The start of a new year marks the start of implementing the Massachusetts Early Learning Plan outlined in the commonwealth’s successful application for the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge. Massachusetts, one of nine states to win a grant under the competitive program, was awarded $50 million over four years, the maximum for which it was eligible.
We hope you can join us on January 17 at the State House in Boston to celebrate this success and commit to building on the momentum created by the Early Learning Challenge. (RSVP here.)
Meanwhile, a look at the plan’s budget, as detailed in the state’s application, offers a glimpse at how Massachusetts will use the federal grant to continue building a comprehensive statewide system of high-quality early education and care. It consists of 20 projects within the Department of Early Education and Care, plus increasing the capacity of other state departments whose work touches the lives of young children and their families.
As part of its application, 12 Massachusetts departments and agencies – including the Executive Office of Education, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Department of Higher Education — signed memoranda of understanding committing them to help implement the Early Learning Challenge (ELC) grant. Also signing MOUs are the Department of Public Health, Department of Mental Health, Department of Housing and Community Development, Office for Refugees and Immigrants, Department of Children and Families, Department of Transitional Assistance, State Advisory Council, Head Start State Collaborative Office, and Children’s Trust Fund.
In addition, the Massachusetts application included 62 letters of support from, among others, Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals Association, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Catholic Charities, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Community Colleges, the Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership, individual school districts, advocates (including Strategies for Children/Early Education for All), early education and care providers, and funders.
Not only did the MOUs and letters contribute to the commonwealth’s success in securing an ELC grant but they also indicate the kind of broad-based public and private support needed to ensure that all children in Massachusetts get the strong start they deserve.
Below are some highlights of the Massachusetts Early Learning Plan. For more information, see the full Massachusetts ELC budget. And check out the new Early Learning Challenge page on our Early Education for All website.
- Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). Expand participation in QRIS with the goal of universal participation. Increase program supports, online training and technical assistance. Provide funds to help programs advance. Validate QRIS to ensure that “program quality matches assigned tiers and leads to improved child outcomes.”
- Early learning standards. Analyze the alignment of the state’s early learning standards with school readiness and assessment, including a kindergarten entry assessment. “Augment the standards to better accommodate high needs populations, beginning with English language learners.”
- Assessment, birth to third grade. Create and implement the Massachusetts Early Learning and Development Assessment System (MELD). Purchase screening toolkits and assessment tools to implement MELD and a kindergarten entry assessment. Provide resources to Family and Community Engagement grantees, licensed and license-exempt early education and care programs and public schools. Conduct trainings.
- Family and community engagement. Build a “state infrastructure to support interagency collaboration on programs and services for high needs children from birth to age 5.” Also, support early literacy, family literacy and financial literacy and other programs that “promote healthy living and child development.” Increase the accessibility of materials that convey early learning and developmental standards to diverse families through multilingual brochures and translation services. Establish partnerships with libraries and children’s museums “to align informal opportunities with state standards.”
- Workforce training and development. Invest in the state’s six regional Readiness Centers, charged with increasing instructional effectiveness, early childhood to higher education. Create and implement an evidence-based mentoring and coaching program. Validate workforce core competencies in social and emotional development, literacy and numeracy. Study best practices that support young children’s social and emotional development. Support an institution of higher education to train early educators in an innovative program for early educators who are English language learners. Develop a post-master’s degree certificate in early education and policy leadership. Create an Early Educators Fellowship, “a leadership institute for public elementary school principals and community-based providers that supports the alignment of early childhood education with K-3 education.”
- Kindergarten entry assessment. Develop a common metric for the assessment tools that will serve as the basis of a kindergarten entry assessment.
- Early Childhood Information System. Create the next phase of ECIS. Enhance connections and the exchange of information with the Statewide Longitudinal Data System.
- Sustaining program effects in early elementary grades. Support communities and public schools with early education and out-of-school-time partnerships and a birth to age 5 strategy.
- Alignment, pre-kindergarten to third grade. In partnership with WGBH, create an “online curriculum hub for early educators and a ‘School Readiness’ website for parents. Expand EEC’s Brain Building in Progress public awareness campaign.