Archive for the ‘Infants and toddlers’ Category

Patricia Hnatiuk teaching at Wheelock College.  Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Patricia Hnatiuk teaching at Wheelock College.
Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children


How are colleges and universities doing at training early educators? A new policy brief — “Early Childhood Higher Education: Taking Stock Across the States” — provides answers, pointing to fragmented efforts that need more organization and consistency.

The brief is based on information collected through the Early Childhood Higher Education Inventory, “a research tool for describing the landscape of a state’s early childhood degree program offerings at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.”

The inventory is administered by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) at the University of California at Berkeley. The organization also produced the policy brief.

The brief “highlights findings from inventories conducted in seven states to date —California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island — on the extent to which ECE teacher preparation is currently integrated across the birth-to-age-eight continuum, and on variations in field-based practice opportunities for teachers of young children.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children


Library story times are getting well-deserved media attention for helping young children build early literacy skills and develop social skills.

A recent New York Times article on story time, says:

“Forty strollers were double- and triple-parked on the main floor of the Fort Washington Library in Upper Manhattan. As another one came through the door, Velda Asbury waved toward a spot beside a book stack.

“Officially, Ms. Asbury is a library clerk, checking books in and out. But every Wednesday she doubles as a parking attendant during one of the New York Public Library’s most popular programs: story time.”

The Times explains that story time, like a hot Broadway show, is drawing huge crowds because “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.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) wants to know what you think preschoolers should know about science, technology, and engineering.

EEC is requesting public feedback on its adoption of Pre-Kindergarten Science, Technology and Engineering Standards.

From studying the moon to understanding more about the earth’s rocks, soil, and water, these topics capitalize on children’s natural curiosity and excitement about how the world works – making the preschool years an ideal time to learn these lessons.

We blogged about the standards a couple of years ago when they were in draft stage. As we explained then, the standards cover “biology and the life sciences (plants and animals); earth and space science; and the physical sciences.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Parents know about the high cost of child care, and we’ve blogged about it a number of times. Now a recent brief from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) adds more data and highlights how costs vary across the country.

EPI is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.”

EPI’s brief — “High Quality Child Care Is Out of Reach for Working Families” — points to decades of stagnating wages, noting, “In essence, only a fraction of overall economic growth is trickling down to typical households.”

The brief says that it will take a range of policies to help more Americans share in the nation’s prosperity. Some of these policies should “give workers more leverage in the labor market, and some should expand social insurance and public investments to boost incomes. An obvious example of the latter is helping American families cope with the high cost of child care.” (more…)

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“Your heart and lungs come out fully developed when you are born, but the brain is completely dependent on what it encounters on its ride to full development, and especially in the first three years there’s a huge amount of brain development that occurs: 80 to 85 percent of the physical brain will be developed in that time. And that brain is absolutely dependent on the language input, parent talk, and interaction, which is the key catalyst for creating those neural connections. A lot of people think of parent talk as just a way to build children’s vocabulary. But in truth, because it has such a fundamental impact on all the brain wiring, parent talk impacts all of brain function, from memory, emotion, to stability, [self-regulation], [to] spatial and math [skills].”

“Going back to our research program and our curriculum development, we’ve culled it down to what we call the Three T’s, which is Tune in, Talk More, and Take Turns. So Tune In is really following your child’s lead, seeing what your child is interested in. Talking More is talking more about it using rich vocabulary, narrating your child’s day. Taking Turns is really viewing your child as a conversational partner and having a conversation back and forth.”

“We need to really think about what education in this country looks like. We need to align our policy with our science. And science is pretty clear that learning begins on day one, not the first day of school. The only way we’re going to ever move this needle is starting from day one.”

Dr. Dana Suskind, a pediatric neurosurgeon and cochlear implant specialist at the University of Chicago, in a Boston Globe interview, “Thirty million little words for a lifetime of difference,” October 9, 2015

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Here’s Strategies for Children’s statement on yesterday’s release of state MCAS scores.

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In Massachusetts, only 60 percent of third graders are proficient readers, according to the 2015 MCAS results released yesterday. (PARCC results are preliminary and cannot be compared directly to MCAS.)

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notes that for third grade reading, despite a small increase over 2014, “scores have been essentially flat over the past six years.” 

Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, commented:

“We are glad to see third grade reading proficiency rates improve slightly, but are troubled by the slow pace of improvement and the fact that scores statewide have remained essentially stagnant since 2001.

To move the needle on this critical benchmark, the state must make larger investments in the birth-to-5 early childhood system. Despite recent state budget increases in early education, Massachusetts’ investment still trails pre-recession spending levels in this area.

Providing high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, particularly those from low-income families and communities, would be a huge step in the right direction. The Legislature has the opportunity to do that this session, and we hope our lawmakers will pass a comprehensive pre-K expansion bill.

High-quality pre-K is, however, only one piece of the puzzle. Our community-based infant and toddler programs must be staffed by well-trained, well-compensated educators. In the K-3 grades, literacy curriculum, diagnostic assessments, and professional development must be examined closely and aligned with research-based best practices. Parent engagement and after school / out-of-school-time programming are also essential.

As Education Secretary James Peyser recently stated, “In pursuing our shared goals, we cannot afford to treat early education as an afterthought.”

 No matter what test the state adopts, MCAS, PARCC, or some other option, substantially more children will need to meet reading benchmarks by the end of third grade. The future economic prospects of our commonwealth depend on it.

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

How are America’s babies doing? The national nonprofit Zero to Three has compiled telling answers in its 2015 State Baby Facts, a collection of fact sheets for all 50 states.

“The State Baby Facts present infant and toddler data in the framework of good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences,” Zero to Three explains on its website.

The data comes from a number of sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), the National Governors Association, and the March of Dimes. A reference list is online.

One of the biggest challenges for babies and toddlers is poverty. Nationally, 25 percent are poor and 23 percent are “near poor,” according to the 2013 NCCP figures in this Zero to Three slide presentation.

And poverty has long-term consequences.

“Economic hardship often goes hand in hand with other environmental stresses,” the slide presentation explains, adding a list of complicating factors: (more…)

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