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Archive for the ‘Achievement gap’ Category

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Governors have an important job to do: They can promote early math skills among young children. A new policy brief from the National Governors Association (NGA) called, “Unlocking Young Children’s Potential: Governors’ Role in Strengthening Early Mathematics Learning,” explains why.

“Studies find that the mathematics knowledge acquired in early childhood and early elementary grades is a critical foundation for long-term student success. A child’s math ability when he or she enters school has proved a better predictor of academic achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance than any other early childhood skill.”

In fact, the brief adds: “Early mathematics competency even predicts later reading achievement better than early literacy skills.”

Here in Massachusetts, JD Chesloff, a champion of early math, adds context to the report, explaining, “This is not to say that math should replace reading as a priority, but it is to say that there should be a focus on both literacy and numeracy.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

David Jacobson — one of our favorite bloggers over at “The Birth Through Third Grade Learning Hub” — has a new article out in Phi Delta Kappan, “the professional magazine for anyone who cares about K-12 education.”

The article, “The primary years agenda: Strategies to guide district action,” points out that the growing momentum around early education is creating powerful opportunities for schools and districts.

“School districts on the leading edge of the Birth through Third Grade movement have demonstrated unprecedented success raising the achievement of low-income students by developing coherent strategies focused on the early years of learning and development,” Jacobson explains.

These leading edge communities — among them Boston, Montgomery County, Md., and Union City, N.J. — aren’t just improving preschool. They’re “building aligned, high-quality early education systems.”

The Birth through Third Grade Strategy

Why birth through third grade? Because high-quality early education programs prepare children to succeed.

“Gaps between low-income and middle-class children appear early and increase over time,” Jacobson writes. “Such gaps in social-emotional and academic (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This post was originally published on November 25, 2013.

“The time is now to redesign this country’s approach to language and literacy instruction, and governors who choose to can lead the charge,” according to the National Governors Association (NGA) report, “A Governor’s Guide to Early Literacy: Getting all Students Reading by Third Grade.

Acknowledging the fact that only one-third of America’s fourth graders are reading proficiently, the report points out that America’s governors can help address this challenge. They can build a bridge between knowledge and action, connecting what researchers know to what policymakers do.

What the Research Says

To provide the research background on the literacy issue, the report points to three widely accepted research findings:

1. “Starting at kindergarten is too late.” Because literacy skills start developing at birth and because achievement gaps show up early, infants, toddlers and preschoolers need effective, high-quality early education and care programs that introduce early literacy concepts.
(more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

This past Election Day, voters in Seattle got to choose between two different universal preschool proposals. They selected one backed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council.

“The effort began with a 2013 City Council resolution that charged the city’s Office of Education with developing a plan for building universal pre-K,” EdCentral, a New America Foundation blog, explains.

Of the two proposals, voters approved Proposition 1B, which authorizes “a $58 million property-tax levy to fund a four-year pilot program of preschool subsidized on a sliding scale, while setting academic standards and raising preschool teacher pay,” according to an article in the Seattle Times.

“Lattés cost more,” Mayor Murray said, according to public radio station KPLU, which reports, “Under the proposed four-year, $58 billion tax hike, Murray says the average Seattle homeowner would pay an extra $3.60 in property taxes each month to fund a pilot project serving 2,000 mostly low-income preschool-age kids.”

“The preschool program is designed to meet a wide achievement gap in the Seattle school system,” Seattle Pi, a Heart Newspapers website, reports. “Students in north end schools have higher text scores, higher math and reading skills, than south end schools with heavy populations of African-American, Hispanic, and immigrant children.” (more…)

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Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children, issued the following statement today:

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Strategies for Children, congratulations to Governor-elect Charlie Baker. Upon taking office, Governor-elect Baker will have a critical opportunity to help close the achievement gap through increased access to high-quality early education.

Massachusetts is well-poised to solve some of the most difficult challenges in education. Chief among these is the achievement gap. Research shows that this gap takes root as early as 18 months of age, and often persists throughout children’s academic career. Here in Massachusetts, despite incremental progress in narrowing the achievement gap across grades and subjects, large gaps remain, particularly in early literacy.

To close the achievement gap, we must start early. We must act on the latest early childhood research and make increased investments in high-quality early education. This means adequately funding early education and care in Massachusetts, and affording all children under age 5 the opportunity to attend high-quality programs that prepare them well for success in school and beyond. Currently, far too many children do not have that opportunity, particularly in our Gateway Cities.

We look forward to working with Governor-elect Baker to develop and implement a multi-year investment to provide all children with early learning opportunities and a strong foundation for future success. Governor-elect Baker is a supporter of targeted pre-k, as he stated during the campaign. We must expand access to pre-kindergarten programs, while continuing to invest in program quality and the early education and care workforce. We thank all gubernatorial candidates for running and raising these important issues. We look forward to working with Governor-elect Baker to help make this vision a reality for the commonwealth, and becoming the first state to close the achievement gap once and for all.

Our children are counting on us.”

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Zero to Three, the Washington, D.C., nonprofit, has launched a promising, new web portal called “Beyond the Word Gap.” It’s a collection of multimedia resources and tools that help support the development of language and learning in early relationships.

“The ‘Word Gap’ has come to symbolize the gulf that can separate very young children who have rich opportunities for positive early learning experiences from those who do not,” Zero to Three says on its website, adding, “early language and literacy skills are important predictors of later success in school—and that as a group, children in families of lower socioeconomic means have fewer skills and know far fewer words than their more privileged peers.” (more…)

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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. (more…)

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