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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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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Get ready for the fall. It’s going to be a busy public policy season for early education and care. It’s also going to be a great time for advocates to remind policymakers that the evidence for high-quality early education is strong and growing.

Among the highlights of the coming months, five Massachusetts communities will be expanding pre-K enrollment with the help of a federal Preschool Expansion Grant.

In addition, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing for all bills related to early education and care on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

Several Pre-K bills will be presented, including one filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) called “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

As we’ve blogged, “The bill calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey by providing ‘access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts.’”

To help make the case for increased investments in early learning, it’s always helpful to draw on existing research. A terrific summary of recent research can be found in the 2013 policy brief, “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education.” The brief was published by the Society for Research in Child Development and the Foundation for Child Development. (more…)

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“The implications of the study’s findings are far-reaching… First, there’s a message to educators that social and emotional learning can be just as important as cognitive skills.”

“The new study, a comprehensive 20-year examination of 800 children from kindergarten through their mid-20s published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, found a link between a child’s social skills in kindergarten and how well they were doing in early adulthood.”

“Study: Behavior in kindergarten linked to adult success,” by Kelly Wallace, CNN, July 16, 2015

*     *     *

“A couple of interesting things here, though – it’s amazing that something that you’re measuring in kindergarten can predict anything at all 15 to 20 years down the road.

“But the second thing that’s important is that not all social skills might matter to the same extent. Teachers also rated these kindergarten students on their aggressiveness, but researchers find that these ratings do not predict whether kids will get in trouble with the police 15 to 20 years later. Again, it’s the pro-social skills – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – this is what shapes the likelihood that you’ll stay out of trouble later on.”

Shankar Vedantam, NPR’s social science correspondent, speaking in “Nice Kids Finish First: Study Finds Social Skills Can Predict Future Success,” July 16, 2015

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

For all its fun, Summer is also a time when children might experience the “summer slide” of losing ground academically. This problem is particularly acute for children from low-income families, many of whom have been shown to lose two to three months in reading achievement during the summer.

But now cities across Massachusetts are creating opportunities for students to keep learning and growing through activities that are engaging, fun, and educational.

As we blogged last month, many cities kicked off this season by celebrating National Summer Learning Day, a day of advocacy promoted in part by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. This summertime work continues in Boston, Holyoke, New Bedford, Springfield, and other communities.

“Research shows that low-income children experience summer learning loss at a much higher rate than their middle-class peers, who typically benefit from enriching summer programs, learning experiences, and homes filled with books and reading,” according to the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Over the course of one summer vacation, this summer learning loss creates an approximate three-month achievement gap in reading skills between the two groups of children. By middle school, the cumulative effect adds up to a gap equal to two full years of achievement.” (more…)

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Mariama Grimes

Mariama Grimes

Born and raised in Sacramento, Calif., Mariama Grimes has spent the last few years in Cambridge braving the cold and attending the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed. L.D.) program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE).

Now Mariama has joined Strategies for Children for the next ten months to lead a project in support of SFC’s strategic plan implementation and local community work. This year-long residency is an experience that culminates with a dissertation. We’re happy to welcome her aboard, and we look forward to the outreach work she’ll be doing in various communities.

“I’ve always been interested in politics,” Mariama said in a recent interview, explaining that as a kid she had playing cards that featured politicians rather than baseball stars. In addition, Mariama’s father, Roy Grimes, was involved in educational policy in California, serving as president of the Sacramento County School Board and of the Sacramento City Unified School District. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

The action never seems to stop in preschool classrooms. But appearances can be deceiving. Researchers from the University of Washington report that children are not always getting enough opportunities for active play.

“Parents feel as if their young children are constantly in motion. But new research suggests that children in preschool have few opportunities for active play and are often sedentary,” a blog on the New York Times’ Motherlode website says.

To conduct this study — “Active Play Opportunities at Child Care” — researchers observed 98 children attending 10 preschools in Seattle. Each preschool was observed for four full days.

The study found that children’s activity was 73 percent sedentary, 13 percent light, and 14 percent of what researchers call “moderate-vigorous physical activity.”

The study found “that for 88 percent of child care time, children were not presented opportunities for active play, so the finding that more than 70 percent of children’s time was sedentary is not surprising.”  (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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