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Mayor Michael A. Nutter. Photo Source: City of Philadelphia Flickr account.

Mayor Michael A. Nutter. Photo Source: City of Philadelphia Flickr account.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter has just released an exciting and sweeping plan to revitalize his city’s early learning programs. It’s a detailed effort that could also serve as a blueprint for other cities.

Called “A Running Start Philadelphia: For Every Child Birth to 5,” the plan is a path toward ensuring that all of the city’s children are ready to succeed in school.

“What happens — or doesn’t happen — from infancy to the time a child enters kindergarten can set the course for his or her whole life,” the plan says. “And what happens — or doesn’t happen — in the first five years of life for Philadelphia’s 110,000 children can set the course for the long-term future of our entire city.”

One daunting obstacle is poverty.

“Two years ago, the City unveiled Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, a comprehensive plan that brings together hundreds of individuals and organizations to address our city’s unacceptable poverty level,” the plan says, adding that early learning is “a critical component of the plan” to avoid “passing on the crippling legacy of poverty to a new generation…” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Last December, Massachusetts was awarded a $15 million federal Pre-K Expansion grant for five communities: Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield.

Now that six months have passed, we decided to check in with Anita Moeller to see how this grant-funded work is going. Moeller is the director of the expansion grant program at the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

It’s a busy season of laying groundwork, Moeller explained. The five communities are working on budgets, identifying teachers, outfitting new spaces, and submitting their final plans to federal authorities.

As EEC Commissioner Tom Weber wrote last fall in the state’s application for this funding, “The Federal Preschool Expansion Grant has inspired Massachusetts to think boldly and to offer a plan that engages and leverages the strengths of the Massachusetts mixed-delivery system to reach more children and advances our goal of achieving a universally-accessible, high-quality system of early education and care.”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Early education is a proven way to help children succeed, but a key challenge for policymakers is figuring how to pay for these programs.

That’s why the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) has just released a discussion guide on “State Financing Strategies for Early Education and Care Systems.” The guide helps policymakers understand which investment strategies could work in their communities.

When it comes to early education, policymakers often face two persistent financing problems.

First, “it is more often the case that available funding, rather than the true costs of quality programs, determine funding decisions,” and second, policymakers often lack “a comprehensive picture of all the available resources that could be utilized for a given program because of the generally siloed nature of funding (e.g., by agency or funding stream rather than by goal or service).”

So while “some state and local investments are increasing,” other states are not “investing sufficient dollars to ensure all children have access to high-quality programs.”  (more…)

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Nair Alabachian and Erika Stephenson

Nair Alabachian and Erika Stephenson

This is a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

*     *     *

My name is Nair Alabachian. I have been working in the field as a family childcare (FCC) educator in Lynn, Mass., since 2006. The most important part of my job is helping children learn and develop mentally, emotionally, and socially. I support them by giving them a solid foundation. I’ve benefited so much from the courses I took at Merrimack College because I apply the knowledge I have learned. My curriculum, lessons, and instruction are more structured, grounded in theory, and relevant to my students’ lives.

I was a science and math teacher for 20 years in my home country of Bolivia, but there is still so much to learn. My education from Merrimack has helped me to be able to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. One of the most gratifying (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Startegies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Startegies for Children

Across the country, the population of children is growing more diverse. There are more children from different countries who speak numerous languages. And as they enter preschool settings, they need culturally diverse early educators.

A recent report — “Immigrant and Refugee Workers in the Early Childhood Field: Taking a Closer Look” — looks at the early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce and how it could better meet children’s needs.

Released by MPI, the Migration Policy Institute, the report says:

“Just as the number and share of children of immigrants have grown substantially in recent decades across the nation, the foreign-born share of ECEC workers has also risen. Today, immigrants account for nearly one-fifth of the overall ECEC workforce. However, these immigrant workers—and the linguistic and cultural diversity that they bring to the field—are highly over-represented in lower-skilled and lower-paying sectors of the profession such as family-based child-care.”  (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Here in Massachusetts, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) wants your opinion.

EEC is holding two public hearings on its adoption of the WIDA Early English Language Development Standards (E-ELD) for children who are 2.5 to 5.5 years old.

As EEC says on its website, the E-ELD Standards are designed to:

• “help guide lesson planning to ensure that the different linguistic needs of dual language learners [DLLs] are being met”

• support dual language learners as they reach their next level of English Language Development

• inform decisions about class composition, staffing, curriculum, and assessment in programs that serve dual language learners, and

• help programs that serve dual language learners to make better use of EEC’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)

The E-ELD Standards are aligned with K-12 English Language Development Standards, and as WIDA explains:

“Specific consideration has been given to the nature of early language and cognitive development, family and community-based socio-cultural contexts for language learning, and the psycholinguistic nature of second language acquisition in preschoolers who are still developing the foundational structures and rules of language.”  (more…)

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Jay Gonzalez, Chair of the Board of the Department of  Early Education and Care

Jay Gonzalez

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is asking the Legislature for an additional $45 million for fiscal year 2016. This investment would position Massachusetts to improve the ways that it helps young children succeed in school and life.

Please contact your elected state officials and let them know that you support this request and the progress it seeks to make.

EEC’s FY 2016 proposal is based on a vision of eventually providing high-quality, affordable programs that are available to every young child in the state. These programs would be staffed with well-qualified and well-trained teachers and providers.

“After a long process of evaluating the state of early education and care in Massachusetts and soliciting feedback from stakeholders and the public, the Board of Early Education and Care developed and approved a comprehensive proposal for systemic reform and investment,” Jay Gonzalez, chair of the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, said in a statement. “The Board’s vote establishes a multi-year framework for taking our system of early education and care to the next level.”  (more…)

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