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“It’s like getting the band back together,” Pat Haddad (D-Somerset), Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, said of herself and some her colleagues who gathered at the State House on Tuesday for “Looking Back to Look Forward,” a Strategies for Children celebration of the tenth anniversary of An Act Relative to Early Education and Care, which became law in 2008.

Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Haddad

Sponsored by Haddad and Senator Robert Antonioni (D-Leominster) and signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick, the new legislation was a bright step forward. It officially established Massachusetts’ Universal Pre-K (UPK) program, and outlined the responsibilities of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and for its board and commissioner.

“We had to block out some of the people who were naysayers,” Haddad said at the Looking Back event. But now, she explained, more and more legislators understand that building a universal pre-K program is “the right thing to do.”

The Legislature has never been able to fully fund UPK, but it has made progress, investing in scholarships for early educators and leveraging the power of federal preschool grant funds. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

Every day in Massachusetts, 75,000 early childhood educators go to work caring for more than 400,000 young children. Yet, these educators face increasing demands inside and outside of the classroom, with low pay and high economic insecurity contributing to a workforce shortage.

Next year, to study these challenges, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Boston, will conduct a sweeping survey of the early education workforce.

This month, to prepare for the survey, researchers from UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (IEELI) have released a preliminary, Phase One report, “The Massachusetts Early Care and Education Workforce Study: Final Report Relevant to Survey Design.” (more…)

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh meets with a young learner. Source: City of Boston Mayor’s Office’s Flickr page.

 

Boston has a long history of preschool progress. Starting under the administration of former Mayor Thomas Menino and continuing with Mayor Marty Walsh’s team, city officials have invested in quality, access, and innovation. Now, this work is featured in a new report — “A Focus on Teaching and Learning in Pre-K through 2nd Grade: Lessons from Boston” — from the think tank New America.

New America praises Boston for having a clear and lasting vision for expanding preschool, rather than “a series of priorities that shift every few years based on changes in district leadership.”

Thanks to a dynamic, public-private partnership, funding for this work came from the city and from funders like the Barr Foundation. (more…)

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Screenshot of NPR website

 

High-quality early education packs a powerful financial punch.

“You can think of having a better kindergarten teacher as being worth something like $300,000 for a classroom of students,” Harvard economist Raj Chetty said earlier this month in an episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast.

In other words, a classroom of kids with a high-quality kindergarten teacher will earn $300,000 more than a classroom without a highly skilled teacher. What makes a good kindergarten teacher? Chetty says this isn’t fully known, but strong teachers have key skills such as the ability to manage a classroom, to help children focus, and to inspire them. (more…)

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Presidential Seminar panelists. Front row: Zaina Cahill and Rachel Giannini. Back row: Llanet Montoya, Mary Graham, and Amy O’Leary.

 

Earlier this month at the NAEYC Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., the Presidential Seminar featured a panel discussion about advocacy with both seasoned advocates and newer advocates who are just finding their advocacy voices.

“To achieve universally accessible, high-early early education and care in our country, we need to build a broad-based movement that is organized, guided and supported by a diverse leadership that has as its core the voices of those who directly work with children and families,” the panel’s description explains, adding that to make a difference for children, families, and the field, early educators should understand that, “We are the ones we have been waiting for – we need to be the change we want to see in the world!”

The panel was planned and moderated by Amy O’Leary, NAEYC’s president and the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All campaign.

The panel discussion was also featured in the Education Dive article, “Panelists stress need for educators to play dual role as pre-K policy advocates.” (more…)

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A Montessori student and Janet Begin

 

“Leading the Way,” is a series featuring the next generation of leaders in the field of early education and care.

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Janet Begin was a computer engineer for ten years. She worked at AT&T Bell Labs.

“I always knew I wanted to go into education,” Begin, a Haverhill resident, says. “But I knew I liked computers, and I was good at that, so I started there because it was more profitable than education. That’s the sad reality.”

Eventually her company offered a buyout — and tuition benefits. Begin took both and went back to school. She earned a master’s degree in education from Lesley University. She became a substitute teacher in Haverhill where she lived. And she started looking for a preschool program for her daughter.

“In my search, I found a Montessori school, and basically it changed my world,” Begin said. (more…)

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Last week, New America, a Washington, D.C., think tank, hosted a policy event called, “At the Breaking Point: How to Better Compensate and Support Teachers of Our Youngest Learners.”

It was a panel discussion on workforce challenges that you can watch by clicking on the video above or by clicking here.

“Teaching and caring for young children is skilled and challenging work. Yet current conditions cause many early childhood educators to come to work each morning exhausted, worried about how to pay their bills, and even clinically depressed,” New America says. (more…)

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