Archive for the ‘K-12’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A new report from the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) looks at the past, present and future of education in the commonwealth and calls on policymakers to “unleash greatness.”

The plan for successfully transforming the state’s education system includes several recommendations, one of which is to expand access to high-quality early education. This call adds to the growing chorus of diverse stakeholders supporting pre-k, including business leaders, members of the military and law enforcement, and bipartisan political leaders.

The report, “The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years”, sets goals for the years 2016 and 2020, so that by 2030, Massachusetts will be an innovative, global leader in education. The report was authored by Sir Michael Barber, a globally renowned education reformer who has led projects in more than 40 countries. Nearly 200 stakeholders were engaged in interviews, focus groups and workshops to provide input during the development of the report.

The report is “a comprehensive assessment of the commonwealth’s education system, sounding the alarm that student achievement has leveled off and the state risks (more…)

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Chad d'Entremont Photo courtesy of the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy

Chad d’Entremont
Photo courtesy of the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy

“Our definitions of education are rapidly expanding,” Chad d’Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center, said in a recent interview about Massachusetts’ education system. That expansion has spread from grade school outward to early education, after school time, and summer programs. At the same time, d’Entremont says, “the pace of reform has been accelerating.”

In such a fast-paced policy environment, monitoring student outcomes can be like trying to scoop up the ocean with a measuring cup.

That’s why the Rennie Center, a nonprofit education policy organization, is launching the Condition of Education in the Commonwealth project, or COE. The project will create an annually released dashboard of data that measures key educational outcomes from birth through adulthood.

As the dashboard report notes, “efforts to address continuing challenges—ranging from a lack of school readiness to a lingering proficiency gap to the need to ensure all students are college and career ready—have led to increasingly sophisticated, but, at times, disjointed approaches to reform.”

The report says that long-term success requires “the development and constant maintenance of a more comprehensive vision. Effective reform results from understanding our current status as a state, monitoring changes over time, and acting on new information describing both our strengths and deficits.” (more…)

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Christopher Martes, interim superintendent of the Wrentham Public Schools, and Carolyn Lyons, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, submitted an op-ed to CommonWealth Magazine recently. The op-ed was published online yesterday, October 23. Here’s a sample of their commentary:

“Last month’s release of 2013 MCAS results generated some good news. Concealed in the results, however, is a hidden story that is cause for concern: 43 percent of the state’s third graders are not proficient readers – compared to 39 percent last year.  Among children from low-income families, a shocking 65 percent lag in reading.  Disturbingly, these scores have remained stagnant for more than a decade.

“The numbers are especially troubling in our 26 Gateway Cities – the large and midsize cities that serve as economic engines. In these cities, an average of 58 percent of third graders are not able to read proficiently, including 72 percent of children in Chelsea and 87 percent in Holyoke.  In Boston, 68 percent of third graders are not proficient readers.

“Behind the statistics are too many children that show up for school already behind and too many that never catch up.”

Continue reading the full article at CommonWealth Magazine online.

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Mayor Logo

This Thursday, October 24, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., the Boston Children’s Museum hosts a Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates. Jon Keller, WBZ-TV News’ Political Analyst will moderate the conversation.

To retain Boston’s status as an economic leader and hub of innovation in the years ahead, the next Mayor must improve educational outcomes for the city’s children. The achievement gap is evident long before children enter school, and we will not succeed in closing it unless we target resources to improve early learning and healthy child development.

Join us for a conversation with the two candidates running for Mayor and hear more about their vision for children and families in Boston.

This event is sponsored by: Boston Children’s Museum, Strategies for Children, Thrive in 5, and United Way of MA Bay and Merrimack Valley.

Co-sponsors to date include:  ABCD ● Associated Early Care and Education ● BOSTnet  ● Boston After School and Beyond ● Boston Association for the Education of Young Children ● Boston Children’s Hospital  ● Boston Opportunity Agenda ● Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester ● Catholic Charities of Boston  ● Cradles to Crayons ● The Children’s Trust ● Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative ● Ellis Memorial & Eldredge House, Inc ● Families First Parenting Programs ● Family Nurturing Center of Massachusetts   ● Family Service of Greater Boston ● Friends of the Children – Boston ● Generations Incorporated ● Horizons for Homeless Children ● Jumpstart ● MA Afterschool Partnership ● MA Association for Early Education and Care ● Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics ● MA Kids Count ● MA Head Start Association ● Raising A Reader MA ● Reach Out and Read ● Room to Grow ● United South End Settlements ● Wheelock College

For more information, please contact tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Today’s guest blog was written by Strategies for Children staff, Titus DosRemedios and Kelly Kulsrud.

To become proficient readers by the end of third grade, children need high-quality literacy instruction from their teachers.

Unfortunately, a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) – “Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs” –   suggests that teachers are not getting the training they need to help their students become strong readers.

The report finds “Three out of four elementary teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the methods of reading instruction that could substantially lower the number of children who never become proficient readers, from 30 percent to under 10 percent. Instead, the teacher candidate is all too often told to develop his or her “own unique approach” to teaching reading.”

These findings that urge better literacy preparation for teachers speak to an overall need for stronger teacher training. “We need more effective teacher preparation. Our profound belief that new teachers and our children deserve better from America’s preparation programs is the touchstone of this project,” the report says. The report’s researchers looked at “1,130 institutions that prepare 99 percent of the nation’s traditionally trained new teachers.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Last month, new reading and math results for the “Nation’s Report Card” came out, and amidst the scores is a troubling recent trend among nine-year-old readers.

