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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Tomorrow is National Summer Learning Day, so break out the sunscreen and some engaging educational activities that will help stop the “summer slide” of learning losses that some children experience during the warm, out-of-school months.

An annual day of national advocacy, National Summer Learning Day is led by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), which seeks “to elevate the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer,” according to the association’s website.

“Research shows that summers without quality learning opportunities put our nation’s youth at risk for falling behind – year after year – in core subjects like math and reading. The math and reading skills low-income students lose each summer are cumulative and contribute significantly to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income kids,” the website adds.

That’s why this year, “NSLA is asking everyone — programs, families, schools, educators, policymakers, businesses — to make summer a season of learning by pledging to #KeepKidsLearning on our interactive map.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for  Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for
Strategies for Children

“But are we really meeting the needs of the people we’re serving?”

That’s what Shannon Langone wanted to know in 2007 when she started working for the AmeriCorps program at Springfield College.

The program was sending volunteers into schools, hospitals, and clinics. The volunteers’ intentions were good. The program kept track of their hours. Missing, however, was good data on what impact these volunteers were having on the people they worked with.

Langone, meanwhile, was listening to the national conversation about the importance of evidence-based and data-driven volunteer programs. And as a native of Springfield, she disliked hearing negative talk about her city. She wanted to talk about how to solve problems.

“What can we do that we know will work?” she wondered and set out to find ways to make a measurable difference for school children.

She found an answer in the Midwest: the Minnesota Reading Corps.

And as we blogged last year, Langone visited Minnesota to learn more about the program.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Across the country, schools are welcoming growing numbers of young dual language learners: children who are in the process of learning English as well as their native language.

They will grow up to play a vital role in the social and economic fabric of the country, so it’s crucial to provide them with high-quality educational experiences, as the New America Foundation notes in a 10-week series on its EdCentral blog.

The series looks at “research, policies, and practices pertaining to the education of dual language learners (DLLs) in U.S. public schools.” It is designed to help educators and policymakers understand how best to serve these students.

“Dual language learners are the fastest-growing group of U.S. school children. However, these students rarely garner enough attention when it comes to considering how changing policies impact their education,” the inaugural blog post says. “When DLLs are mentioned in research, policy, and practice, it is often to compare them to monolingual peers. In such instances, DLLs’ language differences are often framed as deficits to be overcome rather than strengths to be leveraged.”  (more…)

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Nair Alabachian and Erika Stephenson

Nair Alabachian and Erika Stephenson

This is a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

*     *     *

My name is Nair Alabachian. I have been working in the field as a family childcare (FCC) educator in Lynn, Mass., since 2006. The most important part of my job is helping children learn and develop mentally, emotionally, and socially. I support them by giving them a solid foundation. I’ve benefited so much from the courses I took at Merrimack College because I apply the knowledge I have learned. My curriculum, lessons, and instruction are more structured, grounded in theory, and relevant to my students’ lives.

I was a science and math teacher for 20 years in my home country of Bolivia, but there is still so much to learn. My education from Merrimack has helped me to be able to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. One of the most gratifying (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Texas is taking a hard look at its preschool program. The Lone Star state serves some 225,000 children, making it the biggest program in the country. But progress on quality lags.

“Though the program continues to grow in size, efforts to improve funding and program quality have stalled,” according to a press release from NIEER’s State of Preschool 2013 report. “The state ranks 30th out of 41 states providing pre-K for state spending per child, and meets only two of NIEER’s 10 quality standards benchmarks.” They are:

• having comprehensive early learning standards, and,

• providing teachers with at least 15 hours per year of in-service training

“The state currently pays for half-day pre-kindergarten for students from low-income, English-language learning, military and foster families. That comes to about $800 million a year,” the Texas Tribune reports(more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Early Learning Needs Accountability” the title of a recent Education Week opinion piece declares.

Written by Elliot Regenstein, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and Rio Romero-Jurado, who works on the fund’s policy team, the article asks a key question:

How can K-12 education improve if policymakers don’t know how well children are doing in early learning settings?

The article links to several policy briefs that the Ounce of Prevention Fund is using to fuel “Policy Conversations” by “publishing some innovative ideas about how we can bridge the early education and K–12 systems, improving the quality and outcomes of both.”

The Recent and Disappointing History of Accountability Efforts

The authors write that, “To date, accountability policies have focused on student test scores from 3rd grade onward as the primary measure of progress, ignoring what goes on before then.”

However it is these first years of life that “are actually the most important to a child’s development, and we need an accountability system that measures the (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Mississippi recently received troubling news about its youngest children.

A report released last month “revealed that two-thirds of the state’s youngest students enter school unprepared to learn and are, in fact, well below where they should be in terms of literacy,” according to the Cabinet Report article, “Crisis Brewing Among Early Learners.”

Mississippi’s Superintendent Carey Wright “is a staunch advocate of early childhood education but her mission to improve these programs for Mississippi kids has taken on new urgency in the wake of the state’s first assessment of kindergarten readiness,” the article says.

“More than 40,000 kindergarteners from 144 districts throughout the state took the STAR Early Literacy exam during the first month of this school year, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. More than 65 percent of those students scored below the 530 benchmark score that indicates a student has mastered at least 70 percent of early reading skills.

“The state average score was 501.

“The assessment evaluated skills such as the ability to recognize letters and match letters to their sounds and a student’s recognition that print flows from left to right. The exam produced reports for parents and teachers that detail each child’s early reading skills. Teacher reports also include diagnostic information and instructional plans for every student.” (more…)

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