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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

The expansion of pre-K programs around the country has raised pressing questions regarding the early education workforce: Are there enough highly skilled preschool teachers to meet policymakers’ goals? If not, how do we develop the workforce we need to meet high standards and expectations? And perhaps most vexing, what should we pay them?

As a new report says, “it is a daunting challenge to ensure that all classrooms, whether in pre-kindergarten or in older grades, are staffed by teachers who are skilled at nurturing children’s curiosity and fostering learning.”

In addition, “It is also an urgently pressing challenge, given the persistent learning gap between children living in poverty and their more advantaged peers, and the poor academic performance of U.S. students on international achievement tests.”

The report — “Building a Skilled Teacher Workforce: Shared and Divergent Challenges in Early Care and Education and in Grades K-12” – was written by Marcy Whitebook, the director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, which is part of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Last spring, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh launched the Universal Pre-Kindergarten Advisory Committee to help the city plan how to double the number of 4-year-olds in high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten programs by 2018.

Now the committee is inviting Boston parents who have young children to help by filling out a Universal Pre-K survey about “their experiences and hopes” and their opinions about the city’s preschool programs, according to the Boston Public Schools’ Early Childhood website.

Supporting this effort, Thrive in 5 — a partnership between the Mayor’s Office and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley — is working with other community partners to “conduct a series of stakeholder focus groups across Boston, and offer online surveys to gather input about the strengths and needs of all of the City’s neighborhoods for high-quality pre-kindergarten.”

Please help spread the word by sharing the link to the survey via email and social media. There are thousands of parents who could fill out the survey, and their input could help shape early education in Boston. Continue Reading »

“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 »

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