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Archive for the ‘Family engagement’ Category

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Early education policies are all over the map — literally and figuratively. While some states are making big investments in very young children, others lag behind.

How are specific states doing? The Ounce of Prevention Fund, a national advocacy organization, takes a look in its August 2016 State Policy Update. It’s a “mini-update” that “provides a snapshot of early childhood care and education budget and policy changes in states during the 2016 legislative sessions as of July 2016.”

This year, “numerous states across the country made major policy changes and investments that advanced access to high-quality early learning programs,” The Ounce says, pointing to:

• Rhode Island, where “codified key elements of the state’s home visiting system” became law “through the passage of The Rhode Island Family Home Visiting Act. The state’s Department of Health is required to work with other state agencies to identify vulnerable families and offer them the opportunity to enroll in evidence-based home visiting programs.”

• In Nebraska, tax credits abound. “The School Readiness Tax Credit Act will create two new state tax credits… for early childhood programs and individual early childhood professionals in 2017.” (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Want to spread early literacy? Send in a parent. Moms and dads who talk, sing, and read out loud can fill their children’s worlds with engaging, enriching language.

But the challenge for Springfield, Mass., and other cities is figuring out how to reach parents and engage them in sharing a love of language and learning with their children.

To find good ideas on family engagement, the Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative (RS4G), which is backed by The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, did a simple thing: It asked parents.

“Focus groups of parents, and largely moms who participated in one of our three sessions, revealed what we knew: that parents have clearly moved into the digital age,” Sally Fuller writes in a blog post on the Davis Foundation’s Read by Fourth Grade website. “Email, for anyone who has children, is almost recognized as a thing of the past. Moms told us almost universally that their primary engagement with the world comes through social media and texting. The smartphone serves as the communications tool of choice.” (more…)

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By guest blogger Titus DosRemedios

A child’s transition to kindergarten is an important educational milestone. Making that transition a success requires a team effort from teachers, principals, community partners, and families.

One inspiring example of such a team effort took place on August 4, 2016, at the Buttonwood Park Zoo where the New Bedford Public Schools in partnership with P.A.C.E. Inc. held a “Smooth Sailing into Kindergarten” event for entering kindergarten students and their families. The event was designed so that children could meet their new teachers and principals, and so that families could learn more about their child’s school and other resources available in the community.

Sunshine, fun activities, and a welcoming atmosphere helped make this event compelling and fun. The Standard-Times reports, “At the zoo, the children enjoyed various activities the principals and teachers set up, among them bubble-blowing, photo-taking, a train ride and a guest-reader appearance by author Laura Vaughn.”

To highlight the event and create lasting memories each student received a family portrait from Lifetouch, marking their journey into the New Bedford Public Schools. (more…)

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“What does it mean to be ready for kindergarten? To me it’s the basics of academics, getting ready for reading and math, but it’s also social, learning how to be around different kinds of people, and how to deal with conflict. Playing with other kids. Academics and social skills are equally important—that helps not just in school but in life. And those are the skills that our daughter learned in pre-K.”

“I’ve worked as a teacher’s aide before, helping out in the [pre-K] classroom, so I’ve seen what a teacher goes through and how important a good teacher is. It’s hard work. These are the people who are molding and shaping your kid—everything they do matters. Our teachers were awesome. They did trainings, so they were always getting better. They kept us involved and told us everything we wanted to know without having to be asked, and they met us at flexible times because most of the parents work. It felt like a community. Our teachers made every family feel special.”

“Ready for Kindergarten,” by Allegra Myers, posted on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists website, August 19, 2016

 

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Photo: Wrentham Public Schools

Photo: Wrentham Public Schools

A message from Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children (SFC).

“As September starts, children and families across Massachusetts are heading back to school. Even programs that run for a full calendar year are enrolling new children and families and supporting these children as they make this transition. Some children are starting kindergarten and entering an elementary school for the first time. Some children are also entering a classroom for the first time because they’ve had no prior preschool experience. Indeed, national, state, and local data confirm that there is great variation in young children’s experiences during their first five years, and this is, unfortunately, where achievement gaps take root.

“There has been great interest in expanding high-quality early education opportunities for children in the commonwealth. Legislators filed several bills to do this work, however comprehensive pre-K expansion did not become state law this past legislative session. The state’s revenue picture remains challenging, and without additional revenue expanding access to high-quality early education and care will be difficult. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

There isn’t a lot of new state funding for early education and care for fiscal year 2017, but Massachusetts is holding steady, keeping existing funds flowing to provide high-quality learning experiences for young children.

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced “$42 million in grant awards” for a number of initiatives to “support the quality and availability of early education and care programs” across the Commonwealth.

“High-quality early education and care programs provide children with a strong foundation for learning, academic success, and positive outcomes overall,” Baker said in a press release.

“We thank our early education providers and agency partners who work hard every day to provide our youngest learners with the tools they need to succeed in school and life,” Polito added. (more…)

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

*     *     *

JennieMy name is Jennie Antunes, and I have worked in the early education field for 30 years. This past October marked my 29th year with NorthStar Learning Centers in New Bedford, Mass. I am presently a lead teacher in one of our toddler/preschool classrooms. I also have the responsibility of acting as designated administrator when the center director is out of the building.

Through the help of a scholarship program, I earned my bachelor’s degree in 2014. Even though I had been doing this work for so long, there was so much more I wanted to learn to strengthen my teaching. I take great pride in my accomplishments, proving to myself that I could work full time as well as attend school full time.

However, early educators’ pay continues to be a challenge. The goal to have teachers become better educated to better serve children and their families is fantastic and important. Guiding the development and learning of young minds is incredibly difficult and highly skilled work.  (more…)

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