Archive for the ‘Pre-K to 3’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for

A new education initiative called Future Ready Massachusetts offers parents insights about how to prepare their children for college and careers. It’s a smart way to make sure that parents are in the know about what their children need to succeed.

“Being Future Ready means having the knowledge, skills and attitudes to complete whatever education and training you need to achieve your goals in school, work and life,” the website explains.

The Future Ready campaign has two goals:

 1. to increase the number of students who succeed in their colleges and careers, and

2. to build community and family support to encourage students to complete a rigorous course of study that prepares them for better opportunities after high school.

 Future Ready is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education in partnership with many other organizations across the commonwealth. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

What elements of high-quality pre-K programs help children achieve lasting academic success? The Robin Hood Foundation — along with two family foundations, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation — has financed a study to find out. The effort is part of the Robin Hood Foundation’s “poverty-fighting mission.”

Robin Hood’s research should yield new insights about how specific aspects of program quality contribute most to children’s positive outcomes.

Michael Weinstein, the chief program officer at Robin Hood, and a former New York Times journalist, told the Times, “He was interested in the promise of early childhood education to fight poverty, but unsatisfied by the existing research, which did not provide clear guidance as to which programs were the most cost effective.”

“We pride ourselves, correctly or not, in having an evidentiary basis for making the grants we do,” Weinstein told the Times. He described Robin Hood’s approach as “one of ‘relentless benefit-cost calculations.’”

“The study involving the children in Brooklyn, who attend Public School 221 in Crown Heights, will gauge whether a certain math curriculum can create lasting improvement in students’ math and language skills, as well as their likelihood to (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: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

As Strategies for Children (SFC) has worked to promote reading proficiency by the third grade, we’ve developed and collected effective resources, recommendations and tools that educators across the birth-to-third-grade continuum can use to promote children’s reading success.

Although Massachusetts leads the nation on a number of educational indicators, we have much to do to improve outcomes in third grade reading, a key indicator of future success in school. Test results from the 2013 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) reveal that 43 percent of this state’s third-graders read below grade level. Among children from low-income families, 65 percent lag in reading. Performance in reading has changed little since 2001, when 38 percent of third graders scored below the proficient standard.

The good news is that schools, towns and cities are working hard to support children’s literacy and language development, beginning at birth. Here is a summary of some of the tools that SFC offers to help ensure that children across the commonwealth become proficient and engaged readers.

Leading the Conversation

Start here, at our webpage “Leading the Conversation: Turning the Page for Reading Success,” to find all the links to our reports, recommendations and resources.

This is where you’ll find a link to the SFC-commissioned report “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Nonie Lesaux. It’s a comprehensive look at literacy challenges in the commonwealth. (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

In the latest issue of The Gateway Cities Journal, which is published by MassINC, Holyoke Pubic Schools Superintendent Sergio Páez wrote the lead article on early education. MassINC has increasingly supported high-quality early education in the Gateway Cities, as it does in its recent policy report — “The Gateway Cities Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems.”

For today’s blog, we’re reposting Páez’s piece, courtesy of MassINC:

“The Early Education Drumbeat Reverberates in Gateway Cities”

By Sergio Páez

From President Obama and Governor Patrick to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, our elected leaders are launching into 2014 with calls for new investments in high-quality early education. Big city mayors like Marty Walsh and Bill de Blasio are fighting hard to expand preschool access. As the New York Times reported this week, Republicans and business leaders are also increasingly supportive of efforts to expand public investment in early education. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

The drumbeat is getting louder: public investments should focus on birth to eight – those crucial years when children undergo emotional, social, academic and neurological development that can prepare them for lifelong success.

Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation weighed in on the birth to eight landscape in a KIDS COUNT policy paper, “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success.”

“Behind a toddler’s soft features and halting first steps, an unseen, but extremely high-stakes, activity is taking place – the building of a brain,” the policy paper says. “What happens to children during those crucial first years will determine whether their maturing brain has a sturdy foundation or a fragile one.”

Ideally, these early years of brain development should be promoted through public policies and investments. But as Casey’s policy paper says, in these early years when children’s brains race ahead, federal funding lags behind. Federal spending is at its lowest when children are young; and since 2010, this spending has dropped and could fall to Depression-era levels.

The sad result is that too many young children don’t get the support they need. According to Casey’s paper, “by age 8, most children in the United States are not on track in cognitive knowledge and skills, and many lag in the areas of social and emotional growth, physical well-being and engagement in school.”

Only 36 percent of the nation’s third graders’ score are at or above average on math, reading and science assessments, according to a newly released analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal study. And only 56 percent maintain a healthy weight and are in excellent or very good health.

