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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Looking for insights on how to improve K-12 education? Consider the lessons offered by the early childhood education field, Joan Wasser Gish advises in a recently published Education Week commentary called “Four Lessons from Early Education.”

Wasser Gish is a member of the Board of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care as well as the principal at Policy Progress, a public-policy consulting firm based in Newton, Mass. And from 2005 to 2006, she was Strategies for Children’s director of policy and research.

There are “four lessons that elementary and secondary education could draw from the early-childhood sector as leaders seek to build P-16 systems and re-imagine schools capable of helping all children attain the skills they need to succeed in the 21st-century economy and society,” Wasser Gish writes. These lessons are:

 1. Expand the mission by engaging families.

“In high-quality early-childhood-education settings, the mission is to serve children and their families. This mission takes different forms in each community, but the federal Head Start program, which serves low-income, at-risk children across the nation, is illustrative: Head Start emphasizes developing relationships with families to support parents as their child’s first teacher and promote positive parent-child interactions.” (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“Early education is in the spotlight like never before… yet real progress is elusive,” according to a report being released today by the New America Foundation called: “Beyond Subprime Learning: Accelerating Progress in Early Education.”

“President Barack Obama has repeatedly called for increased investments in child care, pre-K, home visiting, and other programs,” the report says. “Thirty-five states entered the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grants competition, which has so far invested about $1 billion in 20 states’ infrastructure. A long-overdue reauthorization bill for the Child Care and Development Block Grant overwhelmingly passed the Senate this year, with potential in the House.”

In addition, the report notes that philanthropies, governors, and state legislatures increasingly recognize the importance of investing in children.

Nonetheless, the report says, achievement gaps have widened. There aren’t enough seamless transitions from pre-K to grade school. Too many low income children aren’t getting the support they need. And Congress isn’t providing stable funding. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Parent engagement is a hot topic in education. Policymakers and educators are looking for the best ways to form partnerships with families, particularly when those partnerships bridge cultural or linguistic differences or focus on very young children.

A new policy brief that focuses on Latino families affirms that preschool programs can better engage parents by “leveraging the ways parents are already engaged to encourage more frequent and different forms of involvement.”

The brief — “The Strengths of Latina Mothers in Supporting Their Children’s Education: A Cultural Perspective” — was released by the Child Trends Hispanic Institute. It reports on the findings of 43 interviews conducted in the Washington, D.C. area “with Latina immigrant mothers about the techniques they used to support their children’s education at the most malleable stage of development, the preschool years.”

Building on what parents already do “is especially important for parents who may appear to be less involved despite holding a high regard for education. For example, Latino immigrant parents consistently place a high value on education, yet appear to be less involved compared with other parents.”

Parents’ Cultural Interactions with Their Children

Latina mothers involved in the study engaged their children in typical ways that teachers can see, the brief says, noting that these moms read to their children and attend parent-teacher meetings. (more…)

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GOV Forum logoIn a forum at UMass Boston on Saturday, eight of the candidates in the Massachusetts race for governor made news by agreeing that the commonwealth should improve the quality of preschool programs and expand access to them.

This consensus adds to the growing political support for early education and care both here in Massachusetts and nationally. Ten years ago, research on the benefits of high-quality pre-k were not widely understood, nor part of the public discourse. Today, policymakers and candidates understand that these programs are essential first steps in educating children and preparing them to succeed in the state’s high-tech economy.

Sponsored by Strategies for Children and more than two dozen other organizations (see program agenda for full sponsor list), the “Early Childhood and Education: Closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gaps – 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates Forum” gave candidates the opportunity to share their vision for educating the state’s youngest children. It was a chance to hear how the next governor of Massachusetts might reshape the landscape of early education and care. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

As we wrote last week in Part One of this blog, the Ninth Annual Wheelock Community Dialogue on Early Education and Care called on the field to: unite; develop an agenda; and tell a compelling story that will inspire policymakers — especially the next governor of Massachusetts — to commit to a grand plan for improving the commonwealth’s early education and care system.

Interactive Dialogue Groups

After the keynote speakers, the audience broke into smaller interactive dialogue groups that covered a range of topics, including:

- family engagement

- assessments

- infants and toddlers

- play

(more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

“I’d like to welcome our commissioner who has come… We are thrilled to see so many of our Wheelock alums… Mayor Clare Higgins is back by popular demand!” said Wheelock College President Jackie Jenkins-Scott as she welcomed all the participants who came to her school for the “Ninth Annual Community Dialogue on Early Education and Care: Our Children’s Future — Time for a New Plan.”

