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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

A recent article in the Washington Post calls for strengthening the economy by investing in workforce development — starting with high-quality early childhood education programs. Written by Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the piece builds on the Fed’s history of support for early childhood programs.

In the article — “Investing in people as an economic growth strategy”— Lacker focuses in part on the current and historically high long-term unemployment rate.

“Given the limitations of monetary policy, what can be done to improve labor market outcomes in the long run?” He asks.

“At the Richmond Fed, our research suggests that much of what we’re currently seeing in the labor market reflects structural trends rather than a primarily cyclical change in labor market behavior. That has prompted us to think about long-term strategies to prepare workers for the labor market.” (more…)

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“We lead the nation in terms of reading proficiency by fourth graders. Forty-seven percent of our fourth graders are proficient readers. But that means 53 percent are not. And we can’t leave half of our children behind if we want to build a truly strong economy and a healthy society. So we still have a lot of work to do in Massachusetts, but we know how to do it, and we’ve made real progress here…

“There are reasons why we now rank first for overall child well-being. And a big part of that reason is that in Massachusetts we work together. Ordinary citizens, our extraordinary nonprofit community, businesses and labor, child advocates, and our government.”

Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, at the release of the KIDS COUNT Data Book in Boston, July 22, 2014

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Last month, Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into a law that makes “at least 10 hours a week of high-quality early education available to every 3- and 4-year-old child” in the state, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The new law closes an opportunity gap: while 87 percent of Vermont communities already offer pre-K, 13 percent do not. As Shumlin said, “this bill ensures that no matter where you live, your 3- or 4 year-old will have access to high-quality early education programs, and arrive at school better prepared to learn.”

Shumlin added, “The children who aren’t ready to learn when they begin elementary school are very likely to challenge our resources throughout their school years and potentially throughout their lives.”

“We know that high-quality pre-kindergarten is far less expensive than remediation, retention, and special education later on.”

The payoff of preschool is striking, especially among children from low-income families: “Vermont children from low-income backgrounds who don’t attend pre-kindergarten have a 30 percent probability of being kindergarten ready, while Vermont students from low-income backgrounds with one or two years of pre-kindergarten have up to a 55 percent probability of being kindergarten ready.” (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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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Gateway Cities – the onetime mill and manufacturing towns that helped fuel the economy in Massachusetts – fell on hard times when the industrial era faded.

“Our economic strategy for the past several years has been centered on creating only highly-skilled, high-paying jobs in high-profile cities,” Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish said at a recent Gateway Cities event hosted by the local nonprofit think tank MassINC. “The result has been limited growth throughout the rest of the commonwealth, and a middle class that has been cast aside.”

Now these 26 cities – from Brockton, Lawrence and Lowell to New Bedford, Westfield and Worcester — are making a comeback.

Refusing to be branded as “underperforming,” the Gateway Cites are using a new report to “articulate a vision for effective 21st-century learning systems,” as Mayor Kimberley Driscoll of Salem and Mayor Lisa Wong of Fitchburg explain in the report. Called “The Gateway Cities Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems,” it was released earlier this month by MassINC. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Today is a big day for children and families in Massachusetts and across the country. Strategies for Children applauds Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Congressman George Miller (D-CA), and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY) for their bi-partisan leadership in introducing the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.  This legislation builds on the progress that we have made in Massachusetts under the leadership of Governor Patrick and our state legislators to ensure that our children have the foundation they need to be successful in school and in life.

Over the past decade, the commonwealth has led the country as we put into place a system of high-quality early education for all children, beginning at birth. Yet significant achievement gaps still exist. Too many children show up for school already behind, and too many will never catch up. Experts agree that high-quality early education has a lifetime impact on young learners in terms of greater academic readiness and improved social skills.

The research is clear. High-quality early childhood education programs are a sound investment. That’s why we’re making sure Members of Congress hear us loud and clear as they move forward with the budget and now this new opportunity — the Strong Start for America’s Children bill.  Please email your Members of Congress in support of the bill now.

The bill has three main parts:

  • Grants to states to expand high-quality preschool, building on their current state-funded preschool delivery system (there are also grants for states that do not yet invest in or need to raise the quality of their standards for preschool);
  • Grants to create Early Head Start/child care partnerships to improve the quality of and expand access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers; and
  • A call for the expansion of the voluntary home visiting program for infants and toddlers.


Please help us give this bill a solid start by asking your Members of Congress to co-sponsor it.
 The introduction of this historic early learning bill provides an opportunity that we can’t afford to miss. At the same time, as the federal budget is negotiated between the House and Senate, we must fight hard to undo the harsh effects of the sequester and to increase investments in early learning.

Stay tuned for more information and more opportunities for action.

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Photo: United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley

Photo: United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley

More than 200 people came to the Boston Children’s Museum last Thursday night to attend “Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates – Early Childhood and Education: Closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gaps.”  Strategies for Children, Boston Children’s Museum, Thrive in 5 and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley cosponsored the event along with 31 other organizations.

Both candidates – City Councilor John Connolly and State Representative Marty Walsh — participated, each on stage separately. Candidates answered questions posed by the night’s moderator, WBZ political reporter Jon Keller, and from the audience, which included early educators, providers, pediatricians, college students, professors of higher education, teachers, advocates, and citizens.

As Carolyn Lyons, the president and CEO of Strategies for Children, explained to the audience in her introduction, the forum builds on the momentum that has been fueled by early education proposals from Governor Deval Patrick and other governors,  the Massachusetts legislature and President Obama’s bold proposal to expand preschool programs nationally.

The candidates were asked to come prepared to articulate their vision for Boston’s children and families and discuss what they would do for children and families should they become mayor. They responded by (more…)

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