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Archive for the ‘Professional development & preparation’ Category

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

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Jennie Fitzkee

Jennie Fitzkee

 

My name is Jennie Fitzkee. I am an Early Childhood Educator teaching the Full Day, multi-age class preschool class at Groton Community School in Groton, Mass. This my 33rd year of teaching preschool. Lucky me!

“Back in the day,” women were encouraged to become a nurse, secretary, or a teacher. Fortunately, I decided to become a teacher. I made a good career choice! I use the word “career” because teaching young children is far more than a job. It shapes the lives of children and educates parents. That is powerful; both a responsibility and a thrilling challenge. (more…)

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Equipped with big dreams, generous hearts, and strategic funding, the Worcester Child Development Head Start program has been building a STEAM curriculum to immerse preschool-age children in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. It’s been a dynamic process that shows how important it is to have partnerships, federal investments, and lots of local action.

Inspired by the STEAM work being done by a Head Start program in Lawrence, Mass., staff in Worcester decided to form a STEAM committee and create their own STEAM rooms.

 

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Why teach math to 3-year-old children?

“Early math is surprisingly important,” Doug Clements, an early learning expert at the University of Denver, explains in a PBS NewsHour report.

“What kids know in their preschool or entering kindergarten year about mathematics predicts their later school success. In mathematics, sure, that makes sense, but it even predicts later reading success, as well as early literacy skills do.”

In essence, why wouldn’t you teach math to 3-year-olds given how high the payoff is.

Clements is one of the creators of Building Blocks, a project — funded by the National Science Foundation — that designs math curricula for young children.

“Our basic approach is finding the mathematics in, and developing mathematics from, children’s activity,” the Building Blocks website explains. “We wish to help children extend and mathematize their everyday activities, from building blocks to art to songs to puzzles…”

(more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Preschool expulsions are a troubling reality for too many young children, particularly African-American boys.

To learn more about the possible role of teachers’ bias in these expulsions, Yale University researchers recruited 135 study participants from “the exhibit hall at a large annual conference of early care and education professionals…”

The study looked at implicit bias, which “refers to the automatic and unconscious stereotypes that drive people to behave and make decisions in certain ways,” according to the study’s research brief.

Children’s behavior also matters, however, “implicit biases about sex and race may influence how those behaviors are perceived and how they are addressed, creating a vicious cycle over time exacerbating inequalities.”

Among the findings: “Preschool teachers and staff show signs of implicit bias in administering discipline, but the race of the teacher plays a big role in the outcome,” a Yale news release explains(more…)

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Average cost of child care across the states. Screenshot: New America's website

Average cost of child care across the states. Image: New America’s website

What’s the state of child care in today’s America, which is no longer the land of the “Leave it to Beaver” breadwinner-homemaker family?

To find out, the newly released Care Report and the accompanying Care Index look at all 50 states and the district of Columbia to assess three categories: cost, quality, and availability.

The bad news: “no single state does well in all three categories. Instead, families, providers, and policymakers in every state make difficult compromises that often shape family decisions and can determine the course of children’s futures.”

That’s a problem in today’s America where “in a majority of families with children under 18, all parents work for pay outside the home. That means, on any given day, about 12 million children under the age of five will need a safe place to go and someone loving to care for them.”

The report and the index were produced by the think tank New America and by Care.com, the website that links families to care providers, in conjunction with other organizations. (more…)

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Policy is changing for K-12 schools.

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode

Here in Massachusetts, districts and schools are unpacking newly released MCAS and PARCC scores and deciphering what these scores mean for learning and accountability. At the same time, Massachusetts is developing a next-generation MCAS that will be administered in the spring.

On the federal level, the “No Child Left Behind” law was reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); and state officials are working on our plan for this new law.

All of this is activity is important, but K-12 can’t achieve the success we all want without integrating early learning.

Learning begins at birth; the research on this point is clear. Children need a strong early learning foundation and a range of supportive efforts that stretch through their first eight years, from birth to third grade.

Despite the proven power of early learning, there are very few government mandates to provide these early learning supports. This absence does, however, (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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