-designated schools in the commonwealth — two are located in Boston, one is in Holyoke, and one is in New Bedford. Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Today’s post about earned paid sick time was written by guest blogger Nicole Rodriguez, a policy analyst at MassBudget (the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center). Next week on Election Day, voters can weigh in on this issue by voting “Yes” or “No” on Ballot Question 4.

As National Work and Family Month draws to a close, we are reminded that many families are struggling to balance the demands of work and caregiving responsibilities.

Nearly all workers experience family illness, personal health issues, or the need to care for a sick child. Yet many workers lack access to earned paid sick time.

In Massachusetts about 1 in 3 workers don’t have access to earned paid sick time. And those least likely to have it are the lowest wage workers. This is particularly Continue Reading »

“Barbara Biber, one of Bank Street’s early theorists, argued that play develops precisely the skills — and, just as important, the disposition — children need to be successful throughout their lives. The child ‘projects his own pattern of the world into the play,’ she wrote, ‘and in so doing brings the real world closer to himself. He is building the feeling that the world is his to understand, to interpret, to puzzle about, to make over. For the future we need citizens in whom these attitudes are deeply ingrained.’”

 “The Building Blocks of a Good Pre-K,” by Shael Polakow-Suransky, president of Bank Street College, and Nancy Nager, a Bank Street professor of education and child development , The New York Times, October 21, 2014

The quote comes from Biber’s “Play as a Growth Process,” which was originally published in the Vassar Alumnae Magazine, 37(2), December 1951

In this article, Biber also makes an eye-catching observation about adults:

“For a child to have fun is basic to his future happiness. His early childhood play may become the basic substance out of which he lays down one of his life patterns, namely, not only that one can have fun but that one can create fun. Most of us as adults enjoy only a watered-down manufactured kind of fun — going to the movies, shopping, listening to a concert, or seeing a baseball game and do not feel secure that some of the deepest resources for happiness lie within ourselves, free of a price of admission. This is one of these securities that compose a positive attitude toward life, in general.”

 

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

“Access to preschool programs — and their quality — varies widely across Texas,” according to a Houston Chronicle article, “Broad coalition pushes anew for expanded pre-K.”

These variations play out within and across school districts. Some schools offer full-day programs, others only run for a half a day. So children in programs that are only 10 miles apart can have vastly different experiences.

“Currently, Texas only pays for half day pre-kindergarten for at-risk 4 year-olds. There are no limits on those class sizes. And child-care providers don’t have to have a college degree,” an article on Houston Public Media’s website says.

The Chronicle says that NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) estimates that “52 percent of 4-year-olds in Texas were enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs last year, and another 9 percent attended federal Head Start pre-K. Enrollment in private programs isn’t tracked.”

“According to data from the Texas Education Agency, 690 districts offered full-day pre-K programs – lasting four or more hours – and 347 districts had only half-day classes. Continue Reading »

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