Archive for the ‘Strategies for Children’ Category

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

What formula should Massachusetts use to fund its schools?

A new report from the Foundation Budget Review Commission says that the current formula is outdated and fails to reflect “the actual costs of health insurance and special education.”

“In addition, the added amounts intended to provide services to ELL [English Language Learner] and low-income students are less than needed to fully provide the level of intervention and support needed” to ensure these students achieve academic and social-emotional success.

And while the commission did not have time to take an in-depth look at early education, the report does point to the importance of these programs.

State law established the commission last year and charged it with periodically reviewing the school funding formula. As we’ve blogged, “To set state funding for K-12 public schools, Massachusetts relies on the Chapter 70 Program. Created by the Education Reform Act of 1993, and first implemented in fiscal year 1994, Chapter 70 uses a formula that ‘has two goals: adequacy and fairness,’ according to a 2013 report from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DOE).”

Now, updating this school funding formula is crucial. (more…)

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Image Source: ReadyNation's Flickr page

Image Source: ReadyNation’s Flickr page


Last week, New York City hosted the 2015 Global Business Summit on Early Childhood Investments.

The summit was “a major gathering of 200+ business people, policymakers, and experts designed to showcase how the private sector is leading the way in advancing early childhood development around the world.”

The event was held by ReadyNation, an organization of business leaders who work to “strengthen business through better policies for children and youth.”

The goal of the summit was to “inspire and equip executives to take actions that expand support for young children at all levels.” Among the themes was a focus on “new evidence that establishes early childhood as the foundation for a culture of health and international leadership for early childhood.”

Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, attended the event and said, “The summit clearly shows how excited our business leaders are about investing in young children. Business leaders understand that high-quality early education and care programs help to produce the labor force of the future.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children


Preschool programs are generating a lot of news this month, thanks in part to last week’s State House hearing on a number of early education and care bills — including, “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

Here’s a roundup of the coverage, which appeared in print and on television. As always, be sure to join the conversation on Twitter @EarlyEd4All.

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Luchan por educación pre-escolar para todos (Fighting for preschool education for all) 
Telemundo Bostonby Arianne Alcorta, September 17, 2015

This Spanish language broadcast by Telemundo provides coverage of the State House hearing. It includes interviews with Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, Joint Committee on Education co-chair Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Stand for Children member and parent leader Elsa Flores.

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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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Last week at the State House, proposed legislation that would expand and improve early education and care received ringing endorsements from a diverse chorus of supporters during a hearing held by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education.

A standing-room-only audience filled Hearing Room B-1 for more than four hours to support a range of early education bills. Parents and early educators as well as policymakers and advocates explained how high-quality programs taught by well compensated teachers would benefit both children and the state at large.

Secretary of Education Jim Peyser testified first, setting the political scene.

“The overarching education objectives of the Baker-Polito administration are to close the achievement gap and strengthen the global competitiveness of Massachusetts’ workforce and economy,” Peyser said.

“In the context of a single gubernatorial term of office, or even two, there is a temptation to focus narrowly on those parts of the public education system where the weaknesses are most pronounced and the ‘return on investment’ is easiest to measure. This short-term bias often inclines policymakers towards a disproportionate interest in reform and improvement within the K-12 system and higher 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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Nonie Lesaux. Photo source: Harvard Graduate School of Education

Nonie Lesaux. Photo source: Harvard Graduate School of Education

Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children, issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Strategies for Children (SFC), we congratulate Dr. Nonie Lesaux on her appointment as Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care. We applaud Governor Baker for appointing a nationally known literacy expert as the Board Chair.

Over the last several years, we have been fortunate to work in partnership with Dr. Lesaux, including commissioning the 2010 Strategies for Children report “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” which Dr. Lesaux wrote. This report has served as a foundation for addressing and improving the state’s literacy efforts, starting from birth.

We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Lesaux in her new role of giving young children the strong start they deserve to help secure a successful future. Nearly 40 percent of Massachusetts 3rd graders fail to read at grade level. Third grade reading strongly predicts a child’s future academic success. (more…)

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