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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A new report from the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) looks at the past, present and future of education in the commonwealth and calls on policymakers to “unleash greatness.”

The plan for successfully transforming the state’s education system includes several recommendations, one of which is to expand access to high-quality early education. This call adds to the growing chorus of diverse stakeholders supporting pre-k, including business leaders, members of the military and law enforcement, and bipartisan political leaders.

The report, “The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years”, sets goals for the years 2016 and 2020, so that by 2030, Massachusetts will be an innovative, global leader in education. The report was authored by Sir Michael Barber, a globally renowned education reformer who has led projects in more than 40 countries. Nearly 200 stakeholders were engaged in interviews, focus groups and workshops to provide input during the development of the report.

The report is “a comprehensive assessment of the commonwealth’s education system, sounding the alarm that student achievement has leveled off and the state risks Continue Reading »

In Quotes

“We can do better in preparing poor children for school and it can be done at considerable scale.”

Professor Richard Murnane, Harvard Graduate School of Education, in the WBUR story “With Preschool On The Agenda, Boston Attracts National Attention,” March 28, 2014

 

This blog was originally published on September 13, 2012. 

The folks at the First Five Years Fund – who brought us the fabulous “Early Learning Matters” video – have another terrific animated video in their toolkit for advocates of high-quality early education. This time it’s “Brain Builders,” narrated by Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. In the more recent video, Shonkoff uses layman’s terms to explain the complex neurological and molecular interaction between children’s early experiences and the developing architecture of their young brains.

“The healthy development of young children in the early years of life literally does provide a foundation for just about all of the challenging social problems that our society and other societies face,” Shonkoff says. “What we’re learning through exciting developments in neuroscience and molecular biology is how much early experience from birth – in fact, even before birth – how much this experience literally gets into our bodies and shapes our learning capacities and behaviors and physical and mental health. The brain is basically built from the bottom up. First, the brain builds basic circuits and more complex circuits are built on top of those basic circuits as we develop more complex skills. Biologically the brain is prepared to be shaped by experience. It is expecting the experiences that a young child has to literally influence the formation of its circuitry.”

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Can high-quality preschool programs make children healthier when they grow up? A new study suggests that they can.

“A new analysis of the Abecedarian preschool program, one of the oldest and most cited U.S. early childhood intervention programs, shows positive effects on adult health. Using recently collected data in a biomedical sweep, this research finds that children who were in the treatment group have significantly better health in their mid-30s,” according to a research summary on the Heckman Equation website.

The research was a joint project of Nobel Prize-winning, Economics Professor James J. Heckman and his colleagues at the University of Chicago along with researchers at the University College London and at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina (FPG). Their findings were published last month in Science.

The new study looked at children who attended North Carolina’s Abecedarian preschool program in the 1970s, and found lower rates of pre-hypertension for adults in their mid-30s, as well as lower risk of total coronary heart disease. In men, there were lower combinations of obesity and hypertension.

As the New York Times explains, researchers had already looked at cognitive and academic outcomes such as “whether the treated children would, for example, be less likely to fail in school. The answer was yes. Over all, the participants’ abilities as infants were about the same, but by age 3 they had diverged. By age 30, those in the group given special care were four times as likely to have graduated from college.” Continue Reading »

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Last week, more than 100 early educators, K-12 teachers and administrators, nonprofit community leaders, advocates and philanthropists gathered at the Boston Children’s Museum for Strategies for Children’s third Leading the Conversation event: a panel discussion titled “Designing and Implementing Effective Volunteer Efforts Focused on Literacy.”

Planned by Kelly Kulsrud, Strategies’ director of reading proficiency, the panel focused on shifting the paradigm and changing the conversation around creating high-quality volunteer programs that make a measurable difference for children’s literacy development.

Designing effective volunteer programs “is an issue that is gaining momentum here in Boston [and] across the states as well as nationally,” Carolyn Lyons, CEO and president of Strategies for Children (SFC), explained as she welcomed the event audience.

During her own welcoming remarks, Carole Charnow, CEO of the Boston Children’s Museum, said, “We know that it’s this high-quality bond between adults and children that really provides the best possible outcomes for kids.”

This event is part of SFC’s “Leading the Conversation” series, which delves into the recommendations made in “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” a 2010 report commissioned by SFC and written by Nonie Lesaux, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Continue Reading »

In Quotes

“If children do not achieve a basic level of vocabulary, linguistic fluency and literacy as well as various social skills before they start school, their ability to unlock the potential that formal schooling offers is massively reduced. It is, therefore, vitally important that all children start school with the foundations in place and ready to learn. Over the next decade this will surely demand universal pre-K, with state funding for all 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families.”

Sir Michael Barber and Simon Day, authors of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education report, “The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts for the Next 20 Years”, released on March 24, 2014

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

“When Luke gets angry, he tries to remember to look at his bracelet. It reminds him of what he can do to calm himself: stop, take a deep breath, count to four, give yourself a hug and, if necessary, ask an adult for help,” David Bornstein wrote in the recent New York Times blog “Teaching Children to Calm Themselves.”

Only 5 years old, “Luke’s difficulties stem from his earliest experiences. Before and after his birth, his parents regularly used drugs. His mother was unable to attend to him and his father was sent to prison shortly after his first birthday.”

What has helped “Luke” (Bornstein agreed not to use his real name) is a program called Head Start-Trauma Smart “that currently serves some 3,300 children annually in 26 counties in Kansas and Missouri.” The program was developed by the Crittenton Children’s Center, in Kansas City, Mo., which provides psychiatric services to children, adolescents and their families.

Continue Reading »

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