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Archive for the ‘Strategies for Children’ Category

14359821987_be01fd4731_mYesterday, The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 25th edition of its KIDS COUNT Data Book, a statistical look at children’s well-being.

The report shows that, “Children have a greater opportunity to thrive and succeed in Massachusetts than in any other state,” according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), the home of KIDS COUNT here in the commonwealth.

This is exciting news for Massachusetts, but it comes with an important caveat: There is still much more work to do.

The Massachusetts KIDS COUNT data profile reports that 15 percent of the state’s children lived in poverty in 2012. And despite being first in the nation in education and fourth grade reading, 53 percent of this state’s fourth graders cannot read proficiently. Thirty percent of children have parents who don’t have secure jobs. And while an impressive 99 percent of Massachusetts’s children have health insurance, it’s also true that this state’s children are as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as children across the country.

MassBudget released the new data yesterday at an event hosted by Nurtury (formerly Associated Early Care and Education) in its brand new Learning Lab in Jamaica Plain where Governor Deval Patrick spoke, along with state legislators, local leaders, and Chris Martes, Strategies for Children’s new president and CEO. (more…)

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Last Friday, Governor Deval Patrick signed the fiscal year 2015 state budget into law. The $36.5 billion FY15 budget includes significant increases for early education and care, including:

  • $15 million in new spending for serving approximately 1,700 children currently on the state’s Income Eligible waiting list;
  • $6.57 million rate reserve for early educator salaries and benefits;
  • New $1 million pre-k classroom grant program; and
  • $1 million increase for Head Start programs.

In addition, the budget level funds core quality support programs including Universal Pre-K grants, Full-Day Kindergarten, and the Early Childhood Educator Scholarship.

This budget represents the largest overall funding increase for early education since 2008 and the second consecutive year of increases.

Massachusetts readers: Please take a minute to contact Governor Patrick and your state legislators, and thank them for prioritizing early education in FY15.

The FY15 budget is another step in the right direction, but additional resources will be needed to achieve universal access to high-quality early education and care in Massachusetts. Stay tuned for more policy and advocacy opportunities in the months ahead, and sign up today to receive news and updates from Strategies for Children and the Early Education for All campaign.

Visit our website for a complete listing of early education and care line items in the state budget, or contact Titus DosRemedios at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org for more information.

 

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

“Communities can catalyze systemic change,” according to a new Strategies for Children (SFC) brief that highlights year one of the Massachusetts Third Grade Reading Proficiency Learning Network, a collaborative effort to improve outcomes.

The brief, “Changing the Trajectory: Communities Take Action to Increase Reading Proficiency,” chronicles SFC’s creation of the Learning Network — an innovative model focusing on alignment between state policy and community-level action and data. The work done in the founding communities — Boston, Holyoke, Pittsfield, and Springfield — has produced key lessons that can help guide community leaders’ efforts both here in Massachusetts and across the country.

This work is essential because as the commonwealth’s MCAS scores show, too many children are behind in reading.

“Reading is the foundation of success in school, the workplace and civic life,” the brief says. “Yet, despite Massachusetts’ reputation as a national leader in education, 43% of third graders are not able to read proficiently, a critical predictor of their future success.” (more…)

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GOV Forum logoIn a forum at UMass Boston on Saturday, eight of the candidates in the Massachusetts race for governor made news by agreeing that the commonwealth should improve the quality of preschool programs and expand access to them.

This consensus adds to the growing political support for early education and care both here in Massachusetts and nationally. Ten years ago, research on the benefits of high-quality pre-k were not widely understood, nor part of the public discourse. Today, policymakers and candidates understand that these programs are essential first steps in educating children and preparing them to succeed in the state’s high-tech economy.

Sponsored by Strategies for Children and more than two dozen other organizations (see program agenda for full sponsor list), the “Early Childhood and Education: Closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gaps – 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates Forum” gave candidates the opportunity to share their vision for educating the state’s youngest children. It was a chance to hear how the next governor of Massachusetts might reshape the landscape of early education and care. (more…)

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L-R:  Geoffrey D. Chamberlain, Appleton Partners; Rick Jakious, Mass. Nonprofit Network; Carolyn Lyons & Titus DosRemedios, Strategies for Children; Kristy Lee, NECN. Photo: Mass. Nonprofit Network.

L-R: Geoffrey D. Chamberlain, Appleton Partners; Rick Jakious, Mass. Nonprofit Network; Carolyn Lyons & Titus DosRemedios, Strategies for Children; Kristy Lee, NECN.
Photo: Mass. Nonprofit Network.

Earlier today, Strategies for Children was named the winner of the 2014 Excellence in Advocacy award by the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network at a ceremony at the State House. The award was  “…in recognition of a significant and lasting contribution to the nonprofit sector in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

President and CEO Carolyn Lyons accepted the award on behalf of the Strategies for Children staff and board of directors, as well as early education advocates across the state and nationally who have added to a large and growing movement for increased public investment in high-quality early education and care.

