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President Obama hugs Alajah, the third-grader who introduced him at the summit.  Photo: The White House.

President Obama hugs Alajah Lane, the third-grader who introduced him at the summit. Photo: The White House

Yesterday was a historic day at the White House. President Obama hosted an early education summit that included an announcement about increased resources for young children and families.

The White House Summit on Early Education brought together a wide range of stakeholders — mayors, school superintendents, members of Congress, philanthropists, funders, and corporate and community leaders — who shared their work on providing high-quality preschool programs.

And President Obama announced that states had won over $1 billion in early childhood grant awards. The president also announced an additional $330 million in private funding.

“Early education is a win for everyone,” Obama said in his summit speech. High-quality programs give children a strong start and they save taxpayer dollars. And as Obama pointed out, progress has been bipartisan. Red and blue states including Oklahoma and Georgia and New York and New Jersey have boosted their commitment to high-quality preschool.  Continue Reading »

Yesterday, Governor Deval Patrick announced that “Massachusetts is one of 13 grant award winners in the federal Preschool Development Grant: Expansion Grant competition, and will receive significant funding to expand high quality preschool programs in five high-needs communities across the state. These communities are Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell and Springfield.”

Chris Martes

Chris Martes

In response, 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, we applaud the Patrick Administration and the Department of Early Education and Care for its successful federal grant proposal for pre-kindergarten. This funding will help the commonwealth close the achievement gap by investing in high-quality early learning experiences for some of our neediest children. Too many children show up for school already behind, and too many never catch up. High quality pre-k is an evidence-based strategy for closing the achievement gap.

High-quality early education is about starting early to support and develop the whole-child: social/emotional skills, vocabulary, early math, executive function, creativity, and a love of learning. The best pre-kindergarten programs do this, all under the safe and supportive guidance of high-quality, well trained, well compensated early childhood educators.

Children in Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield will benefit directly from this grant. In these communities, high-quality programs from across the mixed-provider early education field will provide the pre-K program, and partner Continue Reading »

Last Week, Fort Worth, Tx., hosted a statewide summit on early learning, and public radio station KERA conducted an interview of three of the summit’s experts: a pediatrician, an economist, and a business leader, about “how early childhood programs and elementary educators can better prepare kids for academic success.”

The three interviewees are:

Dr. Neal Halfon, a pediatrics professor and director of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities

James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning, University of Chicago professor of economics, and

Robert H. Dugger, Chairman of the ReadyNation Advisory Board and Invest in Kids Working Group

The conversation covers achievement gaps, parent engagement, kindergarten readiness, and the importance of being able to play well with others.

Of these crucial social and emotional skills, Dugger says, “From the business community, we think of these more as executive skills. These are the skills that enable a person to work effectively in a team.”

“If these skills are not in place by age 5 — kindergarten entry — they frequently don’t appear. We know that addressing them before age 5 works.”

To hear more, listen to the interview. It’s posted on KERA’s website and can also be downloaded.

And consider making a comment on the interview’s webpage to stir up the conversation on the importance of high-quality early education and care.

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Mental health matters, especially in early childhood. That’s why the Massachusetts Early Childhood Mental Health Partnership has released a new tool for providers and programs that want to integrate child mental health into pediatric primary care.

The new “Early Childhood Mental Health Toolkit: Integrating Mental Health Services into the Pediatric Medical Home” presents a model that is based on “a partnership between a family partner and mental health clinician,” according to the partnership’s website.

“A small change at the pediatrician’s office can make a large difference for all U.S. children,” the website says. “Integrating early childhood mental health staff, services, and systems into pediatric practices, also known as medical homes, transforms primary care visits into holistic visits that care for the physical and mental health of a young child.”

It’s a whole-child approach that can help families access services more quickly.

“While some mental health needs clearly call for the services of a specialist,” the website explains, “experience indicates that with adequate supports, the pediatric Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Early Learning Needs Accountability” the title of a recent Education Week opinion piece declares.

Written by Elliot Regenstein, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and Rio Romero-Jurado, who works on the fund’s policy team, the article asks a key question:

How can K-12 education improve if policymakers don’t know how well children are doing in early learning settings?

The article links to several policy briefs that the Ounce of Prevention Fund is using to fuel “Policy Conversations” by “publishing some innovative ideas about how we can bridge the early education and K–12 systems, improving the quality and outcomes of both.”

The Recent and Disappointing History of Accountability Efforts

The authors write that, “To date, accountability policies have focused on student test scores from 3rd grade onward as the primary measure of progress, ignoring what goes on before then.”

However it is these first years of life that “are actually the most important to a child’s development, and we need an accountability system that measures the Continue Reading »

“Since 2004, Federal Reserve leadership—the Chairman and leadership from the regional banks—have endorsed high-quality early childhood education as a key economic development strategy,” the national nonprofit ReadyNation explains in an inspiring collection of quotations, including:

“Gaps in skills that are important for adult outcomes are observable by age 5 and tend to persist into adulthood…It makes economic sense to concentrate intensive human capital investment in the form of formal schooling on the young: The earlier workers invest, the longer they have to profit from their investments.”

Jeffrey Lacker, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, “Investing in people as an economic growth strategy.” Washington Post, July 13, 2014

*     *     *

“Research increasingly has shown the importance for both individuals and the economy as a whole of both early childhood education as well as efforts to promote the lifelong acquisition of skills. The payoffs of early childhood programs can be especially high.”

Ben Bernanke, former Chair, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System, (Bernanke is currently an economist at the Brookings Institution) in a speech presented to the Southern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, Charleston, SC. Federal Reserve Board of Governors, August 2, 2010

 

 

Stephanie Sanchez, of Stand for Children, and Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode

Stephanie Sanchez, of Stand for Children, and Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode

This isn’t just the season for holiday shopping. Now that Election Day has passed, it’s also a great time for advocates to reach out to policymakers – including the newly elected officials who will be sworn in next month — and make the case for prioritizing birth-through-third-grade learning.

“Start now and lay a foundation,” Amy O’Leary, the director of our Early Education for All Campaign, said at a post-election strategy meeting that Strategies for Children (SFC) held on Tuesday. Attended by 30 local leaders in early education and care, the meeting took place at the Nurtury Learning Lab in Jamaica Plain.

What to Say: Crafting a Message 

Write to local leaders — or call, email, and Tweet. Congratulate them on winning their elections, O’Leary advised, and encourage them to focus on expanding and improving education for the commonwealth’s youngest children. Continue Reading »

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