Archive for the ‘Assessments’ Category

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Data can help policymakers make better decisions. And while state governments do collect some early care and education data, a recent report — the “2013 State of States’ Early Childhood Data Systems” — calls on them to do a better job of gathering more comprehensive data and using these findings to make better-informed policy decisions.

According to the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, which released the report, states’ efforts to collect early childhood data are “uncoordinated, often incomplete,” and therefore unable to “effectively support continuous improvement efforts.” This finding is based on a survey of 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was completed by “state education, health and social services program staff,” according to a press release.

“Are young children (birth to age five) on track to succeed when they enter school?” the report asks. “How many children have access to high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs? Is the early childhood workforce adequately trained to meet the needs of young children? Most states cannot answer these basic questions because data on young children are housed in multiple, uncoordinated systems, managed by different state and federal agencies.”


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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Last month, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) released its “Annual Legislative Report for 2013.”

Mandated by state law, the report is a useful and detailed resource for early education providers and advocates as well as legislators who want to know more about EEC’s goals and operations.

Created in 2005, EEC is the first “early education and care-focused department of its kind in the nation,” as the report explains. It combines parts of the former Department of Education (now the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) and parts of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The report outlines EEC’s five strategic directions, which are:

- “Create and implement a system to improve and support quality statewide.”

- “Increase and promote family support, access and affordability.”

- “Create a workforce system that maintains worker diversity,” provides professional support, and produces strong outcomes for children.

- “Create and implement an external and internal communications strategy” that conveys the value of early education and care, and

- “Build the internal infrastructure” required to achieve this vision.

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

What do children in kindergarten classrooms know? Massachusetts and other states are trying to find out by developing kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs). What do states need to know about assessments? Two reports offer a range answers.

The Goal in Massachusetts

Here in Massachusetts, the Department of Early Education and Care is working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to implement the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA) system, “which will support school districts in using a formative assessment tool that measures growth and learning across all developmental domains during the child’s kindergarten year,” according to the Executive Office of Education’s website.

Massachusetts is using funds from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant to do this work.

State Policies for Kindergarten Assessments

The Center on Enhanced Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently released a policy brief called, “Fast Fact: Information and Resources on Developing State Policy on Kindergarten Entry Assessment.” It’s a look at how “other states are approaching the development and implementation of KEA as part of a comprehensive assessment system.” (more…)

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Massachusetts sealMassachusetts’ education governance structure — which through the education secretariat links the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) — provides an exciting opportunity to align resources and policies to address longstanding achievement gaps and improve outcomes for children. These alignment opportunities were the subject of Monday night’s first joint meeting between the boards of EEC and DESE.

Before a packed audience and members of both boards, Matthew Malone, the Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth who also serves on both boards, opened the meeting. He highlighted the importance of this joint meeting and the commonwealth’s collective responsibility to focus on children’s earliest years, birth through eight. He pointed out that there is “no better way” to close the achievement gap than “investing in early childhood.”

During the meeting, the boards heard about several promising initiatives including:

  • implementation of the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment system
  • the National Governors Association Policy Academy, and
  • the Early Literacy Expert Panel, which was created through the enactment of An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency, legislation SFC helped to craft and support


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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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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

What do children learn in preschool and kindergarten? Maryland decided to find out by implementing a kindergarten readiness assessment tool.

“More than a decade ago, Maryland became among the first states to administer a comprehensive test of skills at the academic starting line,” according to a recent Washington Post article.

To do its assessments, the state uses the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR).

“In 1995, the state Department of Education began developing a model system to evaluate and support children’s learning in kindergarten,” according to “A Look at Maryland’s Early Data System,” a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures. The state “used the commercially available Work Sampling System (WSS) to align child developmental evaluation with curriculum, learning standards and instruction. The program began as a pilot in 1997 in seven school districts.”

“The MMSR is not a ‘test,’ but a set of systematic, carefully-defined daily observations, work samples, and age-appropriate guidelines by which a teacher assesses the skills of each entering kindergartener,” the Department of Education explains in the 2010-2011 Maryland School Readiness Report.

