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Archive for the ‘Achievement gap’ Category

“Research shows that high-quality early education has important short- and long-term impacts on young children’s educational, social and health outcomes. If Massachusetts is to remain ‘the education state’ and start to close achievement gaps, we must invest significant new resources in early education.

“The current system is built largely upon federal child care subsidies tied to parental work status, long waiting lists for such subsidies, high parent fees for those who do not qualify for aid, and low salaries for early educators. That combination is simply not sustainable – Massachusetts children, families and taxpayers deserve better.”

Carolyn Lyons, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, “Costing-Out Universal Pre-K Options for Massachusetts,” Eye on Early Education Blog, April 10, 2014

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A new report, “Building a Foundation for Success,” looks at the unmet preschool needs of children in the commonwealth — and proposes three ways that Massachusetts might expand its preschool programs to create more access.

Released by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), a nonprofit research organization, the report examines the number of preschool-age children in Massachusetts and the public funding streams that support their enrollment. The report costs out “a range of options for expanding and improving early education and care for these 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts.” The options proposed range in cost from $153 million to $606 million in increased annual state funding on top of what is currently being spent. This increased state funding would be bolstered by non-state sources such as sliding scale parent fees or local education funding, depending on the model used.

“Right now we have a very fragmented system and that leaves many kids without access to any early education at all,” Noah Berger, MassBudget’s president, told the Boston Globe. However, Berger added that there was a growing consensus that a wide expansion of early education options was good for children and for the economy.

Carolyn Lyons, Strategies for Children president and CEO, is encouraged by the report. “This new report by MassBudget builds upon ongoing state and local policy conversations across the commonwealth on how to pay for and structure high-quality universal pre-k. Research shows that high-quality early education has (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A new report from the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) looks at the past, present and future of education in the commonwealth and calls on policymakers to “unleash greatness.”

The plan for successfully transforming the state’s education system includes several recommendations, one of which is to expand access to high-quality early education. This call adds to the growing chorus of diverse stakeholders supporting pre-k, including business leaders, members of the military and law enforcement, and bipartisan political leaders.

The report, “The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years”, sets goals for the years 2016 and 2020, so that by 2030, Massachusetts will be an innovative, global leader in education. The report was authored by Sir Michael Barber, a globally renowned education reformer who has led projects in more than 40 countries. Nearly 200 stakeholders were engaged in interviews, focus groups and workshops to provide input during the development of the report.

The report is “a comprehensive assessment of the commonwealth’s education system, sounding the alarm that student achievement has leveled off and the state risks (more…)

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“If children do not achieve a basic level of vocabulary, linguistic fluency and literacy as well as various social skills before they start school, their ability to unlock the potential that formal schooling offers is massively reduced. It is, therefore, vitally important that all children start school with the foundations in place and ready to learn. Over the next decade this will surely demand universal pre-K, with state funding for all 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families.”

Sir Michael Barber and Simon Day, authors of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education report, “The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts for the Next 20 Years”, released on March 24, 2014

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“If you ask a roomful of kindergarten teachers how soon they know which children are going to be in trouble, they’ll tell you they can tell you the answer to that question in the first day. And they know primarily because of two reasons: because of the language skills of the children and because of their behavior.”

Jessie Rasmussen, President of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, in the film “Ready for Kindergarten,” presented by Nebraska Loves Public Schools and the Sherwood Foundation

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

In the latest issue of The Gateway Cities Journal, which is published by MassINC, Holyoke Pubic Schools Superintendent Sergio Páez wrote the lead article on early education. MassINC has increasingly supported high-quality early education in the Gateway Cities, as it does in its recent policy report — “The Gateway Cities Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems.”

For today’s blog, we’re reposting Páez’s piece, courtesy of MassINC:

“The Early Education Drumbeat Reverberates in Gateway Cities”

By Sergio Páez

From President Obama and Governor Patrick to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, our elected leaders are launching into 2014 with calls for new investments in high-quality early education. Big city mayors like Marty Walsh and Bill de Blasio are fighting hard to expand preschool access. As the New York Times reported this week, Republicans and business leaders are also increasingly supportive of efforts to expand public investment in early education. (more…)

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hubKara Miller, host of the WGBH radio’s Innovation Hub, recently did two interviews that show how science, public policy, and personal history can intersect.

