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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

On Wednesday, September 16th, 2015, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing for all bills related to early education and care. Among these is “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

Supported by the “Pre-K for MA” Coalition, which is being led by Strategies for Children (SFC) and Stand for Children Massachusetts, the bill calls on Massachusetts to follow in New Jersey’s footsteps and create high-quality pre-K programs for 3- and 4-year-olds who live in underperforming school districts. The bill was filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

We see the bill’s targeted, phased-in approach as getting us closer to our ultimate vision of high-quality early education for children in Massachusetts.

This proposed legislation would build on the recent history of progress in Massachusetts: (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Fall is coming and it’s going to be a busy season for early education and care advocates. There’ll be hearings on important legislation and the crucial work of drafting the budget for fiscal year 2017.

To make the advocacy case, try this useful tool: the 2013 policy brief “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education.”

As we blogged earlier this week, the brief is a “review of the current science and evidence base on early childhood education.” Yesterday, we looked at the impact on children’s academic skills and on their socio-emotional development.

In today’s blog, we’ll look at what the brief says about early education’s quality, its long-term outcomes, and its effect on diverse subgroups.

 

Quality Matters

“Children show larger gains in higher-quality preschool programs,” the brief says, summing up the research. “Higher-quality preschool programs have larger impacts on children’s development while children are enrolled in the program and are more likely to create gains that are sustained after the child leaves preschool.”

“The most important aspects of quality in preschool education are stimulating and supportive interactions between teachers and children and effective use of curricula.” (more…)

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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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