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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

A new study points out the obvious — the early education and care workforce is undervalued and underpaid, and has been for decades. This is especially problematic today as economists and policymakers call for more children to have access to high-quality early education. The only way to provide this level of quality is by having highly skilled, well-paid early educators who can help raise educational standards, close the achievement gap, and prepare young children for success in kindergarten.

The study — “Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Childhood Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study” — comes from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, part of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. It was written by Marcy Whitebook, Deborah Phillips, and Carollee Howes. (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Parents, mayors, governors, and President Obama are all talking about the importance of high-quality preschool programs and about how they can help children become proficient third grade readers.

But with all this energy and action, it can be easy to lose sight of how, specifically, policymakers can have a positive impact in these areas.

That’s why the Education Commission of the States has put together a guide for policymaker’s, an A to Z primer on early education called “Initiatives from Preschool to Third Grade.”

It’s a “reference guide for policymakers and their staffs on the most commonly requested topics from preschool to third grade,” according to the guide’s executive summary.

The guide says, “the primary programs and strategies policymakers have inquired about include: (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

This past Election Day, voters in Seattle got to choose between two different universal preschool proposals. They selected one backed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council.

“The effort began with a 2013 City Council resolution that charged the city’s Office of Education with developing a plan for building universal pre-K,” EdCentral, a New America Foundation blog, explains.

Of the two proposals, voters approved Proposition 1B, which authorizes “a $58 million property-tax levy to fund a four-year pilot program of preschool subsidized on a sliding scale, while setting academic standards and raising preschool teacher pay,” according to an article in the Seattle Times.

“Lattés cost more,” Mayor Murray said, according to public radio station KPLU, which reports, “Under the proposed four-year, $58 billion tax hike, Murray says the average Seattle homeowner would pay an extra $3.60 in property taxes each month to fund a pilot project serving 2,000 mostly low-income preschool-age kids.”

“The preschool program is designed to meet a wide achievement gap in the Seattle school system,” Seattle Pi, a Heart Newspapers website, reports. “Students in north end schools have higher text scores, higher math and reading skills, than south end schools with heavy populations of African-American, Hispanic, and immigrant children.” (more…)

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education

Last week, federal officials announced that applications are available for a new $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition, funding that will help states start new high-quality preschool programs or expand existing ones.

Jointly administered by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, the program is meant to help close the opportunity gap for the nation’s youngest children.

“Preschool Development Grants are not intended to simply add more seats to just any existing state-level program; there is a strong focus on program quality,” Ed Central, a New America Foundation blog, explains.

And as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a Department of Education press release, “This new grant competition will prepare states to participate in President Obama’s proposed Preschool for All program — a federal-state partnership that would promote access to full-day kindergarten and encourage the expansion of high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds from low- and middle-income families.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Michigan and New York City have recently undertaken the exciting but daunting work of expanding their pre-K programs. These two early education expansion efforts are among the largest and most ambitious in the country.

How are they doing? To find out, the National Women’s Law Center hosted a conference call to discuss what’s underway in both places. The call covered a wide range of topics that provide important insight for other cities and states seeking to expand high-quality early education and care.

Moderated by Helen Blank, NWLC’s director of child care and early learning, the discussion featured the following speakers:

- Susan Broman, Deputy Superintendent for the Office of Great Start, Michigan Department of Education

- Betty Holcomb, Director of Public Policy, Center for Children’s Initiatives, New York City

- Nancy Kolben, Executive Director, Center for Children’s Initiatives, New York City, and

- Richard Lower, Supervisor for Preschool and Early Elementary Programs, Michigan Department of Education

A transcript of the call and a recording are available online. (more…)

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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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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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