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“Our bottom line is a sense of urgency and we know that you all feel it,” Elizabeth Burke Bryant, the executive director of Rhode Island KIDS Count, said last week at the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s (CGLR) New England Regional meeting. “The sense of urgency is greater than ever.”

The problem: too many children cannot read proficiently.

As CGLR says on its website, the country faces a challenge: “Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet every year, more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.”

The good news: “We’re starting to see communities produce results,” Ron Fairchild, a senior consultant at CGLR, said at the meeting.

Indeed, the issue of early reading proficiency is compelling more and more communities to join the effort – 232 local communities are now members of CGLR’s national network, up from an initial cohort of 124 when the campaign launched in 2011.

Held at Worcester Technical High School, the meeting was an opportunity for 70 participants from four states to share the effective work that’s being done around the country to boost children’s reading skills. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

The city of Cambridge, Mass., has released its “Early Childhood Task Force Report 2015.” It’s a comprehensive look at how the city can build an early childhood system that improves the lives of its youngest children.

“We should be breaking open bottles of champagne. This is fulfilling hopes and dreams of so many people in Cambridge,” school committee member Fred Fantini said, according to a Wicked Local Cambridge article, which adds:

“The task force [has] developed a three-year-plan to improve early childhood education that would require an intended budget of $190,000 in 2016, $1.3 million in 2017, and $2.3 million in 2018. In the first year of the plan, the money would go towards affordability of early childhood services, program quality, and governance. In 2017 and 2018, family engagement and health care will be included in the budget costs as well.”

In a memo, City Manager Richard C. Rossi explains that the task force did its work with this powerful vision in mind:

“All children in Cambridge receive high quality early education and care from birth through third grade. As a result, all children enter school ready to thrive academically, socially, emotionally and continue to do so through third grade and beyond.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is weighing in on preschool with an article about the challenges of creating programs that maximize best outcomes for children.

Called “Preschool is for Real,” the article starts by noting that children and teachers are doing a lot of hard work.

“Imagine yourself as a preschooler. Everything’s an adventure, from pretending you’re a superhero to chasing a butterfly to painting a self-portrait. There is so much to explore, discover and learn at preschool, and it all feels like play—hours and hours of play,” the article says.

“But behind all the fun and games, preschool teachers have one very serious goal: To prepare children for kindergarten and future academic success. To achieve that, they have the daunting task of helping young children learn specific social, emotional, physical, linguistic, cognitive, literacy and math skills, which are defined in state learning guidelines or standards. All this sounds very much like school, although preschool teachers make it all feel like play.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

J.B. Pritzker is best known as a Chicago-based venture capitalist and philanthropist. He has also donated millions of dollars to early education. But this fall, Pritzker is sporting a new job title: early education policy wonk.

Pritzker has co-authored a paper, with the nonprofit Bridgespan Group, called “Achieving Kindergarten Readiness for All Our Children: A Funder’s Guide to Early Childhood Development from Birth to Five.”

In the paper, Pritzker and his co-authors point to the vast unmet need for high-quality early education and care — and they argue that philanthropists can play a key role.

As a related fact sheet explains, “Remarkably, 1 in 4 American children come from low-income families and enter kindergarten not ready to learn.” And, “50% of all low-income children from birth to 5 are at risk of not being fully prepared for kindergarten.” (more…)

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Woodland Early Learning Center. Photo Source: U.S. Department of Education Flickr page

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Woodland Early Learning Community School. Photo Source: U.S. Department of Education Flickr page

“As our country continues to move forward on the critical task of expanding access to high-quality early learning programs for all children, we must do everything we can to ensure that children with disabilities are part of that,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said earlier this month while he was visiting the Woodland Early Learning Community School in Kansas City.

“Duncan visited the city public school as the first stop on his annual 10-city Back to School bus tour,” the Kansas City Star reports. “This year’s tour, under the theme ‘Ready for Success,’ was set to highlight the importance of including children with disabilities in high-quality early learning programs and to push the importance of community focus on early childhood education.”

To encourage this work, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have released a “Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs.” (more…)

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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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