Archive for the ‘Family engagement’ 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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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

A new report published by the Society for Research in Child Development — “Multilingual Children: Beyond Myths and Toward Best Practices” — focuses on “the strength of being multilingual and its benefit for children’s later outcomes and well-being.”

Endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the report draws on more than 100 studies. “The qualitative review concludes that multilingualism is an advantage to be nurtured and maintained rather than a risk factor to be eradicated early in a child’s life,” Education Week explains in a recent review of the report.

In the Education Week piece, Allyssa McCabe, a lead author and a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, debunks two myths covered in the report. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

All children should be able to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed. However the path to kindergarten readiness begins long before the pre-kindergarten year.

A new report commissioned by Somerville’s schools, the City and the School Committee recognizes this and recommends going beyond providing early education for four-year-olds to “establish an innovative early childhood system for pre-kindergarteners of all ages,” a system that would support “universal kindergarten readiness,” according to a city press release published in the Somerville Times.

The report — “SomerReady: Creating a Citywide, Universal Kindergarten Readiness System” — calls for a creating a provider network that would include Somerville Public Schools, Head Start, nonprofit and private early childhood care providers, and faith-based organizations.

The report says that Somerville should have a strong early education and care system that includes:

- home visits by health or child development specialists

- parent education

- early intervention and special education services

- child care

- pre-kindergarten, and

- physical and mental health services


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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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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

As we’ve written before, student mobility can hurt academic outcomes. Children who move during the school year are at greater risk of doing poorly in school than children who have stable homes. Housing officials and education officials could offer more help by having more conversations about how they can work together to improve children’s outcomes.

Fortunately, there are policy solutions worth discussing, as Harvard Law School student Ethan Prall explains in a new study conducted on behalf of Strategies for Children, “Housing and Early Education: Policy Opportunities for Reducing Student Mobility.”

Student mobility is a widespread problem. “The ‘churn’ or mobility rate for K-12 students in Massachusetts was 9 percent in 2013,” the study notes, “However, the rate is higher for students from low-income families (14 percent), African American and Latino students (15 percent and 17 percent respectively) and English language learners (22 percent). In Gateway Cities, mobility rates exceed state averages: 16 percent in Chelsea, 19 percent in Worcester, and 24 percent in Holyoke.”

To meet the challenge of mobility, “Massachusetts needs innovative ideas and cross-silo policy discussions. Public housing and public education (both K-12 and early education and care) can and should collaborate to address this problem in new ways.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

What do children in kindergarten classrooms know? Massachusetts and other states are trying to find out by developing kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs). What do states need to know about assessments? Two reports offer a range answers.

The Goal in Massachusetts

Here in Massachusetts, the Department of Early Education and Care is working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to implement the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA) system, “which will support school districts in using a formative assessment tool that measures growth and learning across all developmental domains during the child’s kindergarten year,” according to the Executive Office of Education’s website.

Massachusetts is using funds from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant to do this work.

State Policies for Kindergarten Assessments

The Center on Enhanced Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently released a policy brief called, “Fast Fact: Information and Resources on Developing State Policy on Kindergarten Entry Assessment.” It’s a look at how “other states are approaching the development and implementation of KEA as part of a comprehensive assessment system.” (more…)

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“The advice I give mothers is to have conversations with your babies… Children can hear lots of talk that goes over their head in terms of the meaning, and they still benefit from it.”

Erika Hoff, psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University, in “More Talking to Babies Helps Their Brains,” an Associated Press story in the Washington Post, February 13, 2014

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hubKara Miller, host of the WGBH radio’s Innovation Hub, recently did two interviews that show how science, public policy, and personal history can intersect.

In one segment called “The New Science Behind Early Education.” Miller interviewed Dr. Jack Shonkoff who discussed the impact of “toxic stress” on children’s brain development.

In another segment called “Governor Deval Patrick: When Science Inspires Policy,” Miller talks to Massachusetts’s governor about his legislative approach to early childhood – and about his own childhood experiences.

“Dr. Shonkoff’s research is just my life experience,” Patrick told Miller.

The Science

“What’s really amazing about this biological revolution that we’re living through right now is it’s giving us much greater insight into what’s happening inside the body when we’re severely stressed,” according to Shonkoff, the director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child.

While the purpose of stress is to help people deal with threats, Shonkoff said, “it wasn’t meant to be activated all the time.”

High levels of chronic stress are particularly harmful to children. It can disrupt the development of their brain architecture and trigger diabetes and heart disease in later life. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

“Awareness of early education issues is as high as it’s ever been,” Laura Bornfreund and Conor Williams write in a recent article in The Atlantic. Everyone is talking about preschool programs, from President Obama and Hillary Clinton to retired military leaders and republican governors.

So, is something amazing about to happen, a sweeping national revolution in early education that ushers in a new era of childhood success?

The article sounds a note of caution, asking,“But have we actually expanded preschool to more kids? Not really. Have we made progress at closing achievement gaps between young students from different socioeconomic backgrounds? No. Have we sustained funding commitments after the one-time stimulus boost in 2009? Far from it.”

In addition to being clear-eyed pragmatists, Bornfreund is the deputy director of New America’s Early Education Initiative, and Williams is a senior researcher at the Early Education Initiative. The two co-authored a report called “Subprime Learning: Early Education in America Since the Great Recession.

“Our analysis finds that in the wake of a financial crash triggered by subprime lending, too many children in America have been experiencing subprime learning,” the report says.

A key culprit is poverty.

“It’s nearly impossible to evaluate early education programs without taking into account the demographics of the students they serve,” Bornfreund and Williams (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

National Public Radio reported on the “word gap” last month. The story is a potent reminder of how research on young children’s development can be used to shape public discourse and inform policy solutions. Click here to listen.

In its report, NPR retold the research story that started in the early 1990s when Betty Hart and Todd Risley found that by age 3, lower income children hear 30 million fewer words than their higher-income peers. “Today, despite years of focus and effort, the word gap is just as wide,” NPR’s Jennifer Ludden said in the broadcast story.

How does the word gap play out in everyday settings? At the Apple Tree Early Learning Public Charter School in Washington, DC, NPR interviewed principal Ryan Tauriainen who explained that some children use the word “dog” to refer to all animals because they don’t know the words for other animals. Tauriainen added that some children only speak in one-word answers, while others speak in paragraphs. Jack McCarthy, Apple Tree’s president, echoes the Hart and Risley research, telling NPR that children with smaller vocabularies invariably come from lower income homes.

“I recognized that we need to really start in the cradle,” Angel Taveras, the mayor of Providence, R.I. told NPR. As we’ve written, Taveras is about to launch Providence Talks, a program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that builds off of the seminal Hart Risley research to impact the early language development of young children throughout the community.

The word gap has been getting lots of attention in recent months, from the New York Times, Atlantic Cities, Stanford University, and Hillary Clinton to name a few.

The recent increase in high-profile conversation about early language development is a welcome one. In an upcoming blog post, we will further explore the research behind the word gap and take a look at various policy and programmatic strategies that are emerging to address it.

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