Archive for the ‘Standards and curriculum’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for

A new education initiative called Future Ready Massachusetts offers parents insights about how to prepare their children for college and careers. It’s a smart way to make sure that parents are in the know about what their children need to succeed.

“Being Future Ready means having the knowledge, skills and attitudes to complete whatever education and training you need to achieve your goals in school, work and life,” the website explains.

The Future Ready campaign has two goals:

 1. to increase the number of students who succeed in their colleges and careers, and

2. to build community and family support to encourage students to complete a rigorous course of study that prepares them for better opportunities after high school.

 Future Ready is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education in partnership with many other organizations across the commonwealth. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“All children should have guaranteed access to high-quality, publicly funded full-day K each day of the school week if they are to meet the learning and work-force challenges of the 21st century,” according to the Children’s Defense Fund, a national advocacy organization.

But across the country, full-day kindergarten is only available to some children, while others only get two or three hours a day.

A recent Washington Post article pointed to the “time crunch” of half-day kindergarten, noting, “Mary Waldman began her career teaching kindergartners how to hold a pencil and write their ABCs. Fifteen years later, she is teaching Loudoun County students to read books and write stories. While academic expectations have grown exponentially over the years, the length of the school day has stayed the same: Three hours.”

The Post adds, “About 75 percent of kindergartners nationwide are enrolled in full-day programs, three times the rate of a few decades ago, as many school districts have come to view kindergarten as an academic starting point, rather than a practicing ground for the rhythms and routines of school. But that leaves about a million students for whom kindergarten still lasts just a few hours a day.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

What elements of high-quality pre-K programs help children achieve lasting academic success? The Robin Hood Foundation — along with two family foundations, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation — has financed a study to find out. The effort is part of the Robin Hood Foundation’s “poverty-fighting mission.”

Robin Hood’s research should yield new insights about how specific aspects of program quality contribute most to children’s positive outcomes.

Michael Weinstein, the chief program officer at Robin Hood, and a former New York Times journalist, told the Times, “He was interested in the promise of early childhood education to fight poverty, but unsatisfied by the existing research, which did not provide clear guidance as to which programs were the most cost effective.”

“We pride ourselves, correctly or not, in having an evidentiary basis for making the grants we do,” Weinstein told the Times. He described Robin Hood’s approach as “one of ‘relentless benefit-cost calculations.’”

“The study involving the children in Brooklyn, who attend Public School 221 in Crown Heights, will gauge whether a certain math curriculum can create lasting improvement in students’ math and language skills, as well as their likelihood to (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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Mayor Logo

This Thursday, October 24, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., the Boston Children’s Museum hosts a Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates. Jon Keller, WBZ-TV News’ Political Analyst will moderate the conversation.

To retain Boston’s status as an economic leader and hub of innovation in the years ahead, the next Mayor must improve educational outcomes for the city’s children. The achievement gap is evident long before children enter school, and we will not succeed in closing it unless we target resources to improve early learning and healthy child development.

Join us for a conversation with the two candidates running for Mayor and hear more about their vision for children and families in Boston.

This event is sponsored by: Boston Children’s Museum, Strategies for Children, Thrive in 5, and United Way of MA Bay and Merrimack Valley.

Co-sponsors to date include:  ABCD ● Associated Early Care and Education ● BOSTnet  ● Boston After School and Beyond ● Boston Association for the Education of Young Children ● Boston Children’s Hospital  ● Boston Opportunity Agenda ● Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester ● Catholic Charities of Boston  ● Cradles to Crayons ● The Children’s Trust ● Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative ● Ellis Memorial & Eldredge House, Inc ● Families First Parenting Programs ● Family Nurturing Center of Massachusetts   ● Family Service of Greater Boston ● Friends of the Children – Boston ● Generations Incorporated ● Horizons for Homeless Children ● Jumpstart ● MA Afterschool Partnership ● MA Association for Early Education and Care ● Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics ● MA Kids Count ● MA Head Start Association ● Raising A Reader MA ● Reach Out and Read ● Room to Grow ● United South End Settlements ● Wheelock College

For more information, please contact tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org

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Last week’s release of 2013 MCAS scores has generated many positive headlines on turnaround schools and 10th grade scores. However, there is another story. In Massachusetts, 43 percent of third graders are not proficient readers – this is up from 39% over the last two years. Among children from low-income families, a staggering 65% lag in reading.

