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Nair Alabachian and Erika Stephenson

Nair Alabachian and Erika Stephenson

This is a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

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My name is Nair Alabachian. I have been working in the field as a family childcare (FCC) educator in Lynn, Mass., since 2006. The most important part of my job is helping children learn and develop mentally, emotionally, and socially. I support them by giving them a solid foundation. I’ve benefited so much from the courses I took at Merrimack College because I apply the knowledge I have learned. My curriculum, lessons, and instruction are more structured, grounded in theory, and relevant to my students’ lives.

I was a science and math teacher for 20 years in my home country of Bolivia, but there is still so much to learn. My education from Merrimack has helped me to be able to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. One of the most gratifying (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

How are our kids doing? That’s the question New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) has been asking in a series called “The First Decade: Early Childhood Disparities and the Future of N.H.’s Kids.”

So we’re taking a look at our New England neighbor to get a sense of how some of this region’s children are doing.

“When it comes to kids’ well-being, New Hampshire ranks high overall in survey after survey. But the real picture of how kids are faring goes deeper than that,” NHPR’s website explains. “Children in poor families continue to lose ground in everything from access to health care to quality education to opportunities to play sports.”

Worse, the opportunity gap between children from lower and higher ends of the income spectrum is likely to grow.

“On the whole, we’ve found that while children in New Hampshire are somewhat better off than those across the nation,” the website notes, “New Hampshire still has a growing trend in inequality in terms of poverty and family income, where low-income children and poor children are on the rise after decades of decline and income is pretty much all but stagnated for those in lower income groups in the past 50 years, but it has actually increased for families in higher income groups. This means that more and more, there is this likely growing gap in outcomes between worse- and better-off children in New Hampshire.”  (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Racial segregation can start in preschool, according to a new report from Columbia University’s Teachers College that spotlights this disturbing trend.

The report — “A Better Start: Why Classroom Diversity Matters in Early Education” — points to “racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in preschool classrooms across America,” according to a press release, “prompting calls for policymakers to focus on the value of diversity in early education classrooms as a means to increase equity and quality for America’s youngest learners.”

“If every child could be in a high-quality program, we could all go home and not worry about it,” Jeanne Reid told the Washington Post. Reid is a co-author of the report, which was funded by The Century Foundation and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council. “But a lot of programs are not high quality, and low-income children are most likely to be in low-quality programs.”

Instead of letting children from low-income families congregate in inadequate programs, the country should promote equal access to high-quality, research-backed early education programs, the report says.  (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

A new poll has found widespread, bipartisan support for expanding pre-K in the commonwealth.

“Massachusetts voters are strongly supportive of spending measures designed to expand access to high-quality pre-K,” according to a memo describing the results of the poll.

“Not only do voters support spending to improve access to pre-K, but they believe the state should invest significant resources in the effort. Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans support spending at least $250 million, as do majorities of every demographic group.”

Voters also “believe expanding access is essential to giving kids from lower-income families a fair chance of keeping up in school.”

The poll is based on a March telephone survey of 605 Massachusetts voters, and designed to be representative of the population of registered voters in the state. The survey was conducted by Anderson Robbins Research, and commissioned by Stand for Children on behalf of the Pre-K for MA Coalition. The coalition — which is led by Strategies for Children and by Stand for Children — “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.”  (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

On Tuesday of this week, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means released a $38 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2016. The proposal represents a 3.1 percent spending increase over FY15. It relies on $572 million in one-time funds and does not recommend any tax changes.

The committee’s proposal is themed “Lifting All Families,” and “makes targeted investments to foster shared prosperity, encourage overall economic growth and create new opportunities for people in all corners of our commonwealth.”

Among these targeted investments are increases to early education and care. The Department of Early Education and Care and its programs are funded at $545.51 million, roughly $6 million higher than in the House of Representatives’ FY16 budget. This includes a $12 million investment to serve children on the state’s income eligible waiting list for early education and care subsidies. The Senate proposal also consolidates two major subsidy access accounts, Supportive Child Care and TANF. (more…)

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Jim Peyser. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Jim Peyser. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

How do you make progress in education reform? By tackling the tough question of how to pay for it.

This was the topic yesterday at the Union Club in downtown Boston where the Building on What Works Coalition hosted a panel discussion called “Financing Education Reform: The Next Chapter.”

“Time is of the essence in making progress,” Tripp Jones said, welcoming the audience of nearly 150 people. “We felt it was important to say, look, there are communities ready to move,” on education reform. They just need access to funding.

Jones is a board member and the co-founder of the nonprofit think tank MassINC, which is part of the Building on What Works Coalition along with Massachusetts 2020, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, and Strategies for Children.  (more…)

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Image: Courtesy of NIEER

Image: the National Institute for Early Education Research

Yesterday, NIEER released its 2014 Yearbook, the organization’s annual look at the state of preschool programs nationwide and in each state.

The yearbook’s headline news: Pre-K programs continue to recover from the funding cuts of the 2008 recession, but inequities continue.

“It is heartening to see state-funded pre-K, once the fastest growing area in the entire education sector, back on the road to recovery, but there is still a lot of work to be done to recover from the deep cuts to early education during the recession,” Steve Barnett, NIEER’s director, said in a press release.

This good news/bad news scenario is born out by the Yearbook’s statistics for the 2013-2014 school year:

• states increased funding by nearly $120 million over the previous year, however,

• 40 percent of preschoolers — more than half a million — attend inadequate programs

 

• funding and enrollment are up over all, however,

• “only 29 percent of 4-year-olds and 4 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled in pre-K nationally”  (more…)

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