Backpacks are loaded. School doors are open. The 2012-13 school year has begun, and with it comes the perennial question: How was your summer? One thing Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville did over the summer was embark on a statewide early literacy tour that will end on September 10 with a stop at Arbors Kids in Springfield.
The purpose of the tour, according to a news release, was to highlight the importance of third grade reading proficiency and its link to high-quality early education. “The [Patrick] administration has prioritized efforts to increase early literacy rates as a key strategy in helping all students achieve at higher levels and realize long term academic success and positive life outcomes,” the news release states. “Statistics show that three-quarters of children who struggle with reading in third grade will continue to struggle academically, greatly reducing their chances of graduating from high school, going to college or successfully participating in a 21st century high skill economy. Data also shows that children who receive high-quality literacy instruction during their earliest years are more prepared for kindergarten and success in elementary school and beyond.”
Secretary Reville’s most recent visit was an August 21 stop at the PACE (People Acting in Community Endeavors) Head Start program on Smith Street in New Bedford. “Reville said that students come into kindergarten with a three- to four-year grade span in terms of language fluency,” The [New Bedford] Standard-Times reports. “Those gaps in fluency tend to remain in place throughout a student’s K-12 career, which means the battle against high dropout rates is over before it begins unless we do a better job at early childhood education, said Reville. ‘We really want to close that literacy gap … and we know to do that, we need to start very early,’ he said.”
Reville delivered a similar message at a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board the same day he visited the Head Start program. “There’s no more highly leveraged investment in education than those investments we make in early education,” he told the editorial board.
Meanwhile, Karen Surprenant, director of PACE Head Start, said that aligning early education with the public schools would help the city better track children’s progress. “We really need to encourage [the city's school system] to look [at] the pre-school,” the Standard-Times reports that Surprenant said.
Here’s a list of the stops on Secretary Reville’s early literacy tour:
- July 23, Ellis Memorial Pre-School Program, Boston
- July 26, Quinsigamond Children’s School, Worcester
- July 30, The Sharon Cooperative School, Inc., Sharon
- August 3, Community Teamwork, Inc., Lowell
- August 9, Berkshire Children and Families Program, Pittsfield
- August 21, PACE Head Start program (Smith Street location), New Bedford
- September 10, Arbors Kids program (Mason Wright location), Springfield
“The ability to read is foundational to lifelong learning and key to academic success,” Secretary Reville said in the news release. “Equipping our youngest citizens and their families with the resources they need for a strong academic start is a central piece of our nation-leading education reform work and early literacy is vital to those efforts.”