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Archive for the ‘Demographics’ Category

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Last month, President Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper,” a promising, new initiative to help “every boy and young man of color who is willing to do the hard work to get ahead.”

As part of his announcement for the initiative, the president highlighted early learning, touching on research on the early vocabulary gap, kindergarten readiness, and third grade reading proficiency.

For Obama, the initiative is personal. At the event launching the initiative, the president talked about growing up without a father and about his own poor choices, including drug use and taking school less seriously than he could have.

“The only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving,” the president said. He had the support of his mother and grandparents as well as encouragement from a community that gave him second and third chances. “They never gave up on me. And so I didn’t give up on myself.”

Joining the president is a group of foundations that have united to support the new initiative. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, the Open Society Foundations, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation — have made a $150 million commitment to “My Brother’s Keeper,” and they will be working over the next three months to design a strategy and infrastructure for these investments. (more…)

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Source: Child Trends

Hillary Clinton has spent decades pounding the podium on behalf of children. Now the Washington Post’s Wonkblog has asked her and other notable figures to share their favorite graphs of the year and explain why they chose them. Clinton’s choice highlights the power of adult interactions with children.

Why ask for a favorite graph? Wonkblog essentially says it’s joining the crowd: “Time has its ‘Person of the Year.’ Amazon has its books of the year. Pretty Much Amazing has its mixtapes of the year.” For Wonkblog, the subject is graphs that illustrate important issues in public policy.

Clinton’s favorite graph is titled “Percentage of Children, Ages Birth through Two, Who Had A Family Member Read, Sing, or Tell Them Stories Everyday in the Past Week, by Poverty Level: 2011/12.

“We want to help all parents give their kids a good start in school and in life. That’s what this graph is all about,” Clinton writes. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

The drumbeat is getting louder: public investments should focus on birth to eight – those crucial years when children undergo emotional, social, academic and neurological development that can prepare them for lifelong success.

Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation weighed in on the birth to eight landscape in a KIDS COUNT policy paper, “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success.”

“Behind a toddler’s soft features and halting first steps, an unseen, but extremely high-stakes, activity is taking place – the building of a brain,” the policy paper says. “What happens to children during those crucial first years will determine whether their maturing brain has a sturdy foundation or a fragile one.”

Ideally, these early years of brain development should be promoted through public policies and investments. But as Casey’s policy paper says, in these early years when children’s brains race ahead, federal funding lags behind. Federal spending is at its lowest when children are young; and since 2010, this spending has dropped and could fall to Depression-era levels.

The sad result is that too many young children don’t get the support they need. According to Casey’s paper, “by age 8, most children in the United States are not on track in cognitive knowledge and skills, and many lag in the areas of social and emotional growth, physical well-being and engagement in school.”

Only 36 percent of the nation’s third graders’ score are at or above average on math, reading and science assessments, according to a newly released analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal study. And only 56 percent maintain a healthy weight and are in excellent or very good health.

High quality early education and care programs can “contribute to the healthy development of young children, especially those who are in low-income families,” the policy paper says. “However, 63 percent of low-income 3- and 4-year-olds were not attending a preschool program, compared with 45 percent of their more affluent counterparts.” Rates vary “from a high of 78 percent of low-income children not attending preschool in Nevada, to a low of 45 percent in New Jersey,” where a court order has created more access.

Assessment scores, health status and preschool attendance tend to be worse for children from low-income families – and some 48 percent of the nation’s 17 million children are considered low income. The chances of living in poverty are highest in Mississippi and lowest in Massachusetts.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal analysis shows that “just 19 percent of third-graders in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level and 50 percent of those in families with incomes above that level had developed age-appropriate cognitive skills,” according to a Casey Foundation press release, which adds, “This picture is particularly troubling for children of color, with 14 percent of black children and 19 percent of Hispanic children on track in cognitive development. Children who don’t meet these key developmental milestones often struggle to catch up in school and graduate on time and are less likely to achieve the kind of economic success and stability necessary to support a family themselves.”

“Fortunately, children who do not receive the stimulation and care they need for healthy growth and development can catch up if they receive appropriate interventions,” the policy paper explains.

What can be done? Casey makes three recommendations:

1. “Support parents as they care for their children.” Good examples of supportive efforts include home visiting programs and screenings for maternal depression as well as improved access to food stamps and employment programs.

2. “Improve access to quality early care and education, health care and other services.” States that haven’t already done so should adopt early learning standards, use Quality Rating and Improvement systems, and help parents make informed choices about early education and care programs. States should also provide voluntary, full-day pre-K.

3. “Develop comprehensive, integrated programs and data systems to address all aspects of children’s development and support their transition to elementary school and related programs for school-age children.” Children and families need “better integration and transitions among early education, K–12, health care and family support systems.”

Inspired by the Casey report, MassBudget (the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, home to the Massachusetts KIDS COUNT project) released a brief on the importance of mental health screenings for mothers and children that praises Massachusetts for its leadership in this area.

As local, state and federal policy makers press forward, Casey’s policy paper advises them to “look to the decades of evidence on best practices in early childhood fields as they advance their legislative efforts.”

It is evidence that can be used to “make the case for a comprehensive and integrated birth through age 8 system that ensures all children have a real chance to succeed and contribute to a stronger nation.”

