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Archive for the ‘Pre-kindergarten’ Category

 

Friends and colleagues,

We hope you are all staying healthy at this time of crisis.

Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced that child care programs in Massachusetts will close on Monday, March 23, 2020.

However, Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs will be available regionally to provide care for emergency workers and others. Check the Department of Early Education and Care’s website for guidance documents.

The governor also said that, “Child care providers would continue to receive child care subsidy payments from the state in order to ensure that the programs will be able to reopen once the crisis is over.”

Strategies for Children has been working with the early education and care community to collect and share programs’ urgent needs and to consider advocacy strategies for supporting early education and care providers right now — with an eye on the potential long-term effects of the coronavirus.

If you are an early educator or program director please complete this online form to let us know your short- and long-term needs. If you would like more information, reply to this email or contact Amy O’Leary at aoleary@strategiesforchildren.org.

Here are additional links and resources: (more…)

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Last week, 350 people (many of them strategically wearing red) came to the Massachusetts State House for Advocacy Day for Early Education & Care and School Age Programs.

 

Caitlin Jones and Leishla Diaz of The Guild of St. Agnes in Worcester

 

The morning started with speeches from legislators and the commissioner of Early Education and Care – as well as remarks from a parent and from another parent who became an early educator.

 

 

Afterwards, attendees went to meet with the legislators. Here’s a recap of what the speakers said. (more…)

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“Two divides thwart the best efforts of American educators to improve outcomes for low-income children and their families.

“The first is the gap between early-childhood and K-12 education. The second is between K-12 education and health and social services. Typically these institutions operate in silos. Yet decades of research confirm that to best learn and thrive, children need early-childhood and elementary education to be aligned so that each year builds upon the last, and they need health and social services to be coordinated to maximize their positive impact.

“Over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to research and work with communities that are attempting to bridge these divides.”

“Despite working independently, these communities have diagnosed similar challenges to improving supports for children and families. In response, they are converging on a common set of innovative structures and strategies.”

 

“Four Strategies for Getting the First 10 Years of a Child’s Life Right,” by David Jacobson, Education Week, February 4, 2020

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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: Rhode Island Governor (and Caped Crusader) Gina Raimondo. Source: Governor Raimondo’s Flickr account.

 

Thanks to the smart use of best practices, Rhode Island is leading the way on special education practices in pre-K.

We recently learned more about Rhode Island’s efforts from Lisa Nugent, the state’s Coordinator of Early Learning.

Rhode Island is a good example of success because it got a late start on building its pre-K system. But this delay enabled Rhode Island to learn from other states and choose effective strategies for serving young children.

Like Massachusetts, Rhode Island has a mixed delivery model. Children can attend programs in schools, centers, and through Head Start.

Across these settings, one of the state’s priorities is providing high-quality special education in early childhood settings through the Itinerant Early Childhood Special Education (IECSE) program. (more…)

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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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