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Archive for the ‘K-12’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Early Learning Needs Accountability” the title of a recent Education Week opinion piece declares.

Written by Elliot Regenstein, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and Rio Romero-Jurado, who works on the fund’s policy team, the article asks a key question:

How can K-12 education improve if policymakers don’t know how well children are doing in early learning settings?

The article links to several policy briefs that the Ounce of Prevention Fund is using to fuel “Policy Conversations” by “publishing some innovative ideas about how we can bridge the early education and K–12 systems, improving the quality and outcomes of both.”

The Recent and Disappointing History of Accountability Efforts

The authors write that, “To date, accountability policies have focused on student test scores from 3rd grade onward as the primary measure of progress, ignoring what goes on before then.”

However it is these first years of life that “are actually the most important to a child’s development, and we need an accountability system that measures the (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

To set state funding for K-12 public schools, Massachusetts relies on the Chapter 70 Program. Created by the Education Reform Act of 1993, and first implemented in fiscal year 1994, Chapter 70 uses a formula that “has two goals: adequacy and fairness,” according to a 2013 report from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DOE).

A fact sheet from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) adds, “The Education Reform Act also served as the Legislature ‘s response to the State Supreme Court case McDuffy v. Secretary of the Office of Education, which found on behalf of a group of students from communities with low property values that the state was not living up to its obligation to provide an adequate public education to all children in the state.”

Over the years, however, critics have challenged both the fairness and the adequacy of Chapter 70. And while the calculation of each district’s foundation budget is “updated each year to reflect inflation and changes in enrollment,” the formula at the heart of the foundation budget calculations has not been updated for over a decade.

Now, thanks to a provision in the fiscal year 2015 budget, a Foundation Budget Review Commission has been set up to review the formula.

Advocates around the state can participate by attending one of a series of public hearings that the commission is hosting around the state. One hearing was (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

How can policymakers help struggling schools turn around? One answer is to expand high-quality preschool programs, so that year after year, “underperforming” schools are consistently enrolling more children who are ready to learn and succeed.

What makes early learning so powerful? It “addresses a significant issue that to date no other turnaround strategy has tackled: [that] the gaps turnaround schools aim to address emerge well before kindergarten entry,” according to a recent report from the Ounce of Prevention Fund and Mass Insight Education called “Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies.”

Too often, the report says, the strategic importance of helping children access high-quality preschool is being overlooked as education leaders scramble to meet short-term accountability deadlines for children who are already in elementary school.

The Challenge of Turnaround Schools

At September’s meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, department staff gave a presentation on the status of the four Level 5-designated schools in the commonwealth — two are located in Boston, one is in Holyoke, and one is in New Bedford. (more…)

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The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) has an engaging video series on its website called “8 x 8” that gives viewers access to the latest thinking on education policy.

“As part of the Bold Ideas & Critical Conversations event on September 19, eight HGSE faculty members were each given eight minutes to discuss research-based ideas that will have a big impact on the field,” the website explains.

It’s like a mini collection of TED talks on education.

The eight faculty members who speak are:

- Karen Brennan, whose research looks at how learning communities can support young people as designers of interactive media

- Howard Gardner – senior director of Harvard’s Project Zero

- Tom Kane – faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research

- Nonie Lesaux, author of “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” a report commissioned by Strategies for Children

(more…)

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Last week, the five gubernatorial candidates met in Springfield for this election season’s first televised debate. Hosted by Jim Madigan, WGBY-TV’s public affairs director, the event covered a wide range of topics “from global warming to casino gambling,” according to MassLive.com. The debate was organized by the Springfield Public Forum and the Western Massachusetts Media Consortium.

All five candidates — Republican Charlie Baker, Democrat Martha Coakley, and the three independents, Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively, and Jeff McCormick — also discussed the importance of preschool programs, explaining their strategies for meeting the needs of the commonwealth’s children. (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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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

What’s the best way to teach children to read? The answers can spark heated debates.

That’s what happened in New York City when Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña called for “more schools to adopt aspects of balanced literacy, including its emphasis on allowing students to choose many of the books they read,” according to the New York Times. Balanced literacy programs use both phonics and whole language techniques to teach reading.

Addressing the debate, CUNY’s Institute for Education Policy hosted a discussion last month (now posted on YouTube) called “Teaching Children to Read: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.” It featured both Catherine Snow, an esteemed expert on children’s language and literacy development and currently a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Susan Neuman, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education and an education professor at New York University. (more…)

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