Archive for the ‘Standards and curriculum’ Category

Here’s Strategies for Children’s statement on yesterday’s release of state MCAS scores.

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In Massachusetts, only 60 percent of third graders are proficient readers, according to the 2015 MCAS results released yesterday. (PARCC results are preliminary and cannot be compared directly to MCAS.)

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notes that for third grade reading, despite a small increase over 2014, “scores have been essentially flat over the past six years.” 

Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, commented:

“We are glad to see third grade reading proficiency rates improve slightly, but are troubled by the slow pace of improvement and the fact that scores statewide have remained essentially stagnant since 2001.

To move the needle on this critical benchmark, the state must make larger investments in the birth-to-5 early childhood system. Despite recent state budget increases in early education, Massachusetts’ investment still trails pre-recession spending levels in this area.

Providing high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, particularly those from low-income families and communities, would be a huge step in the right direction. The Legislature has the opportunity to do that this session, and we hope our lawmakers will pass a comprehensive pre-K expansion bill.

High-quality pre-K is, however, only one piece of the puzzle. Our community-based infant and toddler programs must be staffed by well-trained, well-compensated educators. In the K-3 grades, literacy curriculum, diagnostic assessments, and professional development must be examined closely and aligned with research-based best practices. Parent engagement and after school / out-of-school-time programming are also essential.

As Education Secretary James Peyser recently stated, “In pursuing our shared goals, we cannot afford to treat early education as an afterthought.”

 No matter what test the state adopts, MCAS, PARCC, or some other option, substantially more children will need to meet reading benchmarks by the end of third grade. The future economic prospects of our commonwealth depend on it.

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

This blog was originally published on October 22, 2014. 

Earlier this month an article in the Vineyard Gazette – “First Step Is Big Step on Path of Education” – looked at preschool on Martha’s Vineyard.

“As a conversation unfolds in Massachusetts and around the country on the value of pre-kindergarten learning and whether it should be incorporated into public school education, interviews with early childhood educators on the Island reveals a similar conversation is quietly taking place here,” the article says.

Famous for being a summer vacation destination, the Vineyard faces familiar challenges in providing high-quality early education programs, including access, affordability, and serving English Language Learners.

“There are no comprehensive hard numbers on the preschool-aged population on the Vineyard, although it is known that the 10 preschools and 18 state-licensed day care facilities can accommodate up to 386 children on any given day,” according to the article. “The 2010 census found that there were 818 children under the age of six whose parents work. This would suggest that possibly there are more children needing preschool and day care than available spaces, although not all the schools and centers are fully enrolled.” (more…)

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Performance space designed by children in Boston. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Performance space designed by children in Boston.
Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

What does it mean to be a citizen — for preschool children?

They can’t vote. But they are great talkers bursting with ideas. And as citizens their ideas — about playgrounds, transportation, and how to make communities more fair — should be heard and, ideally, seen, since their thinking could change the world.

Because Ben Mardell believes strongly in these principles, his career has been like a megaphone for very young citizens. A professor of early education at Lesley University, Mardell has worked hard to create opportunities for children to participate in civic life.

One recent example that we blogged about is the Our Boston project, which culminated in an exhibit at Boston’s City Hall the featured children’s models of playgrounds, a language museum, a book bus, and a ferry system.

Now an article in the Atlantic written by early educator Amy Rothschild — “The Citizen Preschooler: What should young children learn about being part of a democracy?” —profiles work being done in Washington, D.C., by Mardell and Project Zero, a research group based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

On Wednesday, September 16th, 2015, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing for all bills related to early education and care. Among these is “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

Supported by the “Pre-K for MA” Coalition, which is being led by Strategies for Children (SFC) and Stand for Children Massachusetts, the bill calls on Massachusetts to follow in New Jersey’s footsteps and create high-quality pre-K programs for 3- and 4-year-olds who live in underperforming school districts. The bill was filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

We see the bill’s targeted, phased-in approach as getting us closer to our ultimate vision of high-quality early education for children in Massachusetts.

This proposed legislation would build on the recent history of progress in Massachusetts: (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Federal officials have come up with promising, new plans for improving Head Start — including longer program days and years — but this growth can only happen if Congress provides the necessary funding.

Back in 2007, Congress asked the Office of Head Start to update its performance standards.

The result is a newly released proposal, the “Head Start Performance Standards,” from the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“This is the first comprehensive overhaul of the standards since they were first published in 1975,” according to EdCentral, a New America Foundation blog. “Both the early education landscape and our knowledge of the science of early learning have changed dramatically in the last 40 years, and understandably, many of the performance standards were in need of an update.”

EdCentral adds: “These new standards give Head Start a much-needed makeover without changing the core purpose and function of the program. The proposed standards are up for public comment until August 18, 2015.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Play is making a comeback in kindergarten classes located in the Maryland suburb of Pasadena, according to a recent New York Times article, “Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom.”

But support for play varies based on class-related ideas about what children need most: more play or more academics.

Describing Pasadena’s new approach to play, the Times writes:

“Mucking around with sand and water. Playing Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Cooking pretend meals in a child-size kitchen. Dancing on the rug, building with blocks and painting on easels.

“Call it Kindergarten 2.0.”

“Concerned that kindergarten has become overly academic in recent years, this suburban school district south of Baltimore is introducing a new curriculum in the fall for 5-year-olds. Chief among its features is a most old-fashioned concept: play.”

Some teachers are excited about the new approach.

“But educators in low-income districts say a balance is critical,” the Times notes. “They warn that unlike students from affluent families, poorer children may not learn the basics of reading and math at home and may fall behind if play dominates so much that academics wither.” (more…)

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Nair Alabachian and Erika Stephenson

Nair Alabachian and Erika Stephenson

This is a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

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My name is Nair Alabachian. I have been working in the field as a family childcare (FCC) educator in Lynn, Mass., since 2006. The most important part of my job is helping children learn and develop mentally, emotionally, and socially. I support them by giving them a solid foundation. I’ve benefited so much from the courses I took at Merrimack College because I apply the knowledge I have learned. My curriculum, lessons, and instruction are more structured, grounded in theory, and relevant to my students’ lives.

I was a science and math teacher for 20 years in my home country of Bolivia, but there is still so much to learn. My education from Merrimack has helped me to be able to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. One of the most gratifying (more…)

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