Here’s a round-up of some of the news coverage from the past week:

*   *   *   *   *

Mixed grades on Cape MCAS scores

The Cape Cod Times, story by Cynthia McCormick, September 21, 2013

Third grade reading scores around the state were disappointing, and as this story reports: “The trend was also evident on the Cape, where nearly every district lost some ground on third-grade proficiency in the English language arts part of the MCAS.”

The article also quotes Strategies for Children’s President and CEO Carolyn Lyons:

“’Third grade is really a critical prediction of future struggle,’ Lyons said. She pointed to research that shows early elementary reading success correlates to students’ on-time high school graduation.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

What have we learned – and what else do we need to know?

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), established in 2002 as a research division of the U.S. Department of Education, asks this question in a recent report — “Synthesis of IES Research on Early Intervention and Early Childhood Education.”

The report summarizes findings from IES-funded early education research that has been published in peer-reviewed journals through June 30, 2010. The studies examined a broad range of early childhood research projects focusing on curriculum, professional development models, child outcomes in early math and literacy, children’s social/emotional development, and more. The authors focused on research that has looked at improving “school readiness for children who are at risk for later school failure,” as well as at improving “developmental outcomes and school readiness” for children from birth through age five who have or are at risk of having disabilities. In addition to summarizing what has been learned from IES-funded projects, the authors suggest “avenues for further research to support improvements in early childhood education in our country.”

The report examines four areas of research and describes a number of findings within each area. Highlights are presented below: (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A trio of one-page memos from the Lead for Literacy series examines the importance of using curriculum that is rigorous, cohesive, engaging and builds knowledge as well as decoding skills. The series was produced by HGSE’s Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

As the first memo — The Importance of Using a Literacy Curriculum –  notes, “It’s a big job to design cohesive, rigorous literacy instruction, especially instruction that promotes language and knowledge building. Yet many teachers are expected to both design and deliver literacy instruction day‐after‐day, and month after month, throughout the school year.”  It offers a rationale for using a comprehensive literacy curriculum:

  • “A curriculum provides content and pedagogical strategies educators need to help children meet standards.”
  • “A high-quality curriculum is a resource that creates a platform for supporting good teaching.”
  • “A curriculum is a tool for institutionalizing professional knowledge and effective practices across classrooms.”
  • “A curriculum is a tool for building the kind of instructional cohesion children need to accumulate skills and knowledge over time.”

The second memo — Selecting a Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum – recommends selecting a curriculum through a “team‐based process that is informed by … the needs of the setting’s children and adults, and a pilot phase that enables thorough review.” The memo notes the importance of choosing a literacy curriculum with: (more…)

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Photo:Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

A shorthand saying holds that until third grade children are learning to read, and after third grade they are reading to learn. Research, however, shows that it’s not that simple. Children’s background knowledge – their understanding of how the world works – is the key ingredient of learning to read with comprehension as well as fluency. And building background knowledge begins in early childhood.

This is what Nonie Lesaux, a literacy expert at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, told us in 2010 when we commissioned her to write “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success.”

And it’s embedded in the Common Core State Standards’ approach to literacy, “in which,” Education Week reports, “fluency and comprehension skills evolve together throughout every grade and subject in a student’s academic life, from the first time a toddler gums a board book to the moment a medical student reads data from a brain scan.” (more…)

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At  last week’s meeting in Worcester, the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care was updated on an ongoing 18-month study of the alignment of five sets of early childhood standards, my colleagues Amy O’Leary and Emily Levine report. The study looks at Massachusetts infant-toddler standards, preschool standards, kindergarten standards, the early childhood portions of state English and math standards that incorporate the Common Core State Standards, and the Head Start Child Development Early Learning Framework. For a sense of the complexity of the issue, consider one “dilemma” the presenters noted – that the national Common Core standards and Head Start framework are not themselves well-aligned. (PowerPoint: Early Childhood Standards Alignment)

Sharon Lynn Kagan and Jeanne L. Reid of Teachers College Columbia University and Catherine Scott-Little of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are analyzing the alignment of various standards and the alignment of standards with the three assessment tools being used in Massachusetts.  At the board meeting, Kagan and Reid presented an analysis of the content of infant-toddler, preschool and kindergarten standards and an analysis of the alignment of older toddler, preschool and kindergarten standards with Head Start’s preschool standards. They presented findings on balance, coverage and depth, and difficulty. Here is their summary:

  • Massachusetts standards contain “many examples of good alignment across the age levels,” but fewer between the Head Start framework and preschool standards.


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