The time to act is now.

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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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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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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

What have we learned – and what else do we need to know?

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), established in 2002 as a research division of the U.S. Department of Education, asks this question in a recent report — “Synthesis of IES Research on Early Intervention and Early Childhood Education.”

The report summarizes findings from IES-funded early education research that has been published in peer-reviewed journals through June 30, 2010. The studies examined a broad range of early childhood research projects focusing on curriculum, professional development models, child outcomes in early math and literacy, children’s social/emotional development, and more. The authors focused on research that has looked at improving “school readiness for children who are at risk for later school failure,” as well as at improving “developmental outcomes and school readiness” for children from birth through age five who have or are at risk of having disabilities. In addition to summarizing what has been learned from IES-funded projects, the authors suggest “avenues for further research to support improvements in early childhood education in our country.”

The report examines four areas of research and describes a number of findings within each area. Highlights are presented below: (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

In 20 years, children who are currently digging in sandboxes and hanging upside down from the monkey bars will have the chance to apply for high-tech jobs in Massachusetts. Sadly, however, what many of these children may not have in 20 years are the skills to fill the state’s future jobs.

It’s already a “war for us in terms of recruiting,” Tom Leighton, CEO of Akamai Technologies, said recently of finding skilled workers at this year’s Early Childhood Summit.

This skills gap is growing now, choking off the pipeline of future workers, and threatening the state’s economic well-being. It’s a problem that makes a powerful case for improving preschool programs and K-12 education across the state.

A new report — “Closing the Massachusetts Skills Gap: Recommendations and Action Steps” — released by the Commonwealth Corporation provides demographic details, noting that, “Although the Commonwealth’s workforce is the best-educated of all the states, … a very high concentration of our most educated workers are 45 years or older.”

“Our younger workforce is neither large enough, nor well educated enough, to replace those who will soon retire, and young workers between the ages of 16 and 24 are disproportionately unemployed,” the (more…)

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A new report  from the Center for the Next Generation and the Center for American Progress — “The Competition that Really Matters: Comparing U.S., Chinese, and Indian Investments in the Next Generation Workforce” – raises provocative questions about the United States’ global competitiveness. And early education is among the issues the report addresses.

“Half of U.S. children get no early childhood education,” the report notes, “and we have no national strategy to increase enrollment.”

In China, 51% of 3- and 4-year-olds have at least a year of publicly funded preschool, up from  9% in 1980. And China has set an ambitious national goal of enrolling 40 million children in preschool by 2020 – or 50% more than are currently enrolled. It also aims to provide 70% of its young children with three years of preschool by 2020, according to the report.

“Total state funding for pre-k programs (in the U.S.) decreased by $60 million in 2011, after decreasing by $30 million the previous year,” the report states. “So just as China is ramping up its investments in early childhood education,… the United States is reducing investment in preschool learning and has set no clear national goals to counter China with a bold plan to increase access and improve quality of early learning in our country.”

To be sure, India and China have large numbers of families living in deep poverty, and there are questions about the quality of programming in both countries. Yet, the report notes, the sheer size of the population in India and China should give U.S. policymakers pause and reinforce the urgency of ensuring that all of our children have the tools they need to participate in an increasingly sophisticated global economy. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The federal National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has launched a longitudinal study of the kindergarten class of 2010-11 that will run through their expected completion of fifth grade in 2016. The first report is a profile of the nation’s 3.5 million first-time kindergartners, drawn from the study’s nationally representative sample of 18,200 children enrolled in 970 schools.

The recently released profile of kindergartners includes both demographic and educational information.

First the demographics:

  • One-quarter of first-time kindergartners live in households with incomes below federal poverty levels.
  • Three-quarters (76%) live in two-parent households.
  • Almost two-fifths (38%) have parents who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • A small majority (53%) are white, 24% are Hispanic, 13% are black, 4% are Asian and 4% are two or more races.

The new study from NCES, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the third in a series of longitudinal studies of young children.

In the recently released profile of kindergartners, NCES also assessed children’s early reading and math skills (more…)

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Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

The proportion of the nation’s 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool has risen since 2005-07, but more than half (53%) still are not enrolled, according to the recently released Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book. In 2005-07, by comparison, 56% of U.S. children were not enrolled in preschool. KIDS COUNT bases its estimates of preschool attendance on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which measures enrollment in preschool or nursery school in the two previous months.

KIDS COUNT also gives a racial and ethnic breakdown of the 2008-10 data. The figures below indicate the proportion of 3- and 4-year-olds nationally who are not enrolled in preschool:

  • Asian and Pacific Islander: 48%
  • Non-Hispanic white: 50%
  • African-American: 50%
  • American Indian: 59%
  • Hispanic: 63%

Here in Massachusetts, 41% of 3- and 4-year-olds are not enrolled in preschool, according to 2008-10 data, compared with 44% in 2005-07. Only two states – Connecticut (38%) and New Jersey (36%) – ranked better than the Bay State. “New Jersey has invested heavily in its public prekindergarten programs, especially in the state’s poorest cities where large numbers of African-American and Latino children are benefiting,” Ed Week’s Early Years blog reports.

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