Danielle Scanlon

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

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My name is Danielle Scanlon, and I work at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts. I have been in the early education and care field for about six and a half years.

As an infant teacher, I appreciate the value of early education and the amount of work infant and toddler teachers put into each lesson. Infants learn more in their first year than any other year of life. Young children, all children, learn best through play, hands on experimentation, and manipulation.

You cannot teach what red and yellow make by reading a book on colors. Infant and toddler teachers know this, so they create activities that let young children discover what happens to colors when they move them around on a giant piece of paper, covering themselves with paint.

I try to get the families involved in their infants’ education by inviting them to our room to help us create the paint art. This helps parents understand the value of play. The parents learn to appreciate that children need to explore using all of their senses, and children need to be able to make a mess to understand cause and effect. Continue Reading »

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

On Tuesday of this week, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means released a $38 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2016. The proposal represents a 3.1 percent spending increase over FY15. It relies on $572 million in one-time funds and does not recommend any tax changes.

The committee’s proposal is themed “Lifting All Families,” and “makes targeted investments to foster shared prosperity, encourage overall economic growth and create new opportunities for people in all corners of our commonwealth.”

Among these targeted investments are increases to early education and care. The Department of Early Education and Care and its programs are funded at $545.51 million, roughly $6 million higher than in the House of Representatives’ FY16 budget. This includes a $12 million investment to serve children on the state’s income eligible waiting list for early education and care subsidies. The Senate proposal also consolidates two major subsidy access accounts, Supportive Child Care and TANF. Continue Reading »

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.

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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 »


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