Higgins, the former mayor of Northampton, attended last year’s dialogue; and this year she was joined by advocates, educators, and policy analysts who spoke to an audience of 200 about how best to bring high-quality early education and care to more of Massachusetts’ children.

The goal for the day was reinforced throughout the three-hour event: Unite; develop an agenda; and tell a compelling story that will inspire policymakers — especially the next governor of Massachusetts — to commit to a grand plan for improving the commonwealth’s early education and care system. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Colorado and Hawaii are joining the list of cities and states that are forging ahead on early education by expanding access and quality.

Colorado’s Education Investments

The Colorado Legislature approved a budget deal that invests new funding in early education and K-12.

Chalkbeat Colorado, an educational news website says, “The bottom line is this. The package increases Total Program Funding, the combination of state and local spending that pays for basic school operations, to $5.91 billion in 2014-15 from $5.76 billion this year.”

And as an Associated Press article explains, “Two Colorado education bills aimed at restoring school budgets hurt by years of budget cuts have been signed into law.”

As a result, statewide average per pupil spending is increasing from $6,839 this year to $7,020 next year.

Among the budget’s allocations:

• $27 million for English language learner programs

• $18 million for the READ Act, which provides special services to K-3 students who are behind in reading, and

• $17 million to create 5,000 additional slots for at-risk preschool and kindergarten children

(more…)

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“Investing in early education is becoming not a question of ‘if’ or ‘why’, but ‘how?’” These introductory comments by

Photo by Chau Ly courtesy of the Department of Early Education and Care

Photo by Chau Ly courtesy of the Department of Early Education and Care

Albert Wat, senior policy analyst at the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, helped set the stage for the day’s conference, Birth Through Grade 3 Policy Forum: Developing Strategic Pathways to College and Career Success.

More than 250 early educators, K-12 administrators, and community leaders gathered at the DCU center on Friday, May 16, to discuss birth-grade three policy strategies at the local and state levels. Community-wide efforts, collaboration, and shared accountability were among the prominent themes of the day.

The event was sponsored by the Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Higher Education, the Readiness Centers Network, and Strategies for Children. A team of representatives from these agencies have been working collaboratively on a shared B-8 agenda since Massachusetts was awarded a grant from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) back in June, 2013. Five other states received similar NGA policy academy grants.

Saeyun Lee, senior assistant commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, told attendees, “This event is the result of months of analysis from the NGA team. Today, you will be able to contribute to the state’s birth-grade 3 agenda.” Even though the NGA grant ends in four to five months, the work will be ongoing. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

We’ve recently updated our Strategies for Children research and policy briefs, adding new content and updating existing briefs. This “Briefs and Resources” webpage is a one-stop-shopping site for much of the existing research on high-quality early education, culled from decades of published studies by experts in child development, economics, language development, and more. Here’s a sample of the information you can find on pre-K, full-day kindergarten, early educators, and reading proficiency.

 *   *   *   *   *

“Evaluations of State-Funded Pre-K Programs:” is a new brief that looks at the impact of several currently operating, state-funded pre-K programs.

“As the number of children served through state-based pre-K programming has increased, so has the evidence base of program effectiveness,” this brief explains. A growing collection of studies support “the overall conclusion that effective pre-K programming can improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for students in both the short and long term.”

*   *   *   *   *

(more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) has just released its 2013 State of Preschool Yearbook. The news is mixed for state-funded preschool programs in the 2012-13 school year.

The yearbook points to the many challenges the country faces in expanding access to high-quality early education; but there are also promising glimmers of hope that the nation could build upon.

“Our nation has emerged from the recession, but preschool-age children are being left to suffer its effects,” Steve Barnett, NIEER’s director, said in a press release. “A year ago, our data showed a half-billion-dollar cut in funding for state pre-K and stalled enrollment. For 2012-2013, we find that enrollment is down and funding per child, while up slightly, remains stalled at near-historic lows.”

“The loss of 9,160 children from enrollment at age 4 and 42 children at age 3 are modest changes, but this is the first decrease we have observed,” the yearbook says. “At the same time, this represents a reversal—or at least a pause—of the trend toward spreading too little funding over ever more children, which led to expanded access while jeopardizing program quality.”

Twitter users can join the conversation @PreschoolToday #YB2013 (more…)

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