High quality early education and care programs can “contribute to the healthy development of young children, especially those who are in low-income families,” the policy paper says. “However, 63 percent of low-income 3- and 4-year-olds were not attending a preschool program, compared with 45 percent of their more affluent counterparts.” Rates vary “from a high of 78 percent of low-income children not attending preschool in Nevada, to a low of 45 percent in New Jersey,” where a court order has created more access.

Assessment scores, health status and preschool attendance tend to be worse for children from low-income families – and some 48 percent of the nation’s 17 million children are considered low income. The chances of living in poverty are highest in Mississippi and lowest in Massachusetts.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal analysis shows that “just 19 percent of third-graders in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level and 50 percent of those in families with incomes above that level had developed age-appropriate cognitive skills,” according to a Casey Foundation press release, which adds, “This picture is particularly troubling for children of color, with 14 percent of black children and 19 percent of Hispanic children on track in cognitive development. Children who don’t meet these key developmental milestones often struggle to catch up in school and graduate on time and are less likely to achieve the kind of economic success and stability necessary to support a family themselves.”

“Fortunately, children who do not receive the stimulation and care they need for healthy growth and development can catch up if they receive appropriate interventions,” the policy paper explains.

What can be done? Casey makes three recommendations:

1. “Support parents as they care for their children.” Good examples of supportive efforts include home visiting programs and screenings for maternal depression as well as improved access to food stamps and employment programs.

2. “Improve access to quality early care and education, health care and other services.” States that haven’t already done so should adopt early learning standards, use Quality Rating and Improvement systems, and help parents make informed choices about early education and care programs. States should also provide voluntary, full-day pre-K.

3. “Develop comprehensive, integrated programs and data systems to address all aspects of children’s development and support their transition to elementary school and related programs for school-age children.” Children and families need “better integration and transitions among early education, K–12, health care and family support systems.”

Inspired by the Casey report, MassBudget (the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, home to the Massachusetts KIDS COUNT project) released a brief on the importance of mental health screenings for mothers and children that praises Massachusetts for its leadership in this area.

As local, state and federal policy makers press forward, Casey’s policy paper advises them to “look to the decades of evidence on best practices in early childhood fields as they advance their legislative efforts.”

It is evidence that can be used to “make the case for a comprehensive and integrated birth through age 8 system that ensures all children have a real chance to succeed and contribute to a stronger nation.”

The time to act is now.

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Babies need love, diapers, caring adults, and sound public policies that carry them from their first day of life to age eight.

So it’s welcome news that the Institute of Medicine (IOM)– the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences — is conducting a study called “The Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success.”

The research will look at how the science of children’s development, health and learning can be used to better train child care providers and educators, so that they can create a seamless birth-to-eight pipeline.

This will be a “consensus study,” which is the “result of an IOM consensus committee’s deliberations in regard to a specific request from the study’s sponsor. After discussing the issue of concern, the committee addresses those issues in a consensus report.”

The researchers will consider “instructional practices, preparation and professional development, and family engagement across diverse contexts (e.g., rural/urban) and populations (e.g., special education, immigrant, dual language learners, sub-threshold children),” according to the study’s website. (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Gateway Cities – the onetime mill and manufacturing towns that helped fuel the economy in Massachusetts – fell on hard times when the industrial era faded.

“Our economic strategy for the past several years has been centered on creating only highly-skilled, high-paying jobs in high-profile cities,” Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish said at a recent Gateway Cities event hosted by the local nonprofit think tank MassINC. “The result has been limited growth throughout the rest of the commonwealth, and a middle class that has been cast aside.”

Now these 26 cities – from Brockton, Lawrence and Lowell to New Bedford, Westfield and Worcester — are making a comeback.

Refusing to be branded as “underperforming,” the Gateway Cites are using a new report to “articulate a vision for effective 21st-century learning systems,” as Mayor Kimberley Driscoll of Salem and Mayor Lisa Wong of Fitchburg explain in the report. Called “The Gateway Cities Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems,” it was released earlier this month by MassINC. (more…)

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Marty Walsh  Photo: Strategies for Children

Marty Walsh
Photo: Strategies for Children

Now that Marty Walsh is the mayor-elect, he’s eager to get democratic conversations started, so he’s launched boston14.org, a transition website where people can share their ideas about the future of Boston.

“The exciting but hard work to continue to move Boston forward begins now. I ask for your help, your ideas and your energy to help me, as we make Boston the best she can be,” Walsh says in a quote on the website. “Ours is not an easy task, but by working together, as One Boston, our great city can prosper like never before.

Together, we will make Boston the hub of opportunity for all.”

As he explained in last month’s mayor’s forum on early education at the Children’s Museum, Walsh understands that early education and care programs can educate parents and help children.

Now advocates can use the “Share Your Ideas” section of Walsh’s website to make comments or even upload PDFs. This is a great opportunity to let Walsh know that high-quality early education care and third grade reading proficiency should be among his highest priorities.

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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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