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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

This month, a National Geographic article explores “Baby Brains,” looking at the factors that hinder or help infants’ neurological development.

“Peering inside children’s brains with new imaging tools, scientists are untangling the mystery of how a child goes from being barely able to see when just born to being able to talk, ride a tricycle, draw, and invent an imaginary friend by the age of five,” the article explains. “The more scientists find out about how children acquire the capacity for language, numbers, and emotional understanding during this period, the more they realize that the baby brain is an incredible learning machine. Its future—to a great extent—is in our hands.”

The article adds: “The amount of brain activity in the earliest years affects how much there is later in life.” A picture of the EEG scans of eight-year-olds shows “that institutionalized children who were not moved to a nurturing foster care environment before they were two years old have less activity than those who were.” Again, early nurturing was essential for building brains.  Continue Reading »

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

During last month’s White House Summit on Early Education, the Obama Administration released a new public policy tool, the “Playbook for Becoming an Early Learning Community.”

The playbook offers communities “strategies for local leaders to develop and expand early education in their communities,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s part of the president’s national early learning agenda called “Invest in US.”

The playbook should be a helpful resource to local communities — both here in Massachusetts and across the nation — that are working to improve early learning and kindergarten readiness.

As the playbook explains, “An Early Learning Community works together to deliver measurable improvements in the lives of its youngest children. It provides all Continue Reading »

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Purpose of Education,” in the January-February, 1947, edition of the Maroon Tiger, a Morehouse College literary journal

Quoted in a recent Education Week article, Tomoko Wakabayashi argues that research on preschool and early-childhood education must take the long view — measuring outcomes over time — because key benefits of pre-K programs such as executive function and other noncognitive skills don’t begin to appear until later in life.

Wakabayashi is the research director at the HighScope Educational Research Foundation, the Ypsilanti, Mich.-based center that launched the landmark Perry Preschool Project and studied the impact of this program’s intensive approach to early childhood education.

“Some of the effects that came out, you never would have found them in preschool… If Perry hadn’t followed students for so long, a lot of the discussion around preschool would have been different; there would have been just a fade out of IQ [benefits], and that would have been it.” 

“Schools Seek to Strike a Balance on Rigor in Early Years,” by Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week, January 2, 2015

 

 

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

What do you think young children need to develop strong social/emotional and learning skills?

Let the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) know.

EEC is holding three public hearings in Boston, Brockton, and Worcester to get public feedback on a draft of proposed social-emotional learning standards.

Called the “Pre-School and Kindergarten Standards in the domains of Social-Emotional Development and Approaches to Play and Learning,” the draft can be downloaded by clicking here.

The need for standards is clear. As the draft explains: “The preponderance of outcomes from both research and evidence-based practice clearly show the strong connection between social and emotional learning, academic learning, and success in life. In fact this synergistic development of social and emotional and academic skills promotes and facilitates higher order thinking.”  Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

What makes a high-quality preschool or out-of-school-time space?

Lots of things, including natural light and fresh paint; engaging spaces where children can play, read, or try on hats and costumes; a good heating and cooling system; easy access to fully equipped outdoor play spaces; and modern, functional bathrooms.

Unfortunately, a 2011 report from the Children’s Investment Fund (CIF) revealed that a number of early education and out-of-school-time programs were located in problematic spaces. Deficiencies ranged from holes in the ceiling and leaking toilets to poor air quality and outdoor play spaces that were really just parking lots.

Thanks, however, to the advocacy work of CIF and others, the Massachusetts Legislature used the 2013 Housing and Community Development Bond Bill to create the new $45 million Early Education and Out of School Time (EEOST) Capital FundContinue Reading »

Chris Martes

Chris Martes

Chris Martes, Strategies for Children’s president and CEO, has a new article out in the latest edition of CommonWealth Magazine.

In “A chance to lead on early education,” Martes writes that Massachusetts can be a national role model by building strong pre-K programs. This would prepare more children for lifelong success and set an example for other states.

“From the White House to business boardrooms to the offices of scores of Republican and Democratic mayors, governors, and members of Congress, we’re seeing historic momentum on expanding and improving preschool programs,” Martes writes.

“It is in this spirit of historic potential that we welcome Gov. Charlie Baker to the State House. He and his team have the opportunity to break new ground.”

Pre-K Helps Improve K-12

“The Commonwealth needs strong K-12 schools. But having served for nearly two decades as a school superintendent and as an interim superintendent in five Massachusetts communities, I can tell you that K-12 schools cannot reform education on their own,” Martes explains. “There’s too much work to do. Too many achievement gaps are already in place on the first day that children walk into kindergarten.  Continue Reading »

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