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“If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work; we’ll give them the start that they need to succeed in school and earn higher wages and form more stable families of their own. In fact, today, I’m setting a new goal: By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool. That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger.”

President Barack Obama speaking at Northwestern University, October 2, 2014

An article in Education Week explains what the president’s goal of enrolling six million more children could mean for policymakers.

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Last month’s release of the 2014 MCAS scores revealed that our third grade reading proficiency rates have not changed since last year. Once again, 43 percent of third graders statewide did not score in the proficient range in reading. That’s roughly 29,000 children who did not meet this crucial educational benchmark. And as the research shows, the consequences of reading failure at this age are significant.

To change the trajectory of early literacy in Massachusetts, advocates, literacy experts, practitioners, and state policymakers are taking action. The state’s Early Literacy Expert Panel has just released its Year One Annual Report. It’s an early look into the critical work this panel was charged with: providing “recommendations to state education agencies on the alignment, coordination, implementation and improvement of all existing efforts that bear on children’s literacy outcomes, guided by the goal of improving third grade reading outcomes in the Commonwealth.”

Overseen by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education, the panel will ultimately submit its recommendations to the Departments of Early Education and Care (EEC), Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), and Higher Education (DHE). Continue Reading »

Photo: Courtesy of Jay Gonzalez

Photo: Courtesy of Jay Gonzalez

The Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care has a new chairperson: Jay Gonzalez, a Cleveland native and the former secretary of administration and finance for Governor Deval Patrick. Gonzalez is also president and CEO of CeltiCare Health Plan of Massachusetts.

“Our best opportunity to close achievement gaps is to provide all children with a strong start,” Patrick said in a press release announcing that Gonzalez and Katie Joyce were joining the Board. “Jay and Katie bring to the board diverse experiences and knowledge that will help further the good work already underway with the Board of Early Education and Care to ensure success for all students.” Joyce is vice president for Policy and Domestic and International Government Relations at Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

Gonzalez replaces JD Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, who became board chair in 2009 and will remain as a board member. Continue Reading »

The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) has an engaging video series on its website called “8 x 8” that gives viewers access to the latest thinking on education policy.

“As part of the Bold Ideas & Critical Conversations event on September 19, eight HGSE faculty members were each given eight minutes to discuss research-based ideas that will have a big impact on the field,” the website explains.

It’s like a mini collection of TED talks on education.

The eight faculty members who speak are:

- Karen Brennan, whose research looks at how learning communities can support young people as designers of interactive media

- Howard Gardner – senior director of Harvard’s Project Zero

- Tom Kane – faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research

- Nonie Lesaux, author of “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” a report commissioned by Strategies for Children

Continue Reading »

Last week, the five gubernatorial candidates met in Springfield for this election season’s first televised debate. Hosted by Jim Madigan, WGBY-TV’s public affairs director, the event covered a wide range of topics “from global warming to casino gambling,” according to MassLive.com. The debate was organized by the Springfield Public Forum and the Western Massachusetts Media Consortium.

All five candidates — Republican Charlie Baker, Democrat Martha Coakley, and the three independents, Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively, and Jeff McCormick — also discussed the importance of preschool programs, explaining their strategies for meeting the needs of the commonwealth’s children. Continue Reading »

In Quotes

“Creating successful PreK-3rd grade approaches is no easy feat. And, there’s not just one way to do it. It’s clear, though, that helping children sustain gains made early on takes numerous, coordinated policies and a dedicated group of stakeholders birth-through-third grade.”

Abbie Lieberman, program associate, New America’s Early Education Initiative, in her article, “School Year Begins, States Enhance PreK-3rd Continuum with Race to the Top Funds,” September 23, 2014

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The gubernatorial election is heating up and as the candidates debate the issues, early education is getting plenty of well-deserved attention.

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, it will be up to voters to pick the next governor, but once they do, we’ve got good advice for the man or woman who gets elected.

A Strategies for Children brief called, “Early Education Policy Opportunities for the Next Governor,” provides essential next steps that Massachusetts should take.

Massachusetts is a leader in early education. In 2005, the state established the Department of Early Education and Care. In 2010, the state won a federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant. And thanks to years of work, the state has built a foundation for a system of high-quality early education that aligns with the K-12 system. Continue Reading »

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