Archive for the ‘Developmentally appropriate practice’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for

A new education initiative called Future Ready Massachusetts offers parents insights about how to prepare their children for college and careers. It’s a smart way to make sure that parents are in the know about what their children need to succeed.

“Being Future Ready means having the knowledge, skills and attitudes to complete whatever education and training you need to achieve your goals in school, work and life,” the website explains.

The Future Ready campaign has two goals:

 1. to increase the number of students who succeed in their colleges and careers, and

2. to build community and family support to encourage students to complete a rigorous course of study that prepares them for better opportunities after high school.

 Future Ready is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education in partnership with many other organizations across the commonwealth. (more…)

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Jeri Robinson (Photo: Lok Wah Li, Boston Children’s Museum)

This blog about the Boston Children’s Museum was originally published on March 19, 2012. Next week is school vacation week, a great time to visit the museum. Go on Tuesday to meet NAO the robot — and learn about robotics. 

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The Boston Children’s Museum on Fort Point Channel is teeming with children and parents during school vacation week. So it’s a good time for Jeri Robinson, vice president for education and family learning, to lead me on a guided tour of some of the museum’s early learning spaces. On the way, we pass children scrambling up and down the multi-story climbing maze. We pass children and parents sitting on colorful “musical” chairs that each emit a different sound and together can create a symphony. We pass children checking out the blocks and Bobcat in the Construction Zone, all in what is essentially a giant indoor playground for children of all ages. Prompts on the walls and parent tip sheets provide ideas for adults to engage children.

“Our critical message is there’s a lot of learning in play,” Robinson says. “In everything we do, we have a hidden or overt learning activity. Play has gotten a bad rap that it’s a waste of time. It’s not.”

In fact, research tells us that play is how young children learn. Science tells us that the kind of language-rich, playful adult-child interactions that the museum encourages enhance the actual wiring of the young brain. (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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This blog was originally published on May 7, 2012

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

We often say that young children learn through play. We say that play is children’s work. What does research tell us young children gain through play? A recent article in Psychology Today and results of a 15-year longitudinal study, published in Family Science, provide some answers.

As the Psychology Today article notes, there is more to play than swings, jungle gyms and games of tag on the recess playground. Imaginative play – make-believe and pretend – is important for young children’s healthy development.

“Over the last 75 years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the values of such imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child,” Psychology Today reports. “Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about 2½ through ages 6 or 7.Actual studies have demonstrated cognitive benefits such as increases in language usage including subjunctives, future tenses, and adjectives. The important concept of ‘theory of mind,’ an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other persons and that there are a variety of perspectives of which each of us is capable, is closely related to imaginative play…. Pretend play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition.”


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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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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: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

“Four year olds are citizens, not potential citizens, not citizens in training, but citizens, with rights and obligations like all citizens,” Ben Mardell and his co-authors write in a 2010 paper called, – “The Rights of Children: Policies to Best Serve Three, Four and Five Year Olds in Public Schools.”

“Children must be recognized not just as growing unfinished beings,” the report says, “but also as true thinkers and doers, as active participants in their education”.

“We have to see children as more than cute,” Mardell, a professor of early childhood education at Lesley University, explained in a recent interview. They are cute, he quickly adds, but more importantly, they are citizens of their classrooms, their schools, and of the larger community.

As citizens, children have rights – not only to health care, food and protection from abuse, but also the right to participate in decisions that affect them. They can’t vote or serve or juries, Mardell notes, but ask children about parks or classroom rules, and they have interesting things to say.

“Kids are researchers with hypotheses,” Mardell says. They have powerful thoughts and ideas that they are constantly testing. “I see them as part of the research team.” (more…)

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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: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Just as children and adults sometimes do, infants, toddlers and preschoolers can struggle with behavioral and mental health issues. Fortunately, early childhood programs can address this challenge by connecting children and their families to appropriate services. The sooner very young children get the help they need, the better off they are likely to be.

To serve children in the commonwealth, Massachusetts is investing $1.25 million in grant funds for the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Services Program.

Jointly supported by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the program provides “social and emotional development supports for early education programs serving young children,” according to an EEC press release from earlier this summer.

The plan is to boost educators’ “core competencies, skills and abilities to assess children’s social and emotional progress and to respond to children in behavioral distress,” the press release explains. Doing so can help children and families overcome behavioral challenges and also reduce unnecessary suspensions and expulsions in early education and care settings. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

A new study takes on the debate over which preschool teaching models effectively support children who have autism spectrum disorders.

The study found that several models were beneficial. According to the study’s researchers, what appears effective for supporting children who are on the autism spectrum – as well as for those who are not – is being enrolled in a high-quality early education program.

Comparing Interventions

As Education Week explains in its blog, “A comparison of two well-known interventions for young children with autism, LEAP and TEACCH, has found that both of them produce gains among students during the school year—and so does high-quality classroom instruction that is not tied to any particular model.”

“The TEACCH model is based on creating an environment that meets the characteristics and learning needs of young children with autism, often using visual schedules and work systems,” according to a summary of the study, which was conducted by researchers at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“By contrast, LEAP bases its treatment approach on making accommodations in regular early childhood education settings that include children who are typically developing.” (more…)

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