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“We want our next president to make early education a priority.”

From the video, “Iowans Press Candidates on Early Education,” posted by Save the Children on August 5, 2015

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“Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) is running a multi-pronged strategy in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina designed to convince candidates from both parties that preschool is a winning issue among swing voters.”

“Mark Shriver, SCAN’s president, formed the 501c(4) organization last year to ‘turn up the heat’ on legislators and policymakers.

“‘At Save the Children through the last 12 years, I’d go around the country and talk to people and they all tell me I’m doing God’s work and this is critically important,’ said Shriver, 51, a former Maryland lawmaker and nephew of President John F. Kennedy. ‘But when push comes to shove, they’re not putting their money where their mouth is.’

“‘Too many politicians think of education as ‘nice but not necessary,’ Shriver said in an interview. ‘We’re trying to look at this from purely a political perspective. How do we make early-childhood education a priority and a necessity for the voters who are going to elect the next president of the United States?’”

“Save the Children crusades to make preschool a top-tier campaign issue,” the Washington Post, August 12, 2015

Performance space designed by children in Boston. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Performance space designed by children in Boston.
Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

What does it mean to be a citizen — for preschool children?

They can’t vote. But they are great talkers bursting with ideas. And as citizens their ideas — about playgrounds, transportation, and how to make communities more fair — should be heard and, ideally, seen, since their thinking could change the world.

Because Ben Mardell believes strongly in these principles, his career has been like a megaphone for very young citizens. A professor of early education at Lesley University, Mardell has worked hard to create opportunities for children to participate in civic life.

One recent example that we blogged about is the Our Boston project, which culminated in an exhibit at Boston’s City Hall the featured children’s models of playgrounds, a language museum, a book bus, and a ferry system.

Now an article in the Atlantic written by early educator Amy Rothschild — “The Citizen Preschooler: What should young children learn about being part of a democracy?” —profiles work being done in Washington, D.C., by Mardell and Project Zero, a research group based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

On Wednesday, September 16th, 2015, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing for all bills related to early education and care. Among these is “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

Supported by the “Pre-K for MA” Coalition, which is being led by Strategies for Children (SFC) and Stand for Children Massachusetts, the bill calls on Massachusetts to follow in New Jersey’s footsteps and create high-quality pre-K programs for 3- and 4-year-olds who live in underperforming school districts. The bill was filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

We see the bill’s targeted, phased-in approach as getting us closer to our ultimate vision of high-quality early education for children in Massachusetts.

This proposed legislation would build on the recent history of progress in Massachusetts: Continue Reading »

Lisa Crowley

Lisa Crowley

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

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My name is Lisa Crowley, and I work at Horizons for Homeless Children in Roxbury, Mass., where I am a full-time preschool teacher. I also work part-time at a Walgreens Pharmacy.

I have been in early education and care for 11 years. I started my career as an integrating aide for an autistic child at a Head Start program. The following school year, I became an assistant teacher at the same Head Start program. In 2011, I began my journey at Horizons for Homeless Children.

What’s important about my work is helping homeless children who have experienced trauma. I help them by teaching social-emotional skills, self-help skills, and independence.

As an educator, I am most proud of learning and working with children who have sensory needs and challenging behaviors. I work with these children one-on-one and figure out what their needs are to help them grow and learn like most children their age.

As an example, I am currently teaching a child who has sensory needs and who uses self-injury as a coping skill. I have tried many different strategies with him this past year to reduce the self-injury, and to use different sensory tools to help him cope with frustration, sadness and anger. Continue Reading »

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Fall is coming and it’s going to be a busy season for early education and care advocates. There’ll be hearings on important legislation and the crucial work of drafting the budget for fiscal year 2017.

To make the advocacy case, try this useful tool: the 2013 policy brief “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education.”

As we blogged earlier this week, the brief is a “review of the current science and evidence base on early childhood education.” Yesterday, we looked at the impact on children’s academic skills and on their socio-emotional development.

In today’s blog, we’ll look at what the brief says about early education’s quality, its long-term outcomes, and its effect on diverse subgroups.

 

Quality Matters

“Children show larger gains in higher-quality preschool programs,” the brief says, summing up the research. “Higher-quality preschool programs have larger impacts on children’s development while children are enrolled in the program and are more likely to create gains that are sustained after the child leaves preschool.”

“The most important aspects of quality in preschool education are stimulating and supportive interactions between teachers and children and effective use of curricula.” Continue Reading »

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Get ready for the fall. It’s going to be a busy public policy season for early education and care. It’s also going to be a great time for advocates to remind policymakers that the evidence for high-quality early education is strong and growing.

Among the highlights of the coming months, five Massachusetts communities will be expanding pre-K enrollment with the help of a federal Preschool Expansion Grant.

In addition, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing for all bills related to early education and care on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

Several Pre-K bills will be presented, including one filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) called “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

As we’ve blogged, “The bill calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey by providing ‘access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts.’”

To help make the case for increased investments in early learning, it’s always helpful to draw on existing research. A terrific summary of recent research can be found in the 2013 policy brief, “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education.” The brief was published by the Society for Research in Child Development and the Foundation for Child Development. Continue Reading »

“Preschool is founded on play; experts say it’s how children learn best. But not all play is the same.

“How, then, should parents decide what school is right for their child? They can readily compare cost and location, but quality is tougher to discern…”

“Jane Lannak, director of the Early Childhood Learning Lab at Boston University and a clinical associate professor, said children need to develop a love of learning as they play, and to feel respected and part of the classroom community.

“One good way to foster those ideals is to help them follow their interests, she said. Parents should look for a program with structure in which children make some choices about what activities they do.”

From “How to pick the right preschool for your child,” by Jennette Barnes, the Boston Globe, July 30, 2015

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