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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

While the state waits for new revenue to significantly expand early education and care opportunities for young children, it’s important to ensure that the existing subsidy system is operating as effectively as possible.

This was the intention of state legislators in FY14 when they approved $500,000 in funding to conduct a two-year, independent study of The Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) child care access accounts. These accounts are commonly referred to as Income Eligible, TANF, and Supportive Child Care. They consist of federal funds and required state matches, and they make up the majority of EEC’s budget.

Now, two years have passed and the research results are in.

The Urban Institute, a D.C.-based policy research organization, has released its findings in a series of policy reports that look at:

• improving the efficiency of the system

• analyzing gaps in the availability of subsidies, and,

• assessing the balance between providing quality early education for children and providing workforce support for guardians

Massachusetts wins praise for its strengths and gets feedback on ways to improve its vision and its delivery of services.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This blog was originally published on May 9, 2013.

Children’s vocabulary is a key ingredient of learning to read with comprehension, but recent research finds limited instruction in vocabulary in kindergarten – and too little to enable children with small vocabularies to close the vocabulary gap that is evident long before they begin school.

Susan B. Neuman, a professor in educational studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Tanya S. Wright, an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University in East Lansing, analyzed observations of 55 kindergarten teachers’ instruction in a variety of school districts. They found limited instruction in vocabulary in most settings, but low-income children were least likely to be taught the kind of sophisticated, academic words that will help them succeed in school

“Vocabulary is a deceptively simple literacy skill that researchers and educators agree is critical to students’ academic success, but which has proved frustratingly difficult to address,” Education Week reports. “By age 3, when many children enter early preschool, youngsters from well-to-do families have a working vocabulary of 1,116 words, compared to 749 words for children in working-class families and 525 words for children on welfare, according to a seminal 2003 longitudinal study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, authors of the 1995 book ‘Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.’

“The consensus among researchers and educators has been that students must close such vocabulary gaps to succeed academically and deal with rigorous content. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Imagine a citywide approach to helping young children prepare for school.

That’s the city New Bedford is striving to be. The city’s public school system is working with local center-based preschool providers, as well as diverse stakeholders including the New Bedford Art Museum, the city’s housing authority, and the United Way of New Bedford to develop school readiness programs.

“We’ve never really had that alignment conversation,” Diane Sullivan said in a recent interview. Sullivan is the supervisor of Early Childhood Special Education for New Bedford Public Schools.

Sullivan helps lead the Birth through Third Grade Alignment Partnership effort, which has been underway in New Bedford since fall 2014. The work is funded by the Department of Early Education and Care, using federal Early Learning Challenge funds.

Taking what Sullivan calls a “good first step,” New Bedford has decided to focus on helping preschool-age children build strong social and emotional skills.  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

We know what to do; we just need to do it.

That’s the conclusion of a new report published by the Institute of Medicine called, “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation.” (We’ve blogged about the institute’s work here.)

As a brief on the report explains, “The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) were commissioned to explore the science of child development, particularly looking at implications for the professionals who work with children birth through age 8.”

“…much is known about how children learn and develop,” as well as about “what professionals who provide care and education for children need to know and be able to do, and what professional learning supports they need.”

And while “much of that knowledge increasingly informs standards for what should be, it is not fully reflected in what is—the current capacities and practices of the workforce, the settings in which they work, the policies and infrastructure that set qualifications and provide professional learning, and the government and other funders who support and oversee these systems.”  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Ready for school? It’s a personal question for children and families, and a policy question for educators and elected officials. Here in Massachusetts, there is no statewide definition or measure of “kindergarten readiness”, but in recent years local communities — including Somerville and New Bedford — have been grappling with this issue.

Now researchers from Harvard are offering advice and examples that can help communities think about defining and achieving school readiness.

In its March issue, the FINE Newsletter (the Family Involvement Network of Educators) shines a spotlight on how children make the transition to school.

“Although the first day of kindergarten is still a few months off, the time to start thinking about transition is now,” the newsletter says, adding, “a smooth transition to school makes a difference for student outcomes… Research shows that children from homes with increased social and economic risk benefit the most from transition activities; yet these are the children least likely to receive them.”  (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Researchers at Duke University have found that two North Carolina preschool programs “significantly reduce the likelihood of special education placement in the third grade,” creating substantial cost-savings for the state, according to an article in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

It’s an exciting outcome for children and for taxpayers.

“Together, North Carolina’s Smart Start and More at Four early childhood programs reduced the odds of third-grade special education placement by 39 percent. Nationwide, special education costs nearly twice as much as regular classroom education,” a Duke University press release explains.

The release adds: “Smart Start, which dates back to the early 1990s, provides child care, health screenings and other services to children ages zero to five across the state. More at Four, created in 2001, provided preschool slots for disadvantaged four-year-olds. The program was rechristened NC Pre-K in 2011 and is now managed by a different state agency.  (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“How come you decided to tackle the issue of early childhood educator pay?”

That’s the question Marcy Whitebook was asked during a recent interview in the online publication Crosscut about her academic research.

Whitebook’s answer was a personal one. She had been both excited and troubled by her experience as an early educator:

“As a recent college graduate, I chose a career as a nursery school teacher. I was enthralled by witnessing and facilitating how young children learned. But it quickly became apparent that there was something amiss — many parents could not find or afford good services, only some teachers had access to education and training, only a handful of programs paid a decent wage and I witnessed one skilled fellow teacher after another leave to pursue a career that offered greater respect and reward.”

Whitebook decided to act. She explains:  (more…)

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