“This work takes time, and requires multi-year commitments from policymakers and philanthropy,” said Lyons. “But we know from neuroscience and child development research that the early years are where investment in children is most crucial. Two thirds of students from low-income families in the commonwealth cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade, and our literacy rates have been stagnant for more than a decade. This is why advocacy for high-quality early education opportunities is so critical.”

(more…)

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“Investing in early education is becoming not a question of ‘if’ or ‘why’, but ‘how?’” These introductory comments by

Photo by Chau Ly courtesy of the Department of Early Education and Care

Photo by Chau Ly courtesy of the Department of Early Education and Care

Albert Wat, senior policy analyst at the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, helped set the stage for the day’s conference, Birth Through Grade 3 Policy Forum: Developing Strategic Pathways to College and Career Success.

More than 250 early educators, K-12 administrators, and community leaders gathered at the DCU center on Friday, May 16, to discuss birth-grade three policy strategies at the local and state levels. Community-wide efforts, collaboration, and shared accountability were among the prominent themes of the day.

The event was sponsored by the Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Higher Education, the Readiness Centers Network, and Strategies for Children. A team of representatives from these agencies have been working collaboratively on a shared B-8 agenda since Massachusetts was awarded a grant from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) back in June, 2013. Five other states received similar NGA policy academy grants.

Saeyun Lee, senior assistant commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, told attendees, “This event is the result of months of analysis from the NGA team. Today, you will be able to contribute to the state’s birth-grade 3 agenda.” Even though the NGA grant ends in four to five months, the work will be ongoing. (more…)

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Last week, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its budget proposal for fiscal year 2015. Since that time, several amendments to the budget have been filed to increase funding for early education and care, including restoring cuts to Universal Pre-K and Full-Day Kindergarten grants, and funding a rate reserve for early educator salaries, benefits and professional development. Senators will debate these amendments this week.

Massachusetts readers, be sure to contact your senator today to urge their support for early education amendments.

Here is a list of amendments to increase funding for high-quality early education and care in the Senate FY15 budget: (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

We’ve recently updated our Strategies for Children research and policy briefs, adding new content and updating existing briefs. This “Briefs and Resources” webpage is a one-stop-shopping site for much of the existing research on high-quality early education, culled from decades of published studies by experts in child development, economics, language development, and more. Here’s a sample of the information you can find on pre-K, full-day kindergarten, early educators, and reading proficiency.

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“Evaluations of State-Funded Pre-K Programs:” is a new brief that looks at the impact of several currently operating, state-funded pre-K programs.

“As the number of children served through state-based pre-K programming has increased, so has the evidence base of program effectiveness,” this brief explains. A growing collection of studies support “the overall conclusion that effective pre-K programming can improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for students in both the short and long term.”

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(more…)

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SenateSealOn Wednesday, May 14, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its $36.25 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2015. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and its programs were funded at $525.43 million, a level that is $5 million higher than the House budget and a roughly $28 million increase over FY14 appropriations.

The Senate proposal includes $17.5 million in new funding to serve children on EEC’s income-eligible waitlist, which currently consists of 24,000 children birth – age five. The Senate provided $1 million for a new pre-kindergarten grant program targeted to children in level 5 schools and districts, and jointly administered by EEC and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Senate proposal also cut $1 million from the Universal Pre-K grant program and $4 million from full-day kindergarten grants.

Carolyn Lyons, Strategies for Children president and CEO, issued the following statement:

“Strategies for Children applauds the Senate Ways and Means Committee for increasing early education access funding for income-eligible children. The $17.5 million in new funding will serve thousands of children currently on the state’s waiting list. This amount is higher than both the House and Governor Patrick’s proposals.

(more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Want to help keep early childhood education and third-grade reading proficiency high up on policymakers’ agendas? Save the date and attend these upcoming early childhood events: help create a new public policy action brief; and ask 2014’s gubernatorial candidates how their leadership will benefit children.

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9th Annual Wheelock Community Dialogue on Early Education and CareOur Children’s Future – Time for a New Plan!

Thursday, May 29, 2014, 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Wheelock College, 43 Hawes Street, Brookline, MA 02446

This event will be “an interactive strategic working session that builds on outcomes from previous Dialogues. Participants will work together to produce a new public policy action brief to be circulated widely among stakeholders in Massachusetts, including the new governor, legislature, funders and the statewide early education and care community. Plan to attend and collaborate to create the action agenda and move it forward for all young children in the commonwealth!” Click here to register.

The keynote speakers will be:

• Marie St. Fleur, President and CEO of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, and,

• Claire Higgins, Community Action Executive Director, serving Franklin, Hampshire, Western Hampden, and North Quabbin regions

(more…)

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