Archive for the ‘Early Learning Challenge’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Last month, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) released its “Annual Legislative Report for 2013.”

Mandated by state law, the report is a useful and detailed resource for early education providers and advocates as well as legislators who want to know more about EEC’s goals and operations.

Created in 2005, EEC is the first “early education and care-focused department of its kind in the nation,” as the report explains. It combines parts of the former Department of Education (now the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) and parts of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The report outlines EEC’s five strategic directions, which are:

- “Create and implement a system to improve and support quality statewide.”

- “Increase and promote family support, access and affordability.”

- “Create a workforce system that maintains worker diversity,” provides professional support, and produces strong outcomes for children.

- “Create and implement an external and internal communications strategy” that conveys the value of early education and care, and

- “Build the internal infrastructure” required to achieve this vision.

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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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Massachusetts sealMassachusetts’ education governance structure — which through the education secretariat links the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) — provides an exciting opportunity to align resources and policies to address longstanding achievement gaps and improve outcomes for children. These alignment opportunities were the subject of Monday night’s first joint meeting between the boards of EEC and DESE.

Before a packed audience and members of both boards, Matthew Malone, the Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth who also serves on both boards, opened the meeting. He highlighted the importance of this joint meeting and the commonwealth’s collective responsibility to focus on children’s earliest years, birth through eight. He pointed out that there is “no better way” to close the achievement gap than “investing in early childhood.”

During the meeting, the boards heard about several promising initiatives including:

  • implementation of the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment system
  • the National Governors Association Policy Academy, and
  • the Early Literacy Expert Panel, which was created through the enactment of An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency, legislation SFC helped to craft and support


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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Last month, six states heard great news from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont learned that they would receive a combined $281 million in grant awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) fund “to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout their states,” according to a press release.

“By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, we are able to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release.

Duncan thanked “governors, state officials, and education advocates” for their leadership, adding, “This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early learning programs across the country. There is still a lot more work for us to do.”

“This administration is committed to ensuring all children have a chance to succeed,” Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release. “An investment in our children is an investment in our nation’s future.” (more…)

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“In this application, Vermont seeks to apply innovative thinking to developing productive people, starting in infancy. We believe that for a child to arrive at the schoolhouse door ready to succeed in school and in life, she must enter that door with vibrant health, emotional security, social competence, curiosity and capability. We know from experience and from ever growing scientific evidence that, while this is the potential for all children, it is only realized when families, communities, public and private investors, and state policymakers collectively commit to assuring children’s safety, health, optimal development and access to developmentally beneficial early learning and development programs and services.”

Vermont’s application for a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant, October 11, 2013

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Vermont’s application has been awarded $37 million. Applications from Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have also received awards.

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This blog below was originally published on December 19, 2011. To read more blog posts about the Early Learning Challenge grant click here. 

Massachusetts, one of nine states awarded grants from the competitive federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge, will receive the full $50 million over four years for which it was eligible. The commonwealth, with 267 points of a possible 300 points, had the second highest score of the 35 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) that applied for the $500 million program. North Carolina, with 269.6 points, was top scorer.

Each application was scored by five reviewers (reviewers’ comments and scores (PDF). Here is a summary of the scoring for Massachusetts (score sheet (PDF):


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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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Commissioner Tom Weber
Photo: Strategies for Children

In 2011, Massachusetts was awarded a four-year $50 million federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant. On October 23, the early education and care community gathered at the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston to reflect on the state’s progress and on its goals for the future.

According to EEC Commissioner Tom Weber, the Early Learning Challenge grant sped up the momentum in Massachusetts for enhancing and building early education and care programs. Now, Weber says, the state has to prepare for the future, ensuring that current efforts are sustainable and that best practices are institutionalized.

“Typically I have a very hard time describing what I do to my three-year-old and five-year-old,” Weber told the audience at the Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge Leadership Summit held at the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston. But on that morning, he was able to tell his children, “I’m going to go to work with Peep and Curious George.” (more…)

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Libby Doggett. Photo: U.S. Department of Education

Libby Doggett. Photo: U.S. Department of Education

Strategies for Children congratulates Libby Doggett on her new appointment as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education.

Libby will lead the Office of Early Learning within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE).  OESE jointly administers the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge program with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is expected to start her new job later this month.

We had the pleasure of working with Libby while she was the director at Pre-K Now, the Pew Foundation’s 10-year campaign to advance high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds.

Now, we look forward to working with her again to ensure that children in Massachusetts have access to high-quality early education. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A new report — “Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners,” calls on communities to form new and improved early education partnerships with museums and libraries.

“Libraries and museums have a long history of serving young children,” the report says. “They are virtually everywhere—from the smallest tribal community to the largest metropolitan area. As community repositories of literature, science and heritage, museums and libraries build on how children learn best, by designing and delivering content-rich, play-based experiences that link early learning best practice to books, exhibits and collections. Their resources prompt parents and caregivers to explore, pose questions, make connections, exchange information and ideas, and instill in young children not only a love of learning, but also the skills for learning.”

Yesterday, we reviewed the report. Today, we’re writing about two Massachusetts’ institutions – The Springfield City Library and the Boston Children’s Museum – that show how beloved cultural institutions can also be dynamic partners in improving early education – as well as K-12, adult and family programs.

Springfield City Library

Springfield is fulfilling the call for action made in the Growing Young Minds report by engaging the community and working with policymakers to make the library an even more vital community resource. (more…)

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