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Archive for the ‘Social-emotional development’ Category

“Reading with young children is a joyful way to build strong and healthy parent-child relationships and stimulate early language development… The benefits are so compelling that encouraging reading at check-ups has become an essential part of care.”

Dr. Pamela High, a pediatrician and professor at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, “Pediatricians Call For Parents To Read Aloud To Their Children Every Day,” The Huffington Post, June 24, 2014

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Kindergarten is changing, according to a recent Education Week article called “The Case for the New Kindergarten: Challenging and Playful.”

Not only are more children enrolled in kindergarten — nationally, 56 percent of children attended full-day kindergarten in 1998, compared to 80 percent today (and 88% in Massachusetts) — but kindergarten classrooms “are also far more academically oriented.”

“Our research shows that most kindergarten teachers now think academic instruction should begin in preschool and indicate that it’s important for incoming kindergartners to already know their letters and numbers. Today’s kindergarten teachers are spending much more time on literacy and expect their students to learn to read before first grade.”

The article was written by Daphna Bassok, an assistant professor of education and public policy at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, Amy Claessens, an assistant professor at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, and Mimi Engel, an assistant professor of public policy and education at the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have released the first three entries in a new series of one-page briefs called “Lead Early Educators for Success.”

The goal of the series is to provide early educators with the support they need to create high-quality learning environments for the children they teach.

The central theme of the series: Revisit assumptions. To this end, the briefs look at current polices and practices; outline common pitfalls; and present strategies for effective implementation of high-quality learning experiences.

The series — which will include a total of ten briefs — is being produced by Harvard’s Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group, headed by Nonie Lesaux, a Harvard education professor.

Brief 1: A New Era for Early Education and Care

This brief introduces both the challenges and the opportunities that currently exist in the complex landscape of early childhood education. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Need help engaging an infant, toddler or preschool-aged child? Check out “Resources for Early Learning,” a website produced by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and the WGBH Educational Foundation, with support from federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funds. 

“This site provides exciting, engaging media-rich learning opportunities for educators, parents, and caregivers of children. From detailed lesson plans to simple, everyday activities, you will find everything you need to help your children succeed,” the website explains.

The goal is to empower adults — parents and early education and care providers — by giving them the “skills, training, knowledge, and understanding needed to help young children grow and learn.” The website was developed by a team of experts, educators, and parents.

 The site has three main sections:

In the section for educators, there is a nine-unit curriculum for children ages 3 to 5 that uses a media-based approach to cover STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) as well as English Language Arts. The curriculum includes activities and recommended books to read out loud. This approach is designed to help children develop academic and social and emotional skills. Educators will also find a search feature that finds activities. And there’s a link to a range of best practices in professional development.

(more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

On a recent broadcast, NPR noted that early education is making news — thanks in large part to President Obama’s $75 billion proposal to expand preschool for 4-year-olds.

“The problem,” NPR quotes Obama saying, “is that we’re still not reaching enough kids.” According to NPR, state-run preschool programs only reach 30 percent of eligible children.

Congress isn’t listening to the president, NPR’s Claudio Sanchez saidd, but states are. Many have expanded their preschool programs, and others are planning to grow. This raises a key question: What is high-quality preschool program? What, specifically, is it about the best programs that make a difference in children’s lives?

For answers, NPR turns to Deborah Phillips, a developmental psychologist and professor at Georgetown University, who studies early education.

“What you’re going to look for,” Phillips told NPR, “is a teacher who knows how to instruct children in pre-math, pre-literacy, who gets down on the child’s level when talking to them, who’s respectful towards them.”

Phillips found that kind of excellence in Tulsa, Okla., where she and her academic team spent seven months observing teachers across the city. Phillips found “four pillars of quality:” strong curriculum, strong funding, balanced teacher-student ratios, and highly qualified teachers. (more…)

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This blog was originally published on September 13, 2012. 

The folks at the First Five Years Fund – who brought us the fabulous “Early Learning Matters” video – have another terrific animated video in their toolkit for advocates of high-quality early education. This time it’s “Brain Builders,” narrated by Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. In the more recent video, Shonkoff uses layman’s terms to explain the complex neurological and molecular interaction between children’s early experiences and the developing architecture of their young brains.

“The healthy development of young children in the early years of life literally does provide a foundation for just about all of the challenging social problems that our society and other societies face,” Shonkoff says. “What we’re learning through exciting developments in neuroscience and molecular biology is how much early experience from birth – in fact, even before birth – how much this experience literally gets into our bodies and shapes our learning capacities and behaviors and physical and mental health. The brain is basically built from the bottom up. First, the brain builds basic circuits and more complex circuits are built on top of those basic circuits as we develop more complex skills. Biologically the brain is prepared to be shaped by experience. It is expecting the experiences that a young child has to literally influence the formation of its circuitry.”

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

“When Luke gets angry, he tries to remember to look at his bracelet. It reminds him of what he can do to calm himself: stop, take a deep breath, count to four, give yourself a hug and, if necessary, ask an adult for help,” David Bornstein wrote in the recent New York Times blog “Teaching Children to Calm Themselves.”

Only 5 years old, “Luke’s difficulties stem from his earliest experiences. Before and after his birth, his parents regularly used drugs. His mother was unable to attend to him and his father was sent to prison shortly after his first birthday.”