“Under the MMSR system, all children entering kindergarten are assessed for level of mastery,” according to the Maryland State Department of Education website.


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Mayor Logo

This Thursday, October 24, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., the Boston Children’s Museum hosts a Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates. Jon Keller, WBZ-TV News’ Political Analyst will moderate the conversation.

To retain Boston’s status as an economic leader and hub of innovation in the years ahead, the next Mayor must improve educational outcomes for the city’s children. The achievement gap is evident long before children enter school, and we will not succeed in closing it unless we target resources to improve early learning and healthy child development.

Join us for a conversation with the two candidates running for Mayor and hear more about their vision for children and families in Boston.

This event is sponsored by: Boston Children’s Museum, Strategies for Children, Thrive in 5, and United Way of MA Bay and Merrimack Valley.

Co-sponsors to date include:  ABCD ● Associated Early Care and Education ● BOSTnet  ● Boston After School and Beyond ● Boston Association for the Education of Young Children ● Boston Children’s Hospital  ● Boston Opportunity Agenda ● Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester ● Catholic Charities of Boston  ● Cradles to Crayons ● The Children’s Trust ● Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative ● Ellis Memorial & Eldredge House, Inc ● Families First Parenting Programs ● Family Nurturing Center of Massachusetts   ● Family Service of Greater Boston ● Friends of the Children – Boston ● Generations Incorporated ● Horizons for Homeless Children ● Jumpstart ● MA Afterschool Partnership ● MA Association for Early Education and Care ● Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics ● MA Kids Count ● MA Head Start Association ● Raising A Reader MA ● Reach Out and Read ● Room to Grow ● United South End Settlements ● Wheelock College

For more information, please contact tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org

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In Quotes

“In a startling result, third-grade reading proficiency fell short for the 12th consecutive year, according to [MCAS] test results released Friday…

“Still, outside help must come from community partners, such as civic and business groups. These are the inspirational people who can lead campaigns to emphasize to families the importance of building reading skills in their young children. For example, the City of Lowell, where 63 percent of 1,088 third-graders tested below proficiency, should adopt a goal to meet or exceed the state average by 2018. The entire community should join in to design a reading campaign — with a motto — to get all pre-schoolers on track for success.”

An editorial in the Lowell Sun, September 24, 2013


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Last week’s release of 2013 MCAS scores has generated many positive headlines on turnaround schools and 10th grade scores. However, there is another story. In Massachusetts, 43 percent of third graders are not proficient readers – this is up from 39% over the last two years. Among children from low-income families, a staggering 65% lag in reading.

Here’s a round-up of some of the news coverage from the past week:

*   *   *   *   *

Mixed grades on Cape MCAS scores

The Cape Cod Times, story by Cynthia McCormick, September 21, 2013

Third grade reading scores around the state were disappointing, and as this story reports: “The trend was also evident on the Cape, where nearly every district lost some ground on third-grade proficiency in the English language arts part of the MCAS.”

The article also quotes Strategies for Children’s President and CEO Carolyn Lyons:

“’Third grade is really a critical prediction of future struggle,’ Lyons said. She pointed to research that shows early elementary reading success correlates to students’ on-time high school graduation.” (more…)

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YMCA South End Boston After-School Program www.strategiesforchildren.org

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Faced with stagnant reading outcomes, Wisconsin is expanding its use of an assessment tool called PALS – short for Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening – with young children in early education settings and in early elementary school grades.

“For years, Wisconsin ranked among the states with the highest reading scores,” according to the state’s Read to Lead Task Force report, which was released in early 2012. “However, over the past 15 years, our state’s performance relative to the nation’s has been especially troubling.”

In addition to falling NAEP scores (National Assessment of Educational Progress), the report points out that, “The picture is also quite troubling in Milwaukee where both higher and lower income students rank below the same subgroups in the average large urban district by a statistically significant margin.” (more…)

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