In one segment called “The New Science Behind Early Education.” Miller interviewed Dr. Jack Shonkoff who discussed the impact of “toxic stress” on children’s brain development.

In another segment called “Governor Deval Patrick: When Science Inspires Policy,” Miller talks to Massachusetts’s governor about his legislative approach to early childhood – and about his own childhood experiences.

“Dr. Shonkoff’s research is just my life experience,” Patrick told Miller.

The Science

“What’s really amazing about this biological revolution that we’re living through right now is it’s giving us much greater insight into what’s happening inside the body when we’re severely stressed,” according to Shonkoff, the director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child.

While the purpose of stress is to help people deal with threats, Shonkoff said, “it wasn’t meant to be activated all the time.”

High levels of chronic stress are particularly harmful to children. It can disrupt the development of their brain architecture and trigger diabetes and heart disease in later life. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Early education is getting welcome attention from local and national political leaders. President Obama and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick are only two of the leaders who have called — as recently as last week — for expanding access to high-quality preschool programs.

This sweeping momentum is also making news, as journalists, columnists, and educators weigh in on the issue. Here’s a roundup of some recent stories and opinion pieces.

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Cory Booker: Building on the Success of the War on Poverty,” The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2014

“Our national investment strategy is hardly a strategy at all,” New Jersey’s new senator, Cory Booker, wrote in this opinion piece. “We are failing to invest in areas that not only produce great social returns but also reduce federal spending in the long run. Most glaring of all, we’ve got our priorities wrong: We are failing to maximize the productivity of our greatest natural resource—our people.”

“In a global, knowledge-based economy, the genius of our children is our nation’s greatest asset. Universal pre-K is a must: Based just on cost-benefit analysis, the evidence is overwhelming.”

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Pre-K, The Great Debate,” Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, January 29, 2014

“Against all odds, prekindergarten is gaining ground,” Kristof, a Times columnist, wrote.

“Aside from apple pie, preschool may also be the only issue on which voters agree.”

“Yet one obstacle is the misperception that early education has been debunked by researchers — when, in fact, it’s the opposite.” (more…)

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Governor Patrick

Governor Patrick

“First and foremost, let’s keep leading in education. Let’s make quality early education and all-day kindergarten available to more young children,” Governor Deval Patrick said last night in his final State of the State address.

In a speech that praised the commonwealth’s progress and its strategy of investing in education, innovation and infrastructure, the governor called on Massachusetts to work hard to meet unmet needs. Even as the state celebrates its progress, the governor explained, “some things have not changed enough. We lead the country in student achievement, but some of our students remain stuck in achievement gaps.”

“If we are to be in the leadership business,” the governor said, “we need to lead in rebuilding the ladder to success, because there are children here in our own commonwealth tonight whose future is still defined by the zip code of their birth. I was once one of those kids. And for all my blessings, I have not forgotten.”

Patrick’s commitment to early education and care is detailed in his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, which includes $15 million in additional funding to increase access to high-quality early education programs for 1,700 qualified children from birth to age five. The budget also calls for $3.1 million to help communities offer full-day kindergarten.

Later in the evening, President Barack Obama struck the same resounding chord in his State of the Union address, saying, “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.”

“It’s exciting to hear Governor Patrick and President Obama agree on the vital importance of early education,” Carolyn Lyons, CEO and president of Strategies for Children, said of last night’s speeches. “Their commitment is symbolic of the bi-partisan support that we are seeing across the country. A newly released NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 63 percent of Americans think ensuring that all children have access to early education should be a national priority this year. Another 22 percent say it could be delayed until next year. This growing national momentum promises to create high-quality programs that help children in every state thrive in school and achieve lifelong success.”

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Last month, six states heard great news from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont learned that they would receive a combined $281 million in grant awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) fund “to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout their states,” according to a press release.

“By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, we are able to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release.

Duncan thanked “governors, state officials, and education advocates” for their leadership, adding, “This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early learning programs across the country. There is still a lot more work for us to do.”

“This administration is committed to ensuring all children have a chance to succeed,” Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release. “An investment in our children is an investment in our nation’s future.” (more…)

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