This version of the report card shows long-term NAEP scores (from the National Assessment of Educational Progress) for nine-, 13- and 17-year-olds. A nationally representative sample of approximately 26,300 students in all three age groups  took the reading assessment during the 2011-2012 school year.

“The assessment required students to read and answer questions based on a variety of materials, including informational passages, literary texts and documents… Students’ comprehension of these materials was assessed with both multiple-choice and constructed-response questions,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website.

Sample questions from the long-term assessment for nine-year-olds are posted here. A summary of major findings is posted here. (more…)

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“We should be quite proud but not complacent.”

Mitchell D. Chester, Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, commenting on Massachusetts being ranked number one in education by the 2013 Kids COUNT report; in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, July 11, 2013.

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Noah Berger, president Mass Budget; Eileen Rudden, founder, Sankaty Growth Partners; John Jackson, president and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education; John Bissell, executive vice president, Greylock Federal Credit Union. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Noah Berger, president MassBudget; Eileen Rudden, co-founder, LearnLaunch; John Jackson, president and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education; John Bissell, executive vice president, Greylock Federal Credit Union. Photo: Strategies for Children

“Since the 20-year history of education reform, Massachusetts has emerged as the top ranking state in the nation for overall student performance, but there is still more work to be done to fulfill the promise of a high-quality public education. Future reform efforts should allow for greater differentiation of supports with the end goal of fostering 21st century skills in all students in the Commonwealth.”

 - Representative Alice Peisch, co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education

It’s time to start a new conversation about education for the children of the commonwealth.

On June 18th, the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Education Reform Act of 1993, Strategies for Children began that conversation along with its partners the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE). The three organizations hosted a panel discussion for nearly 100 attendees at the Boston Bar Association to reflect on how far the state has come and discuss the many opportunities that exist for making innovative and meaningful progress.

The state’s work on education reform has made Massachusetts a national leader on standards-based reform – tied to increased funding – that has resulted in the commonwealth leading the way on many key educational benchmarks.  Yet there are still significant, persistent achievement gaps. Schools aren’t meeting the needs of all of our children. And too many students fail to complete high school and college. Meanwhile, the world has changed dramatically over the last two decades, compelling Massachusetts to develop new, innovative ways to bring educational excellence into all our classrooms.

To tackle these issues, the panelists in our discussion called on the state to invest in early education; to reach out to more children, especially those who are struggling to achieve; to look at how technology can improve learning; and to prepare children to succeed in a high-tech economy. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The journal Future of Children, a collaboration of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution,  has published an issue – Literacy Challenges for the Twenty-First Century – that’s chock full of thought-provoking articles.  An accompanying policy brief examines the relationship between standards and literacy development. (I’ll write later about some of the individual articles in the journal.)

Massachusetts is among the 45 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards, which the authors of the policy brief strongly support. “Standards are an important part – but only one part – of solving the literacy problem,” they write. “Even the best possible standards cannot raise student literacy unless they are part of a larger strategy. Excellent standards are a first step.”

The policy brief is written by Ron Haskins, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution; Richard Murnane, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families; and Catherine Snow, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The authors enumerate key elements of a successful strategy to boost children’s literacy. Improving the quality teaching, they write, is “the single most important element in any strategy aiming to boost student literacy and close the literacy gap.”  They suggest redirecting federal funds to create “a competitive grant program that encourages school systems to design and implement programs to improve teaching and learning in high-poverty schools.” They also call for:

  • Adoption by states of assessments now being designed to accompany the Common Core.
  • A common system for reporting results that will provide schools, parents and communities with detailed knowledge about how their students are performing relative to the Common Core and to other communities.
  • A better curriculum that is aligned with the Common Core.

“The more demanding Common Core standards in literacy, based on reading comprehension, conceptual knowledge, and vocabulary as well as accurate and fluent reading, combined with accurate assessments of these skills will reveal how far disadvantaged children lag behind on these more advanced literacy skills,” the authors write. “Rather than wait for the expanded literacy gap to be revealed, U.S. policymakers and educators should begin now to shrink the gap.”

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The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released results of the 2012 MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) test today. Here is the news release about the third grade reading results that Strategies for Children sent to media outlets:

September 17, 2012 – In Massachusetts, 39% of third graders are not proficient readers, according to MCAS results released today. Performance in reading on the third grade MCAS has remained stagnant since 2001, when 38% of third graders scored below proficient in reading.  Among children from low-income families, 60%lag in reading.

See charts: Trends in Third Grade Reading, by Income and Third Grade Reading 2012 MCAS.

Reading is the foundation of success in both the classroom and the workplace. Research finds that third grade reading is a critical educational benchmark that strongly predicts children’s future performance in school and beyond. In July, the Legislature passed An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency with overwhelming bipartisan support. Today, the bill was enacted by the House and Senate and is currently before Governor Patrick. The bill, which was introduced by Senator Katherine Clark (D-Melrose) and Representative Marty Walz (D-Boston), would establish an Early Literacy Expert Panel to advise state agencies on research-based strategies to improve the language and literacy development of children from birth to age 9.

Amy O’Leary, director of Early Education for All, a campaign of Strategies for Children, issued the following statement:

“We should all be alarmed that 39% of third graders are not proficient readers and that Massachusetts has made virtually no progress in third grade reading over the past decade. We should all be concerned about the wide and persistent achievement gap. We know what to do to improve children’s literacy. We must act now on this knowledge. (more…)

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