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Archive for the ‘Achievement gap’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Robert D. Putnam is technically a Harvard social scientist, but a better description might be poet laureate of civil society,” a book review in the Sunday New York Times says. The review is of Putnam’s latest book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.”

Putnam’s book examines the inequality gap in the United States, drawing on both Putnam’s personal experiences and his academic research.

Putnam explains his work in an interview with PBS’ NewsHour, touching on a range of topics including poverty, persistent achievement gaps, and early education.

Here’s a selection of quotes from that interview. The bold emphasis is ours.

“America’s best investment ever, in the whole history of our country, was to invest in the public high school and secondary school at the beginning of the 20th century. It dramatically raised the growth rate of America because it was a huge investment in human capital. The best economic analyses now say that investment in the public high schools in 1910 accounted for all of the growth of the American economy between then and about 1970. That huge investment paid off for everybody. Everybody in America had a higher income.”  (more…)

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Photo Source: South Washington County Schools

Governor Dayton at Newport Elementary School. Photo Source: South Washington County Schools

On a recent visit to Newport Elementary School, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton sat on the floor shaking hands with 4-year-olds.

“You look like you’re 65,” one little boy said, according to the StarTribune.

“Close. I’m 68,” Dayton said.

Dayton wasn’t reaching out to future voters — or running a guess-my-age contest. He was making a bold policy pitch: Offer every 4-year-old in the state universal access to full-day preschool programs.

For free.

It’s an exciting proposal that could reverse a troubling trend.

As a fact sheet from the governor’s office explains, “A new report from EdWeek shows that Minnesota currently ranks 50th in the nation in access to all-day pre-kindergarten programming.”

The good news is, “Minnesota could be among the first states in the country to offer free, full-day early learning programs,” a press release from the governor’s office says, “if a proposal from Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Senate becomes law this session.”  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Ready for school? It’s a personal question for children and families, and a policy question for educators and elected officials. Here in Massachusetts, there is no statewide definition or measure of “kindergarten readiness”, but in recent years local communities — including Somerville and New Bedford — have been grappling with this issue.

Now researchers from Harvard are offering advice and examples that can help communities think about defining and achieving school readiness.

In its March issue, the FINE Newsletter (the Family Involvement Network of Educators) shines a spotlight on how children make the transition to school.

“Although the first day of kindergarten is still a few months off, the time to start thinking about transition is now,” the newsletter says, adding, “a smooth transition to school makes a difference for student outcomes… Research shows that children from homes with increased social and economic risk benefit the most from transition activities; yet these are the children least likely to receive them.”  (more…)

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Parents Ursula Allston-Hill and Armando Perez at the Pre-K for MA launch.

Armando Perez and Ursula Allston-Hill at the Pre-K for MA launch.

 

 

“It’s time for Massachusetts to lead once again,” Jason Williams, Massachusetts Executive Director of Stand for Children, said yesterday at a Pre-K for MA kickoff event at the State House.

Led by Strategies for Children and Stand for Children Massachusetts, Pre-K for MA is a coalition of education, business, and civic leaders who know that early education and care can help close the state’s achievement gap and create more opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Attended by parents, early educators, advocates, and several young children, the kickoff event also featured a number of state legislators including Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

Peisch and DiDomenico have co-sponsored a bill — “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education” —that calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey’s example by providing “access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts,” as this fact sheet explains. The bill would set up a grant program; and the grants would be awarded by the Department of Early Education and Care in consultation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  (more…)

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“Minnesota could be among the first states in the country to offer free, full-day early learning programs for every 4-year-old – that is, if a proposal from Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Senate becomes law this session.”

“Governor and Legislators: Send Every Child to Preschool,” a press release from the office of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, March 20, 2015

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“We have already seen the tremendous successes of all-day kindergarten, which got underway just this year… But we have a lot more work to do to narrow Minnesota’s achievement gap, and provide excellent educations for every student in Minnesota. That work has to start now, and it must begin with our youngest learners.”

Governor Dayton, March 20, 2015

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

National data show that different groups of children enroll in preschool at different rates. For example, children who are Hispanic, immigrants or dual language learners (DLLs) are less likely to participate in center-based early education and care programs than white non-Hispanic children, according to NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research).

Because this difference can trigger achievement gaps, NIEER is also proposing ways to enroll more children in center-based care.

How important are formal preschool programs for children? A recent study from the University of California Center Sacramento found “a predominance of positive effects for children in immigrant families attending formal prekindergarten care on both academic and socioemotional school readiness measures.”

And as we’ve blogged before, early education programs can meet the needs of young dual language learners.

Immigrant and DLL Demographics

NIEER and CEELO (the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes) held a webinar on the needs of immigrant and DLL children late last year, and NIEER covered the issue last month in a Preschool Matters blog written by Milagros Nores, NIEER’s Associate Director of Research. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Here’s a great activity for families and for early education and care programs in Massachusetts:

Gather glitter and glue, feathers, mini pompoms, and construction paper.

Ask the children in your lives or programs to use these and other materials to make Rising Stars.

Send the stars to Governor Charlie Baker by Friday, February 13th, 2015. Even sooner is better. His address:

Governor Charlie Baker
State House, Room 280
Boston, MA 02133

Why now? Baker is putting together his state budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, and Rising Stars remind elected officials how important early education and care programs are for closing the academic achievement gap and preparing children for lifelong success.

Massachusetts is facing a significant budget shortfall, so Baker will have to make hard choices. But even in tough financial times, it makes sense to invest in (more…)

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