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Archive for the ‘National’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A new report, “Building a Foundation for Success,” looks at the unmet preschool needs of children in the commonwealth — and proposes three ways that Massachusetts might expand its preschool programs to create more access.

Released by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), a nonprofit research organization, the report examines the number of preschool-age children in Massachusetts and the public funding streams that support their enrollment. The report costs out “a range of options for expanding and improving early education and care for these 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts.” The options proposed range in cost from $153 million to $606 million in increased annual state funding on top of what is currently being spent. This increased state funding would be bolstered by non-state sources such as sliding scale parent fees or local education funding, depending on the model used.

“Right now we have a very fragmented system and that leaves many kids without access to any early education at all,” Noah Berger, MassBudget’s president, told the Boston Globe. However, Berger added that there was a growing consensus that a wide expansion of early education options was good for children and for the economy.

Carolyn Lyons, Strategies for Children president and CEO, is encouraged by the report. “This new report by MassBudget builds upon ongoing state and local policy conversations across the commonwealth on how to pay for and structure high-quality universal pre-k. Research shows that high-quality early education has (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

“When Luke gets angry, he tries to remember to look at his bracelet. It reminds him of what he can do to calm himself: stop, take a deep breath, count to four, give yourself a hug and, if necessary, ask an adult for help,” David Bornstein wrote in the recent New York Times blog “Teaching Children to Calm Themselves.”

Only 5 years old, “Luke’s difficulties stem from his earliest experiences. Before and after his birth, his parents regularly used drugs. His mother was unable to attend to him and his father was sent to prison shortly after his first birthday.”

What has helped “Luke” (Bornstein agreed not to use his real name) is a program called Head Start-Trauma Smart “that currently serves some 3,300 children annually in 26 counties in Kansas and Missouri.” The program was developed by the Crittenton Children’s Center, in Kansas City, Mo., which provides psychiatric services to children, adolescents and their families.

(more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Data can help policymakers make better decisions. And while state governments do collect some early care and education data, a recent report — the “2013 State of States’ Early Childhood Data Systems” — calls on them to do a better job of gathering more comprehensive data and using these findings to make better-informed policy decisions.

According to the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, which released the report, states’ efforts to collect early childhood data are “uncoordinated, often incomplete,” and therefore unable to “effectively support continuous improvement efforts.” This finding is based on a survey of 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was completed by “state education, health and social services program staff,” according to a press release.

“Are young children (birth to age five) on track to succeed when they enter school?” the report asks. “How many children have access to high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs? Is the early childhood workforce adequately trained to meet the needs of young children? Most states cannot answer these basic questions because data on young children are housed in multiple, uncoordinated systems, managed by different state and federal agencies.”

(more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Last week, in a bipartisan vote of 96-2, the United States Senate passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014. This vital bill calls for reauthorizing the block grant that provides child care subsidies for low-income parents so that they can work or participate in education or training programs.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the newly reauthorized CCDBG would:

• Improve the health and safety of children in child care settings

• Make it easier for families to get and keep the child care assistance they need

• Enable children to have more stable care, and

• Strengthen the quality of child care

The block grant first become law in 1990, but hasn’t been reauthorized since 1996. Before this new version of CCDBG can become law, it must be passed by the House.

“I introduced this legislation to ensure that child care across America is available, affordable, reliable, safe, and exceptional,” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said in a press release. “Child care is something all families worry about regardless of their zip code or the size of their wallet. We all say that children are one of our most important resources — which means that child care is one of our most important decisions.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

March 3rd was the 17th annual “Read Across America Day,” a project sponsored by the National Education Association that promotes and celebrates reading in communities across the country.

Literacy-themed celebrations like “Read Across America Day” are crucial because they raise awareness, which is an essential aspect of comprehensive campaigns to support children’s language and literacy development in the early years.

As readers of this blog well know, early reading success matters. As Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Nonie Lesaux writes in the report “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” “Reading is the cornerstone of academic success and also central to a child’s overall health”.

President Obama acknowledged the importance of Reading Across America Day with a presidential proclamation that said in part, “Literacy is the foundation of every child’s education. It opens doorways to opportunity, transports us across time and space, and binds family and friends closer together.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Last month, President Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper,” a promising, new initiative to help “every boy and young man of color who is willing to do the hard work to get ahead.”

As part of his announcement for the initiative, the president highlighted early learning, touching on research on the early vocabulary gap, kindergarten readiness, and third grade reading proficiency.

For Obama, the initiative is personal. At the event launching the initiative, the president talked about growing up without a father and about his own poor choices, including drug use and taking school less seriously than he could have.

“The only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving,” the president said. He had the support of his mother and grandparents as well as encouragement from a community that gave him second and third chances. “They never gave up on me. And so I didn’t give up on myself.”

Joining the president is a group of foundations that have united to support the new initiative. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, the Open Society Foundations, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation — have made a $150 million commitment to “My Brother’s Keeper,” and they will be working over the next three months to design a strategy and infrastructure for these investments. (more…)

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“We know — and this is part of the reason why we’re here today — that education has to start at the earliest possible ages. So this budget expands access to the kind of high-quality preschool and other learning programs to give all of our children the same kinds of opportunities that those wonderful children that we just saw are getting right here at Powell.”

President Barack Obama explaining his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. The White House Blog. March 4, 2014

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budgetOn Tuesday, President Obama released his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, calling once again for significant new and ongoing investments in high-quality early education and care. The proposal closely mirrored his 2014 budget proposal for preschool. [Congress did not fund that proposal in full, but did include funding increases for early education in the final FY14 budget].

The President’s FY15 budget request includes $75 billion over 10 years — starting with $1.3 billion in 2015 — for mandatory funding for a Preschool for All initiative for four-year-olds. The budget also includes $750 million for competitively awarded Preschool Development Grants, as well as increases for Head Start, home visiting, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Strategies for Children president and CEO Carolyn Lyons applauded the president’s goals. “Once again, President Obama has made high-quality early education a priority in his budget proposal. In addition to state and local funding, federal resources are critical to ensuring that every child has the foundation they need to be successful. We urge Congress to support the president’s request.We also ask the Massachusetts Legislature to continue its support of early education so that the commonwealth is well-poised to take advantage of any federal funds that become available.” (more…)

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In Quotes

“Last year alone, 30 states increased funding for early childhood; and one state started a new state preschool program.”

Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear, speaking at the National Governors Association 2014 Winter Meeting, during a session on Innovation in Early Childhood Education, February 23, 2014

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“We’re not interested in glorified babysitting. This has to be about high-quality. And again state leadership here has ben pretty extraordinary. Just a couple of years ago, in 2009, only 17 states operated a quality rating system for preschool programs, 17. Today we’re at 35.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, speaking at the National Governors Association 2014 Winter Meeting, during a session on Innovation in Early Childhood Education, February 23, 2014

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

What do children in kindergarten classrooms know? Massachusetts and other states are trying to find out by developing kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs). What do states need to know about assessments? Two reports offer a range answers.

The Goal in Massachusetts

Here in Massachusetts, the Department of Early Education and Care is working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to implement the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA) system, “which will support school districts in using a formative assessment tool that measures growth and learning across all developmental domains during the child’s kindergarten year,” according to the Executive Office of Education’s website.

Massachusetts is using funds from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant to do this work.

State Policies for Kindergarten Assessments

The Center on Enhanced Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently released a policy brief called, “Fast Fact: Information and Resources on Developing State Policy on Kindergarten Entry Assessment.” It’s a look at how “other states are approaching the development and implementation of KEA as part of a comprehensive assessment system.” (more…)

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