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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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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Parents, mayors, governors, and President Obama are all talking about the importance of high-quality preschool programs and about how they can help children become proficient third grade readers.

But with all this energy and action, it can be easy to lose sight of how, specifically, policymakers can have a positive impact in these areas.

That’s why the Education Commission of the States has put together a guide for policymaker’s, an A to Z primer on early education called “Initiatives from Preschool to Third Grade.”

It’s a “reference guide for policymakers and their staffs on the most commonly requested topics from preschool to third grade,” according to the guide’s executive summary.

The guide says, “the primary programs and strategies policymakers have inquired about include: (more…)

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Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children, issued the following statement today:

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Strategies for Children, congratulations to Governor-elect Charlie Baker. Upon taking office, Governor-elect Baker will have a critical opportunity to help close the achievement gap through increased access to high-quality early education.

Massachusetts is well-poised to solve some of the most difficult challenges in education. Chief among these is the achievement gap. Research shows that this gap takes root as early as 18 months of age, and often persists throughout children’s academic career. Here in Massachusetts, despite incremental progress in narrowing the achievement gap across grades and subjects, large gaps remain, particularly in early literacy.

To close the achievement gap, we must start early. We must act on the latest early childhood research and make increased investments in high-quality early education. This means adequately funding early education and care in Massachusetts, and affording all children under age 5 the opportunity to attend high-quality programs that prepare them well for success in school and beyond. Currently, far too many children do not have that opportunity, particularly in our Gateway Cities.

We look forward to working with Governor-elect Baker to develop and implement a multi-year investment to provide all children with early learning opportunities and a strong foundation for future success. Governor-elect Baker is a supporter of targeted pre-k, as he stated during the campaign. We must expand access to pre-kindergarten programs, while continuing to invest in program quality and the early education and care workforce. We thank all gubernatorial candidates for running and raising these important issues. We look forward to working with Governor-elect Baker to help make this vision a reality for the commonwealth, and becoming the first state to close the achievement gap once and for all.

Our children are counting on us.”

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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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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The gubernatorial election is heating up and as the candidates debate the issues, early education is getting plenty of well-deserved attention.

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, it will be up to voters to pick the next governor, but once they do, we’ve got good advice for the man or woman who gets elected.

A Strategies for Children brief called, “Early Education Policy Opportunities for the Next Governor,” provides essential next steps that Massachusetts should take.

Massachusetts is a leader in early education. In 2005, the state established the Department of Early Education and Care. In 2010, the state won a federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant. And thanks to years of work, the state has built a foundation for a system of high-quality early education that aligns with the K-12 system. (more…)

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Image: Courtesy of Tim Bartik

Image: Courtesy of Tim Bartik

One of the most energizing reads of the fall season is Tim Bartik’s new book, “From Preschool to Prosperity: The Economic Payoff to Early Childhood Education.”

“Wouldn’t it be great if there was some feasible policy that could boost the American economy and enlarge opportunities for more of our children?” Bartik, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute, asks on page one.

Well: “we’re in luck. Our economic future and our children’s future can be significantly improved by expanding high-quality early childhood education programs, such as pre-K education.”

“People should see themselves as part of a historic movement,” Bartik said of early education advocates in a recent interview. In the history of education, he explained, there was the common school movement, the high school movement, school desegregation — and now there’s the expansion of high-quality preschool programs. (more…)

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Photo: Courtesy of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Facebook page.

Photo: Courtesy of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Facebook page.

Just nine months after he became mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio has launched the expansion of high-quality preschool in the Big Apple by creating new spots for 50,000 more young children. He’s expanding the program from its base of 20,000 spots up to 73,000 spots over two years. It’s a huge job with real challenges, but de Blasio’s ambitious effort could improve academic and lifetime outcomes for tens of thousands of children.

Here’s a news roundup chronicling the ups and downs of the new preschool season.

“Universal Pre-K Takes Off,” an editorial in the New York Times, September 1, 2014

“It’s worth pausing to note what an accomplishment this is,” the Times said. “Fifty thousand is a small city’s worth of children, each getting a head start on a lifetime of learning. It is so many families saving the cost of day care or private prekindergarten. It is a milestone of education reform.” (more…)

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