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President Obama. Photo: The White House

President Obama. Photo: The White House

President Obama has sent his budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 to Congress. It’s his final budget, and in it he calls for wise investments in early childhood programs.

A White House fact sheet says, “The Budget aims to ensure that children have access to high-quality learning starting at birth by:”

• “Expanding access to quality child care for working families.”

• “Cutting taxes for families paying for child care with a credit of up to $3,000 per child.”

• “Increasing the duration of Head Start programs, while maintaining access to Head Start.”

• “Supporting universal preschool.”

• “Investing in voluntary, evidence-based home visiting.” And,

• Investing “in early learning for children with disabilities.” (more…)

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Chad d'Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center. Photo: Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy

Chad d’Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center. Photo: Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy

 

“Cognitive and non-cognitive skills are inextricably linked,” Harvard’s Nonie Lesaux said during a panel discussion at the Condition of Education event hosted by the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy.

There’s a growing consensus in education that children can’t develop strong cognitive skills without non-cognitive “soft skills” such as focus, persistence, and getting along with others. Indeed, the two categories of skills may be more linked than we realize.


 

Last week, the Rennie Center released the findings of its 2016 “Condition of Education in the Commonwealth” report at an event in Boston’s Omni Parker House Hotel. This year’s report focused on social-emotional learning, a hot topic among educators, parents, and researchers. The topic was so hot that #COE2016 was trending on Twitter during the event.

Covering education trends from birth to college and beyond, Rennie’s work includes a focus on high-quality early education. (more…)

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“Our bottom line is a sense of urgency and we know that you all feel it,” Elizabeth Burke Bryant, the executive director of Rhode Island KIDS Count, said last week at the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s (CGLR) New England Regional meeting. “The sense of urgency is greater than ever.”

The problem: too many children cannot read proficiently.

As CGLR says on its website, the country faces a challenge: “Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet every year, more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.”

The good news: “We’re starting to see communities produce results,” Ron Fairchild, a senior consultant at CGLR, said at the meeting.

Indeed, the issue of early reading proficiency is compelling more and more communities to join the effort – 232 local communities are now members of CGLR’s national network, up from an initial cohort of 124 when the campaign launched in 2011.

Held at Worcester Technical High School, the meeting was an opportunity for 70 participants from four states to share the effective work that’s being done around the country to boost children’s reading skills. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

The city of Cambridge, Mass., has released its “Early Childhood Task Force Report 2015.” It’s a comprehensive look at how the city can build an early childhood system that improves the lives of its youngest children.

“We should be breaking open bottles of champagne. This is fulfilling hopes and dreams of so many people in Cambridge,” school committee member Fred Fantini said, according to a Wicked Local Cambridge article, which adds:

“The task force [has] developed a three-year-plan to improve early childhood education that would require an intended budget of $190,000 in 2016, $1.3 million in 2017, and $2.3 million in 2018. In the first year of the plan, the money would go towards affordability of early childhood services, program quality, and governance. In 2017 and 2018, family engagement and health care will be included in the budget costs as well.”

In a memo, City Manager Richard C. Rossi explains that the task force did its work with this powerful vision in mind:

“All children in Cambridge receive high quality early education and care from birth through third grade. As a result, all children enter school ready to thrive academically, socially, emotionally and continue to do so through third grade and beyond.” (more…)

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“One no-cost activity in which fathers can engage with their children that has been consistently linked with higher student achievement is reading. Based on this premise, the Fathers Reading Every Day (FRED) program was developed to encourage fathers to become active in their children’s early literacy development.

“FRED is a family literacy program designed by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service designed to improve the early literacy development of children, specifically targeted to fathers and other male caregivers. During the FRED program, male participants are given research-based, yet user-friendly, guides that enable them to begin daily reading activities with their children. Since the FRED program began 2002, over 20,000 fathers and children all over the world have participated.”

“Storytime with dad: Why fathers should read with their children,” a Mass Literacy blog post, November 2, 2015

 

 

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is weighing in on preschool with an article about the challenges of creating programs that maximize best outcomes for children.

Called “Preschool is for Real,” the article starts by noting that children and teachers are doing a lot of hard work.

“Imagine yourself as a preschooler. Everything’s an adventure, from pretending you’re a superhero to chasing a butterfly to painting a self-portrait. There is so much to explore, discover and learn at preschool, and it all feels like play—hours and hours of play,” the article says.

“But behind all the fun and games, preschool teachers have one very serious goal: To prepare children for kindergarten and future academic success. To achieve that, they have the daunting task of helping young children learn specific social, emotional, physical, linguistic, cognitive, literacy and math skills, which are defined in state learning guidelines or standards. All this sounds very much like school, although preschool teachers make it all feel like play.” (more…)

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“Story time is drawing capacity crowds at public libraries across New York and across the country at a time when, more than ever, educators are emphasizing the importance of early literacy in preparing children for school and for developing critical thinking skills. The demand crosses economic lines, with parents at all income levels vying to get in.”

“Long a library staple, story time has typically been an informal reading to a small group of boys and girls sitting in a circle. Today’s story times involve carefully planned lessons by specially trained librarians that emphasize education as much as entertainment, and often include suggestions for parents and caregivers about how to reinforce what children have learned, library officials said.”

“Long Line at the Library? It’s Story Time Again,” by Winnie Hu, the New York Times, November 1, 2015

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