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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Mississippi recently received troubling news about its youngest children.

A report released last month “revealed that two-thirds of the state’s youngest students enter school unprepared to learn and are, in fact, well below where they should be in terms of literacy,” according to the Cabinet Report article, “Crisis Brewing Among Early Learners.”

Mississippi’s Superintendent Carey Wright “is a staunch advocate of early childhood education but her mission to improve these programs for Mississippi kids has taken on new urgency in the wake of the state’s first assessment of kindergarten readiness,” the article says.

“More than 40,000 kindergarteners from 144 districts throughout the state took the STAR Early Literacy exam during the first month of this school year, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. More than 65 percent of those students scored below the 530 benchmark score that indicates a student has mastered at least 70 percent of early reading skills.

“The state average score was 501.

“The assessment evaluated skills such as the ability to recognize letters and match letters to their sounds and a student’s recognition that print flows from left to right. The exam produced reports for parents and teachers that detail each child’s early reading skills. Teacher reports also include diagnostic information and instructional plans for every student.” (more…)

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“Moms and dads deserve a great place to drop their kids off every day that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg. We need better childcare, daycare, early childhood education policies. In many states, sending your child to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university…

“And too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development. And sometimes there may just not be any slots, or the best programs may be too far away. And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

President Barack Obama, in a speech on Women and the Economy at Rhode Island College, October 31, 2014

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced that 35 states and Puerto Rico are applying for federal Preschool Development Grants. The program will distribute $250 million in funding to “25 high-need communities in approximately 12-15 states.”

This welcome announcement shows a sweeping national desire to invest in preschool programs that help children thrive.

The goal of these grants is to help states build, develop, and expand “voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities for children from low- and moderate-income families,” according to a press release.

Jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the grants “will lay the groundwork to ensure that more states are ready to participate in the Preschool for All initiative proposed by the Obama Administration.” (more…)

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“Our most important obligation is to the next generation of Montanans, to ensure they have more opportunities to succeed than we did. It’s time that Montana give every four year-old
access to high-quality, early childhood education that will set them on a path to thrive through their educational career and beyond.”

Montana Governor Steve Bullock unveiling a $37 million early childhood proposal, October 13, 2014

 

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“The conversation on reducing the “word gap” in early childhood has reached new heights: Today the White House Office on Science and Technology is hosting a group of policymakers, researchers, and early childhood advocates to exchange ideas on how to help foster language development. The event is titled ‘Federal, State and Local Efforts to Bridge the Word Gap: Sharing Best Practices and Lessons Learned.’”

“At the White House: Mapping Innovations to Bridge the Word Gap,” Lisa Guernsey, director of the Learning Technologies Project and director of the Early Education Initiative in New America’s Education Policy Program, October 16, 2014 (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

This summer federal officials announced that states could apply for preschool development grants: a $250 million federal program that will help “states to build, develop, and expand voluntary, high-quality preschool programs for children from low- and moderate-income families.”

Now an impressive 32 states (as of Monday) have declared their interest in the program, which is being jointly run by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“These grants would lay the groundwork to ensure that more states are ready to participate in the Preschool for All formula grant initiative proposed by the Administration,” according to the Department of Education.

Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and New Hampshire are among the nine states applying for the program’s “development grants,” funding for states with little or no public preschool infrastructure. (more…)

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U.S. CapitolYesterday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Last reauthorized in 1996, the Child Care and Development Block Grant is a cornerstone of federal assistance in early childhood education. Most funding for early education and care in Massachusetts comes from CCDBG and other federal sources. It is therefore critical for CCDBG to reflect high-quality program standards, including health and safety standards.

An analysis by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) shows this reauthorization makes the following improvements:

  • Raises the floor for health and safety by requiring any provider who receives CCDBG funds (except relatives) to be subject to licensing, annual inspections and criminal background checks; providers who are license-exempt would be inspected for health and safety;
  • Requires more transparent information for families who are seeking child care options and assistance;
  • Prohibits the use of child assessments for high stakes purposes for children and programs;
  • Raises the minimum states must use for quality from the current 4 percent to 9 percent over the next five years; places additional focus and resources toward quality infant and toddler care; continues to allow states flexibility in the types of innovations and systems work for which they can use CCDBG quality funds with explicit recognition of quality rating and improvement systems, professional development, and support for programs to become accredited;
  • Requires eligibility at minimum of twelve months, regardless of any changes that may occur to a family’s income or work, training, or education status.

While Massachusetts continues to make progress advancing state-level early education policy, this reauthorization is a critical federal component in advancing access for all families to high-quality early education and care.

For more information on CCDBG reauthorization, visit EdCentral.

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Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Next year, the federal Head Start program will turn 50 years old. But the celebration and the reflection are starting now, creating an opportunity to revisit the program’s past and consider the changes it will undergo in the future.

Education Week Looks at Head Start

“Few other federal programs so fully embody the heady optimism and charge-ahead spirit of the War on Poverty as Head Start, envisioned 50 years ago as part of that sweeping presidential initiative and brought to life in the summer of 1965,” Christina A. Samuels writes in the Education Week article, “Head Start Endures, Evolves as 50-Year Milestone Nears.”

The article continues with this quote from President Johnson about the birth of Head Start: “Five- and 6-year-old children are inheritors of poverty’s curse and not its creators.” Johnson was announcing the creation of the Head Start Project in a May 1965 speech in the White House Rose Garden. He added: “Unless we act, these children will pass it on to the next generation, like a family birthmark.”

But as the article notes, “the seeds of questions that Head Start has faced throughout its history were in many ways contained in its ambitious beginning.” (more…)

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