What has helped “Luke” (Bornstein agreed not to use his real name) is a program called Head Start-Trauma Smart “that currently serves some 3,300 children annually in 26 counties in Kansas and Missouri.” The program was developed by the Crittenton Children’s Center, in Kansas City, Mo., which provides psychiatric services to children, adolescents and their families.

(more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

All children should be able to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed. However the path to kindergarten readiness begins long before the pre-kindergarten year.

A new report commissioned by Somerville’s schools, the City and the School Committee recognizes this and recommends going beyond providing early education for four-year-olds to “establish an innovative early childhood system for pre-kindergarteners of all ages,” a system that would support “universal kindergarten readiness,” according to a city press release published in the Somerville Times.

The report — “SomerReady: Creating a Citywide, Universal Kindergarten Readiness System” — calls for a creating a provider network that would include Somerville Public Schools, Head Start, nonprofit and private early childhood care providers, and faith-based organizations.

The report says that Somerville should have a strong early education and care system that includes:

- home visits by health or child development specialists

- parent education

- early intervention and special education services

- child care

- pre-kindergarten, and

- physical and mental health services

(more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Last month, six states heard great news from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont learned that they would receive a combined $281 million in grant awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) fund “to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout their states,” according to a press release.

“By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, we are able to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release.

Duncan thanked “governors, state officials, and education advocates” for their leadership, adding, “This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early learning programs across the country. There is still a lot more work for us to do.”

“This administration is committed to ensuring all children have a chance to succeed,” Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release. “An investment in our children is an investment in our nation’s future.” (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

The drumbeat is getting louder: public investments should focus on birth to eight – those crucial years when children undergo emotional, social, academic and neurological development that can prepare them for lifelong success.

Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation weighed in on the birth to eight landscape in a KIDS COUNT policy paper, “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success.”

“Behind a toddler’s soft features and halting first steps, an unseen, but extremely high-stakes, activity is taking place – the building of a brain,” the policy paper says. “What happens to children during those crucial first years will determine whether their maturing brain has a sturdy foundation or a fragile one.”

Ideally, these early years of brain development should be promoted through public policies and investments. But as Casey’s policy paper says, in these early years when children’s brains race ahead, federal funding lags behind. Federal spending is at its lowest when children are young; and since 2010, this spending has dropped and could fall to Depression-era levels.

The sad result is that too many young children don’t get the support they need. According to Casey’s paper, “by age 8, most children in the United States are not on track in cognitive knowledge and skills, and many lag in the areas of social and emotional growth, physical well-being and engagement in school.”

Only 36 percent of the nation’s third graders’ score are at or above average on math, reading and science assessments, according to a newly released analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal study. And only 56 percent maintain a healthy weight and are in excellent or very good health.

High quality early education and care programs can “contribute to the healthy development of young children, especially those who are in low-income families,” the policy paper says. “However, 63 percent of low-income 3- and 4-year-olds were not attending a preschool program, compared with 45 percent of their more affluent counterparts.” Rates vary “from a high of 78 percent of low-income children not attending preschool in Nevada, to a low of 45 percent in New Jersey,” where a court order has created more access.

Assessment scores, health status and preschool attendance tend to be worse for children from low-income families – and some 48 percent of the nation’s 17 million children are considered low income. The chances of living in poverty are highest in Mississippi and lowest in Massachusetts.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal analysis shows that “just 19 percent of third-graders in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level and 50 percent of those in families with incomes above that level had developed age-appropriate cognitive skills,” according to a Casey Foundation press release, which adds, “This picture is particularly troubling for children of color, with 14 percent of black children and 19 percent of Hispanic children on track in cognitive development. Children who don’t meet these key developmental milestones often struggle to catch up in school and graduate on time and are less likely to achieve the kind of economic success and stability necessary to support a family themselves.”

“Fortunately, children who do not receive the stimulation and care they need for healthy growth and development can catch up if they receive appropriate interventions,” the policy paper explains.

What can be done? Casey makes three recommendations:

1. “Support parents as they care for their children.” Good examples of supportive efforts include home visiting programs and screenings for maternal depression as well as improved access to food stamps and employment programs.

2. “Improve access to quality early care and education, health care and other services.” States that haven’t already done so should adopt early learning standards, use Quality Rating and Improvement systems, and help parents make informed choices about early education and care programs. States should also provide voluntary, full-day pre-K.

3. “Develop comprehensive, integrated programs and data systems to address all aspects of children’s development and support their transition to elementary school and related programs for school-age children.” Children and families need “better integration and transitions among early education, K–12, health care and family support systems.”

Inspired by the Casey report, MassBudget (the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, home to the Massachusetts KIDS COUNT project) released a brief on the importance of mental health screenings for mothers and children that praises Massachusetts for its leadership in this area.

As local, state and federal policy makers press forward, Casey’s policy paper advises them to “look to the decades of evidence on best practices in early childhood fields as they advance their legislative efforts.”

It is evidence that can be used to “make the case for a comprehensive and integrated birth through age 8 system that ensures all children have a real chance to succeed and contribute to a stronger nation.”

The time to act is now.

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