Jim Peyser. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Jim Peyser. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

How do you make progress in education reform? By tackling the tough question of how to pay for it.

This was the topic yesterday at the Union Club in downtown Boston where the Building on What Works Coalition hosted a panel discussion called “Financing Education Reform: The Next Chapter.”

“Time is of the essence in making progress,” Tripp Jones said, welcoming the audience of nearly 150 people. “We felt it was important to say, look, there are communities ready to move,” on education reform. They just need access to funding.

Jones is a board member and the co-founder of the nonprofit think tank MassINC, which is part of the Building on What Works Coalition along with Massachusetts 2020, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, and Strategies for Children.  Continue Reading »

Image: Courtesy of NIEER

Image: the National Institute for Early Education Research

Yesterday, NIEER released its 2014 Yearbook, the organization’s annual look at the state of preschool programs nationwide and in each state.

The yearbook’s headline news: Pre-K programs continue to recover from the funding cuts of the 2008 recession, but inequities continue.

“It is heartening to see state-funded pre-K, once the fastest growing area in the entire education sector, back on the road to recovery, but there is still a lot of work to be done to recover from the deep cuts to early education during the recession,” Steve Barnett, NIEER’s director, said in a press release.

This good news/bad news scenario is born out by the Yearbook’s statistics for the 2013-2014 school year:

• states increased funding by nearly $120 million over the previous year, however,

• 40 percent of preschoolers — more than half a million — attend inadequate programs


• funding and enrollment are up over all, however,

• “only 29 percent of 4-year-olds and 4 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled in pre-K nationally”  Continue Reading »

State Senator Sal DiDomenico. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

State Senator Sal DiDomenico. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

When it comes to preschool, Sal DiDomenico has a lot of credentials. He’s a product of Head Start, he proudly explained in a recent interview. His two sons went to preschool in Everett’s public school system. And now as a state senator (D-Everett), he’s an elected champion of early education and care.

“Some people think it’s babysitting,” DiDomenico says of early education and care programs. “I get frustrated when I hear people say that.”

Because if you’ve seen high-quality early education in action, he explains, you know how important it is. DiDomenico sees this in his personal history. He went from Head Start, to being second in his class in high school, and on to the State Legislature, where he is vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. He also sees how well-prepared his sons and other preschool graduates are now that they are in grade school.

What’s ironic, he says, is that when he was young, Head Start officials had to convince people to enroll. Now there isn’t enough room in Head Start and other preschool programs. Even in his hometown of Everett, DiDomenico says there’s a waiting list to access the public school preschool program.

So DiDomenico is pushing Massachusetts to increase access to preschool programs, while maintaining quality.  Continue Reading »

Erin Vickstrom

Erin Vickstrom

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

*     *     *

My name is Erin Vickstrom, and I work at a preschool called the Quinsigamond Community College Children’s School in Worcester, Mass., located on the college’s campus. We serve children ages 2.9 to 5 years old.

I am very proud to be an early childhood educator. Many who don’t know what our job entails often overlook the work we do in this field. I love when children get excited about learning something new. I recently started bringing more science activities into the classroom. The children have responded so positively. Now when I walk into the classroom I have girls that come up to me and say, “Can we do science today?!” It is so exciting to me to have young children so excited to learn. I know my work could help to inspire life long learning.

The first five years of life are crucial to a child’s future success. By supporting children and families, the groundwork is laid to help children grow and develop Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Can volunteers help kids read more proficiently? New research says yes.”

That’s the headline on a recent Washington Post story about “new research that suggests that volunteers could be instrumental in helping millions of American children to read proficiently.”

The article adds that while studies have been done on small volunteer tutoring programs, “until now, there has not been evidence that such programs can make a difference on a much larger scale, across many schools and for thousands of students.”

The article covers two studies focusing on two different program models.

The Minnesota Model

One study conducted by independent researchers for the Corporation for National & Community Service looks at the Minnesota Reading Corps, which places more than 1,000 volunteer tutors in schools each year.

“AmeriCorps members in the Minnesota Reading Corps program serve in school-based settings to implement Minnesota Reading Corps literacy enrichment strategies and conduct interventions with PreK-3 students using a Response to Intervention (RtI) framework,” the study says.  Continue Reading »

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Two new tools are available for the early education and care field, thanks to a collaboration between the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Framingham-based consulting company Early Childhood Associates (ECA).

One tool is a workshop series – the Getting it Right for Children: Early Educators Leadership Institute, which ECA developed to explore how to align birth-through-third-grade systems.

The other is a resource guide that ECA created called, “Guiding Change, Impacting Quality: A Guide to Technical Assistance in Settings Serving Infants & Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Children in Out-of-School Time Programs and Their Families.”

Both provide insights into how to develop high-quality approaches to helping children thrive as they grow from birth through the third grade.  Continue Reading »

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“Dear Boston Public School Kindergarteners,” began a letter that children received in February.

“My name is Marty Walsh and I am the Mayor of Boston. You live in Boston and are some of the youngest and most important residents. As Bostonians, you have the right to share your opinions about our city.

“I hear you are learning about structures as part of the construction unit. I have a question for you: What suggestions do you have about construction in our city to make Boston a fairer and more interesting place for children?

Acknowledging that this is a big question, Walsh encourages the students to do research; to talk to each other, their teachers, and their families.

“Write your ideas and please make a model to help me understand your ideas better.”

As a City of Boston press release explains, “In early April a committee made up of members of the BPS Arts and Early Childhood Departments selected 18 of the ‘Our Boston’ models to be displayed at City Hall as part of the annual BPS arts show. The children’s ideas included: indoor playgrounds, so children can have place to run around during the winter; more houses, so no one will go homeless,” an amusement park, and other creative ideas.  Continue Reading »


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