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Archive for the ‘Family engagement’ Category

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

While the state waits for new revenue to significantly expand early education and care opportunities for young children, it’s important to ensure that the existing subsidy system is operating as effectively as possible.

This was the intention of state legislators in FY14 when they approved $500,000 in funding to conduct a two-year, independent study of The Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) child care access accounts. These accounts are commonly referred to as Income Eligible, TANF, and Supportive Child Care. They consist of federal funds and required state matches, and they make up the majority of EEC’s budget.

Now, two years have passed and the research results are in.

The Urban Institute, a D.C.-based policy research organization, has released its findings in a series of policy reports that look at:

• improving the efficiency of the system

• analyzing gaps in the availability of subsidies, and,

• assessing the balance between providing quality early education for children and providing workforce support for guardians

Massachusetts wins praise for its strengths and gets feedback on ways to improve its vision and its delivery of services.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Imagine a citywide approach to helping young children prepare for school.

That’s the city New Bedford is striving to be. The city’s public school system is working with local center-based preschool providers, as well as diverse stakeholders including the New Bedford Art Museum, the city’s housing authority, and the United Way of New Bedford to develop school readiness programs.

“We’ve never really had that alignment conversation,” Diane Sullivan said in a recent interview. Sullivan is the supervisor of Early Childhood Special Education for New Bedford Public Schools.

Sullivan helps lead the Birth through Third Grade Alignment Partnership effort, which has been underway in New Bedford since fall 2014. The work is funded by the Department of Early Education and Care, using federal Early Learning Challenge funds.

Taking what Sullivan calls a “good first step,” New Bedford has decided to focus on helping preschool-age children build strong social and emotional skills.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Ready for school? It’s a personal question for children and families, and a policy question for educators and elected officials. Here in Massachusetts, there is no statewide definition or measure of “kindergarten readiness”, but in recent years local communities — including Somerville and New Bedford — have been grappling with this issue.

Now researchers from Harvard are offering advice and examples that can help communities think about defining and achieving school readiness.

In its March issue, the FINE Newsletter (the Family Involvement Network of Educators) shines a spotlight on how children make the transition to school.

“Although the first day of kindergarten is still a few months off, the time to start thinking about transition is now,” the newsletter says, adding, “a smooth transition to school makes a difference for student outcomes… Research shows that children from homes with increased social and economic risk benefit the most from transition activities; yet these are the children least likely to receive them.”  (more…)

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Parents Ursula Allston-Hill and Armando Perez at the Pre-K for MA launch.

Armando Perez and Ursula Allston-Hill at the Pre-K for MA launch.

 

 

“It’s time for Massachusetts to lead once again,” Jason Williams, Massachusetts Executive Director of Stand for Children, said yesterday at a Pre-K for MA kickoff event at the State House.

Led by Strategies for Children and Stand for Children Massachusetts, Pre-K for MA is a coalition of education, business, and civic leaders who know that early education and care can help close the state’s achievement gap and create more opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Attended by parents, early educators, advocates, and several young children, the kickoff event also featured a number of state legislators including Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

Peisch and DiDomenico have co-sponsored a bill — “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education” —that calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey’s example by providing “access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts,” as this fact sheet explains. The bill would set up a grant program; and the grants would be awarded by the Department of Early Education and Care in consultation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  (more…)

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Avg wages stagnated

In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) into law, launching an on-going era of bipartisan support for this powerful anti-poverty tool. Since then, EITC has been a substantial benefit for families with young children.

Now a new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) looks at what would happen if Massachusetts expanded its own state-level EITC program, which was launched in 1997.

According to the IRS, the federal EITC is “a benefit for working people who have low to moderate income. A tax credit means more money in your pocket. It reduces the amount of tax you owe and may also give you a refund.”

And as MassBudget explains in its report, the Massachusetts’ EITC “is a refundable tax break provided by the Commonwealth to lower-income workers in order to increase the after-tax rewards to work. It is available only to tax filers with earned income and provides benefits primarily to workers with children…”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Federally funded home visiting programs have gotten a vote of confidence from a recent report.

Unfortunately, funding for this important program is being held up in Congress.

“The federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, or MIECHV, program has supported high-risk families in communities across the country through intensive home visiting services since 2010,” according to the report, “An Investment in Our Future: How Federal Home Visiting Funding Provides Critical Support for Parents and Children.”

Released by CLASP (the Center for Law and Social Policy) and the Center for American Progress, the report is based on interviews with officials from 20 states and two tribal organizations.

Support from the States

The program has widespread local support, as a recent op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune shows:

“Sometimes it can be easy to forget there are such pressing needs in Utah… Our business community, economy, and government regularly receive national recognition for their well-deserved successes,” writes Kirk L. Jowers, the University of Utah’s Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Next month, join NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children) for its “Week of the Young Child 2015: Celebrating Our Youngest Learners,” from April 12th to the 18th, 2015.

First established in 1971, the purpose of this annual celebration is to “focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families” and “to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.”

Each day of the Week of the Young Child (WOYC) has a different theme:

Music Monday highlights the educational power of songs by inviting children and families to sing along with “Thingamajig,” a tune sung by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band.

Taco Tuesday emphasizes the fun of cooking healthy meals together for good nutrition and to show how cooking can be used to connect math, literacy, and science skills.  (more…)

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