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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

What’s a critical part of building an early childhood system?

Data.

Data show how children are doing. Data help early educators and policymakers see both gaps in access to high-quality programs and places where new policies and public investments are most needed.

Data’s power is also making news in the early education sector.

Recently, the Boston Opportunity Agenda (BOA) released a report card that found, among other things, that during the 2014-2015 school year, “63 percent of incoming kindergarten students were determined to have the necessary early learning skills to succeed and progress.” And “70 percent of kindergarten students met academic benchmarks by the end of last school year,” according to a press release.

BOA is “a public/private partnership among the City of Boston, the Boston Public Schools, the city’s leading public charities and many local foundations;” and its report card tracks “academic performance in traditional public, public charter, and private Catholic schools in Boston.” (more…)

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Chad d'Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center. Photo: Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy

Chad d’Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center. Photo: Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy

 

“Cognitive and non-cognitive skills are inextricably linked,” Harvard’s Nonie Lesaux said during a panel discussion at the Condition of Education event hosted by the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy.

There’s a growing consensus in education that children can’t develop strong cognitive skills without non-cognitive “soft skills” such as focus, persistence, and getting along with others. Indeed, the two categories of skills may be more linked than we realize.


 

Last week, the Rennie Center released the findings of its 2016 “Condition of Education in the Commonwealth” report at an event in Boston’s Omni Parker House Hotel. This year’s report focused on social-emotional learning, a hot topic among educators, parents, and researchers. The topic was so hot that #COE2016 was trending on Twitter during the event.

Covering education trends from birth to college and beyond, Rennie’s work includes a focus on high-quality early education. (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

States face a persistent problem: Classrooms full of children who struggle to read.

“Only about one-third of all children attending school in the United States can read proficiently by fourth grade,” the New America foundation explains on its website. “The numbers are even more dismaying for our most vulnerable students. How can state policymakers lessen the achievement gap and improve literacy outcomes for all children?”

To find answers, New America has taken a look at all 50 states’ birth-to-third-grade policies.

The resulting report is a ranking of states called, “From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth- 3rd Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers.”

“Accompanying the research are interactive maps of state progress displayed via New America’s data visualization and policy analysis tool, Atlas.” This is an easy, graphic way to access findings for individual states. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Preschool programs are generating a lot of news this month, thanks in part to last week’s State House hearing on a number of early education and care bills — including, “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

Here’s a roundup of the coverage, which appeared in print and on television. As always, be sure to join the conversation on Twitter @EarlyEd4All.

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Luchan por educación pre-escolar para todos (Fighting for preschool education for all) 
Telemundo Bostonby Arianne Alcorta, September 17, 2015

This Spanish language broadcast by Telemundo provides coverage of the State House hearing. It includes interviews with Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, Joint Committee on Education co-chair Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Stand for Children member and parent leader Elsa Flores.

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Here’s Strategies for Children’s statement on yesterday’s release of state MCAS scores.

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In Massachusetts, only 60 percent of third graders are proficient readers, according to the 2015 MCAS results released yesterday. (PARCC results are preliminary and cannot be compared directly to MCAS.)

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notes that for third grade reading, despite a small increase over 2014, “scores have been essentially flat over the past six years.” 

Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, commented:

“We are glad to see third grade reading proficiency rates improve slightly, but are troubled by the slow pace of improvement and the fact that scores statewide have remained essentially stagnant since 2001.

To move the needle on this critical benchmark, the state must make larger investments in the birth-to-5 early childhood system. Despite recent state budget increases in early education, Massachusetts’ investment still trails pre-recession spending levels in this area.

Providing high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, particularly those from low-income families and communities, would be a huge step in the right direction. The Legislature has the opportunity to do that this session, and we hope our lawmakers will pass a comprehensive pre-K expansion bill.

High-quality pre-K is, however, only one piece of the puzzle. Our community-based infant and toddler programs must be staffed by well-trained, well-compensated educators. In the K-3 grades, literacy curriculum, diagnostic assessments, and professional development must be examined closely and aligned with research-based best practices. Parent engagement and after school / out-of-school-time programming are also essential.

As Education Secretary James Peyser recently stated, “In pursuing our shared goals, we cannot afford to treat early education as an afterthought.”

 No matter what test the state adopts, MCAS, PARCC, or some other option, substantially more children will need to meet reading benchmarks by the end of third grade. The future economic prospects of our commonwealth depend on it.

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Nonie Lesaux. Photo source: Harvard Graduate School of Education

Nonie Lesaux. Photo source: Harvard Graduate School of Education

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

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Strategies for Children (SFC), we congratulate Dr. Nonie Lesaux on her appointment as Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care. We applaud Governor Baker for appointing a nationally known literacy expert as the Board Chair.

Over the last several years, we have been fortunate to work in partnership with Dr. Lesaux, including commissioning the 2010 Strategies for Children report “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” which Dr. Lesaux wrote. This report has served as a foundation for addressing and improving the state’s literacy efforts, starting from birth.

We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Lesaux in her new role of giving young children the strong start they deserve to help secure a successful future. Nearly 40 percent of Massachusetts 3rd graders fail to read at grade level. Third grade reading strongly predicts a child’s future academic success. (more…)

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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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