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Andy Hargreaves, professor  at Boston College's Lynch School of Education. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Andy Hargreaves, professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

“The moment is ripe for more deliberate action in the early childhood sphere in Massachusetts,” according to a new report from the Rennie Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on education research and policy.

The annual report — “Condition of Education (COE) in the Commonwealth Report: Priority Actions for a Statewide Agenda” — includes a data report and a policy action guide. Several research and policy organizations, including Strategies for Children, served on the report’s advisory committee.

Rennie released the report at a standing-room-only event at the Omni Parker Hotel that brought together Jim Peyser, the state’s new secretary of education with the chairs of the Boards of the Departments of Early Education and Care; Elementary and Secondary Education; and Higher Education.

The report “highlights what works now,” Pendred Noyce, chair of Rennie’s board, said at the Omni Parker event, explaining that the report points to successful programs that could be replicated to improve educational outcomes across the state. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

This month, a National Geographic article explores “Baby Brains,” looking at the factors that hinder or help infants’ neurological development.

“Peering inside children’s brains with new imaging tools, scientists are untangling the mystery of how a child goes from being barely able to see when just born to being able to talk, ride a tricycle, draw, and invent an imaginary friend by the age of five,” the article explains. “The more scientists find out about how children acquire the capacity for language, numbers, and emotional understanding during this period, the more they realize that the baby brain is an incredible learning machine. Its future—to a great extent—is in our hands.”

The article adds: “The amount of brain activity in the earliest years affects how much there is later in life.” A picture of the EEG scans of eight-year-olds shows “that institutionalized children who were not moved to a nurturing foster care environment before they were two years old have less activity than those who were.” Again, early nurturing was essential for building brains.  (more…)

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Quoted in a recent Education Week article, Tomoko Wakabayashi argues that research on preschool and early-childhood education must take the long view — measuring outcomes over time — because key benefits of pre-K programs such as executive function and other noncognitive skills don’t begin to appear until later in life.

Wakabayashi is the research director at the HighScope Educational Research Foundation, the Ypsilanti, Mich.-based center that launched the landmark Perry Preschool Project and studied the impact of this program’s intensive approach to early childhood education.

“Some of the effects that came out, you never would have found them in preschool… If Perry hadn’t followed students for so long, a lot of the discussion around preschool would have been different; there would have been just a fade out of IQ [benefits], and that would have been it.” 

“Schools Seek to Strike a Balance on Rigor in Early Years,” by Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week, January 2, 2015

 

 

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Chris Martes

Chris Martes

Chris Martes, Strategies for Children’s president and CEO, has a new article out in the latest edition of CommonWealth Magazine.

In “A chance to lead on early education,” Martes writes that Massachusetts can be a national role model by building strong pre-K programs. This would prepare more children for lifelong success and set an example for other states.

“From the White House to business boardrooms to the offices of scores of Republican and Democratic mayors, governors, and members of Congress, we’re seeing historic momentum on expanding and improving preschool programs,” Martes writes.

“It is in this spirit of historic potential that we welcome Gov. Charlie Baker to the State House. He and his team have the opportunity to break new ground.”

Pre-K Helps Improve K-12

“The Commonwealth needs strong K-12 schools. But having served for nearly two decades as a school superintendent and as an interim superintendent in five Massachusetts communities, I can tell you that K-12 schools cannot reform education on their own,” Martes explains. “There’s too much work to do. Too many achievement gaps are already in place on the first day that children walk into kindergarten.  (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Education Week magazine has released its Quality Counts 2015 report. It is a sweeping collection of articles and data that provide a thorough look at the educational opportunities and challenges that the country faces.

The subtitle of this year’s report is “Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown,” highlighting the report’s focus on early education research and practice at the national, state, and local levels.

Noting in a press release that “support for early-childhood education has become a rare point of consensus along the ideological and political spectrum,” EdWeek points out that this consensus is only a starting point. There are still “disagreements over funding strategies and policy approaches threaten to unravel tenuous alliances that have bridged the partisan divide.”

Specifically, the report looks at how “new academic demands and accountability pressures are reshaping the learning environment for young children and the teachers and administrators serving them.” Education Week journalists explored:

- the policy debates surrounding publicly funded programs
– cutting-edge research on the early years, and,
– the academic and technological challenges that await the nation’s youngest learners  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Some Early Childhood Experiences Shape Adult Life, But Which Ones?” NPR asks in a recent blog post.

“Most of us don’t remember our first two or three years of life — but our earliest experiences may stick with us for years and continue to influence us well into adulthood,” the post says

“Just how they influence us and how much is a question that researchers are still trying to answer. Two studies look at how parents’ behavior in those first years affects life decades later, and how differences in children’s temperament play a role.”

One finding: “Babies and toddlers raised in supportive and caring home environments tended to do better on standardized tests later on, and they were more likely to attain higher degrees as adults. They were also more likely to get along with their peers and feel satisfied in their romantic relationships.”

Both studies were published in the journal Child Development. To learn more, click here and also here.

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Full-day preschool programs just got some good news. A new research study found that children who attend full-day programs are more school-ready than those who attend half-day programs.

“This is the first study to comprehensively examine the results of lengthening the preschool day and it has national implications, when only half of students who enter kindergarten each year are fully prepared,” study co-author Arthur Reynolds says in a University of Minnesota news release. Reynolds is a professor at the university’s Institute of Child Development.

According to the news release, “Reynolds says that early childhood education programs have long been known to be key to preparing children for later school success. Now, however, he sees the bigger question to be the effect of increased learning time in early childhood education programs.”

The study — published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association — looked at children in 11 Chicago schools during the 2012-2013 school year. The children were a “nonrandomized, matched-group cohort of predominantly low-income, ethnic minority children.” Of these, 409 were enrolled in the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) for a full, seven-hour day. And 573 were enrolled in part-day programs that ran on average for three hours.  (more…)

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