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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

This year’s MCAS test results have been released.

And while this assessment of Massachusetts students is 25 years old, this year’s results are part of a “new generation” of testing that’s designed “to measure how a school or district is doing and what kind of support it may need,” according to a press release from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

The next-generation MCAS “is more comprehensive than the previous system and complies with the 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act.” This is the second year that the new MCAS has been administered, so this year’s results can only be compared to last year’s – and not to earlier years.

Students’ test scores are sorted into one of four assessment categories:

• exceeding expectations

• meeting expectations

• partially meeting expectations, and

• not meeting expectations

The year’s results are similar to last year’s, the press release notes. In English and math, “approximately 50 percent of the students who took the test scored Meeting Expectations or above.” (more…)

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Members of the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership. Source: Education Trust’s Twitter page.

 

Massachusetts is a great place to get a K-12 education — but not for everyone.

Many students in this state do extremely well on a national standardized test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP. A May 2018 report from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) says:

• “Massachusetts tied for first place on the grades 4 and 8 NAEP reading assessments,” and

• “On the NAEP mathematics assessments, Massachusetts tied for first with five other states at grade 4 and one other state on grade 8.”

But not every student does this well. Massachusetts is also home to “glaring and persistent disparities in opportunity and achievement that separate low-income students and students of color from their peers.”

That’s the finding of a new report called, “#1 for Some: Opportunity and Achievement in Massachusetts,” that has been released by the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership, a growing coalition of nonprofit organizations. Strategies for Children is one of 15 current members. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Do you have exciting ideas about early education that need funding?

If so, consider sending them to the inaugural Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge.

Sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Zaentz challenge is “calling for individuals or teams to submit new ideas, fresh thinking, and strategic approaches that drive lasting change in early education.”

Projects that are accepted will receive up to $15,000 in implementation funding.

Why now? Because “there is tremendous interest and excitement along with expansion in access in many cities and towns across the nation.”

“We are seeking ideas and approaches that promote positive outcomes at multiple levels of the early education system, including the home, classroom, program and networks, and/or policy.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What would make the transition from pre-K to kindergarten easier?

Four states are trying to find out, according to a recent report from New America called, “Connecting the Steps: State Strategies to Ease the Transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten.”

The path from pre-K to kindergarten can be “fraught with stress and uncertainty for many children and their parents,” New America says in a policy paper. Kindergarten’s days are often longer, and the curriculum can focus more on academics.

“This transition is significant for parents as well. Contact with teachers is often more formalized and less frequent than in a pre-K classroom. There is often less emphasis on parent-teacher and parent-parent contact than before. This can leave parents feeling out of the loop… and can lead to less parental involvement in the classroom.”

While schools and districts have to ease the transition, “states can actively encourage intentional, local efforts to smooth transitions to kindergarten.”

To show what states can do, (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Vermont is pressing ahead on its preschool plans.

Back in 2014, then-Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into a law that offered 10 hours a week of high-quality preschool programs to the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds. By 2016, more and more programs were up and running.

Now, Vermont is in its first year of fully implementing universal pre-K statewide.

As Vermont Public Radio (VPR) explains, “All of Vermont’s 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds who are not attending kindergarten are eligible to participate in Universal Pre-K, but it’s not required.”

The VPR report adds:

“Under Act 166, the state pays a set tuition to schools such as Wee Explorers to provide 10 hours of preschool a week, for the 35-week school year. This year the tuition is just under $3,100 per student. In total, the state is spending about $13.7 million on Pre-K tuition this year. That accounts for payments made to private preschools as well as payments to public preschools for out-of-district students who attend a preschool program run by a school district.”

“Basically, it works like a voucher program for preschool. Families can choose to send their child to pre-K at their local public school, if it’s offered. Or they can pick a private program that is ‘pre-qualified’ or, in other words, endorsed by the state.”

How’s it going? (more…)

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

*     *     *

TKMy name is Teddy Kokoros, and for the past 13 years I’ve had the pleasure of working as a preschool and pre-K teacher at the Transportation Children’s Center (TCC) in Boston. I first started working at TCC after completing my associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Bay State College’s now defunct Early Childhood Education program. Under the tutelage of my professor Linda Small, I got both the academic knowledge and the field experience via internships that I needed to be a competent early educator.

Initially, after completing my associate’s degree, I transferred to Wheelock College to continue my education but quickly had to drop out to work full-time when my family experienced financial and other hardships. I needed a full-time job to help out. Luckily, TCC, where I had completed an internship, was hiring and gave me a job as a preschool teacher. (more…)

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School leaders are expanding their commitment to early education by promoting a new set of policy recommendations. It’s an enhanced allegiance between pre-K and K-12 that promises to yield important progress for children.

“While state chiefs do not have full authority over all early childhood programs, we are crucial leaders in any effort to strengthen early learning opportunities and outcomes,” according to a new policy statement from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) called, “Equity Starts Early: How Chiefs Will Build High-Quality Early Education.”

CCSSO represents the “public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states.” (more…)

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