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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

 

 

“As a constituent, I am grateful for the services offered,” Nairobi Woodberry, a Framingham mother of three, said yesterday at Advocacy Day 2020 about the early education and care support she has received, including a booklet with information about Framingham’s public parks and school contact information as well as advice on how to look for quality early education and care programs. Woodberry is also part of the ParentChild Plus+ program, which provides home visiting and other services to families.

Woodberry, who was previously homeless, now works as a school bus driver.

 

 

 

Early educators attended Advocacy Day and spoke about the importance of being paid higher wages so that they can stay in the field — and support their own families.

 

Sign: “Thank you for supporting high-quality early education.”

 

Photos: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

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What does it take to expand pre-K? Take a look at Holyoke, Mass.

That’s where officials used a federal Preschool Expansion Grant to enroll children in high-quality early education programs and to reach out to and engage parents.

What made Holyoke successful?

Tune into Episode 51 of the Gateways Podcast to find out. The podcast, which is sponsored by local think tank MassINC, looks at lessons learned and future strategies.

Hosted by Ben Forman, MassINC’s research director, episode 51’s guests were:

• Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign

• Steve Huntley, executive director of the Valley Opportunity Council, and

• Stephen Zrike, Holyoke Public Schools’ receiver and superintendent.

In a LinkedIn post, Tom Weber, the former commissioner of Massachusetts’ Department of Early Education and Care, called the podcast “a thoughtful discussion of an innovative public-partnership model that has delivered strong student outcomes…”

What’s next for Holyoke and other cities that want to expand pre-K?

As we’ve blogged, they could choose to use new Student Opportunity Act funding to invest in high-quality pre-K programs.

The sooner cities act the better, because as Amy explains in the podcast:

“All the research tells us that if we invest earlier and have high-quality programs, we’re going to see benefits for children and families.”

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“The new promise of additional funding from the state, as well as an encouragement from the state’s education commissioner, has some school officials and early childhood education advocates hoping free preschool could be the next big push in public education in Massachusetts.

“But funding constraints, even with the passage of the Student Opportunity Act and its $1.5 billion for public schools, as well as logistical challenges could hinder local efforts to invest in prekindergarten programming, at least in the short term.”

“ ‘I don’t see why we can’t do it,’ said Spencer-East Brookfield Superintendent Paul Haughey, one of the school officials in the region who has plans to bring free full-day preschool to his district. ‘But it’s going to have a price tag.’ ”

“Other districts in the region, including Worcester, however, appear less committed, citing a shortage of space for classrooms and limited funding.

“ ‘We’ve discussed it, but at the present point, we have other needs,’ said Worcester Superintendent Maureen Binienda, who added her administration is ‘kind of keeping it on the shelf.’ ”

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“ ‘It would be quicker for a community’ to take on the challenge of creating or expanding full-day preschool, [Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All campaign] said, using annual Chapter 70 funding provided by the state through the Act, instead of relying on federal and state grants.

“At the very least, O’Leary said, the Student Opportunity Act implementation process will give school officials a reason to ‘sit down together and get a better understanding of the needs of students across the full age spectrum … this is an opportunity to take stock of what we’re doing.’ ”

“State funding hike opens door for more public early ed, but challenges remain,” by Scott O’Connell, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, February 8, 2020

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

 

In Massachusetts, there’s a new state law on the books – the Student Opportunity Act. It calls on school districts to close the achievement gap by investing historic new state funding for education ($1.5 billion over seven years) in proven solutions.

One solution that districts can choose: high-quality early education and care.

Districts have until April 1, 2020, to develop and submit their plans for closing the gap to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley explained last fall that school superintendents have to work with school committees to develop:

“…a three-year, evidence-based plan to address persistent disparities in achievement among student subgroups. In developing its plan, each district must consider input and recommendations from parents and other community stakeholders, including special education and English learner parent advisory councils, school improvement councils, and educators.” (more…)

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Massachusetts has received great news.

The state’s federal Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) program “had a powerful impact on children’s early academic skills. The program proved effective for all children on average,” Yahoo Finance reports.

The analysis of the PEG grant was conducted by Abt Associates.

Among Abt’s findings, according to a press release:

“PEG improved children’s readiness for kindergarten by providing:

• a sizable positive impact on children’s early literacy and math skills, and

• a smaller positive impact on vocabulary skills.”

“PEG had an even bigger impact on children from homes where English was not the primary language and for children with no prior formal child care experience,” Education Dive adds. (more…)

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“I am a product of early education and care; and my daughter is a product of it as well,” Nikki Burnett told us recently. Burnett’s daughter is currently a student at Howard University.

As for Burnett herself she has come full circle. Born and raised in Massachusetts, in Springfield’s Mason Square neighborhood, Burnett worked for over a decade as a senior administrator at the American Heart Association. Now she’s back in Mason Square working as the executive director of the new Educare Springfield center, which just opened this month and is already at full enrollment.

Educare is an evidence-based national network of 25 early education programs with the sweeping goal of figuring out “the most effective and the most promising ways to work with each individual child and each individual family, and we do that with excitement and passion for the work,” according to Charlotte Brantley, the president and CEO of the Clayton Early Learning, Educare Denver.

Burnett echoes this ambition, explaining, “We may only have 141 children enrolled, but we are beholden to the education of all children.” Educare’s approach is to innovate and share its work on preparing young children to succeed in school. Burnett wants to ensure that all the children whose lives she touches aren’t struggling to catch up in kindergarten – as well as in first, second, and third grade. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Across the country, K-12 schools are spreading their wings by working in the early education space. It’s an approach that promises to help more young children succeed as they transition into elementary school.

One example in the suburbs of Omaha, Neb., is Belleaire Elementary School, where providing a good education includes working with families before children are old enough to go to school.

“Belleaire is one of 10 schools in the Omaha metropolitan area that are rethinking the scope of early childhood education,” an EdSurge article says. “Traditionally, early childhood education focuses on serving children before they reach kindergarten. But more recently, researchers have begun to think about early childhood education as encompassing the first eight years—years that are critical for neural development and where early interventions can have a profound impact in later years.”

This is all part of Omaha’s Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan, a $2.5 million per year initiative that’s funded by a tax measure. (more…)

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