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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Here at Strategies for Children, we want to say thank you to Tom Weber. He has announced that he will step down as commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) in June.

“We are grateful for Tom Weber’s commitment as Commissioner of Early Education and Care. During his six years as commissioner, he led EEC out of its historic fiscal low point, which was caused by the effects of the Great Recession,” Chris Martes, Strategies’ president and CEO, says in a statement.

“Since 2013, Massachusetts has made steady progress on early education, and thanks to Commissioner Weber’s leadership, the early education and care field is in a much stronger position, both fiscally and programmatically. We have seen increased public investments in the early education workforce, in program quality, and in preschool expansion during his tenure. He is a tireless advocate for young children and families, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.” (more…)

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Governor Kay Ivey speaking last year at the Early Childhood Education Leadership Forum in Montgomery, Ala. Source: Governor Ivey’s Flickr page.

 

When it came to preschool, Alabama state senator Trip Pittman “was on the fence,” a Mother Jones article says.

“Pittman, a conservative Republican, figured the kinds of things you’re supposed to learn before kindergarten—washing your hands, tying your shoes, minding your manners—might best be taught by parents and grandparents at home.”

What changed his mind? Thanks to the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, Pittman went to visit a preschool and was captivated.

Recalling the visit, Pittman says, “It seemed remarkable, the fact that you could assimilate children into a classroom environment—raising their hands, going down the hall, being inquisitive. It was really impressive the way the teachers interacted with kids.”

The preschool team also showed Pittman “data on outcomes for children living in poverty: Sixth-grade preschool alums scored about 9 percent higher on state tests than those who hadn’t attended, and third-grade alums scored 13 percent higher than their peers.” (more…)

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When parents across the country can’t find child care, the economy loses a staggering $57 billion per year in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue.

That’s a crisis, according to a new report — “Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis” — released by ReadyNation, an organization of business executives who are “building a skilled workforce by promoting solutions that prepare children to succeed in education, work, and life.”

“The practical and economic consequences of insufficient child care are enormous, impacting parents, employers, and taxpayers.”

The report notes that parents face shortages in three areas: access, affordability, and quality. Specifically:

• “Nearly one-third of parents (32 percent) report having difficulty finding child care.”

• “The average annual cost of center-based child care for infants is more than the average cost of public college tuition and fees in 28 states,” and

• “Only 11 percent of child care nationwide is accredited.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center offers key advice to states: Focus on making early childhood systems more efficient and effective.

“This issue is important for two reasons,” the report says. “First, support for early childhood programs can only be sustained if the programs are viewed as effective and efficient in their use of public funds.”

Second, inefficiencies can create “real obstacles to access” for the very children that states want to reach.

“When families have to apply to multiple programs, housed across multiple agencies, often with duplicative paperwork requirements and inconsistent eligibility criteria, many simply give up.”

Improving efficiency is demanding work. States have to manage their own early childhood funds, and they receive child care funding from multiple federal sources including Child Care Development Block Grants, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Each funding stream has its own rules and requirements. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

 

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has released its annual yearbook — a comprehensive look at publicly-funded preschool programs — and found a mix of progress and stagnation: There are more preschool spots, but states aren’t investing enough in program quality. This year’s assessment also includes a special report on Dual Language Learners.

“Recent changes in federal policy – including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – make it clear that progress in early education depends more than ever on the states,” NIEER Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett said.

Looking at the 2016-2017 academic year, the Yearbook notes that:

• across the country “state-funded preschool program enrollment exceeded 1.5 million children” or “33 percent of 4-year-olds and 5 percent of 3-year-olds”

• state funding for preschool rose two percent to some $7.6 billion, an increase of nearly $155 million (adjusted for inflation) since 2015-2016

• state funding per child was $5,008, a slight decline from 2015-16 adjusted for inflation

• 3 state-funded preschool programs met all 10 new quality standards benchmarks

• 10 programs met fewer than half, and

• 7 states do not invest any state dollars in preschool

In its assessment of state policies for Dual Language Learners, NIEER reduces its findings to two words: “Needs Improvement.”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What if child care were perfect?

It would be fun for kids, high-quality, easy for parents to afford, and readily available.

Child care providers would be highly-skilled and well paid.

And the country would feel the difference as more and more young children thrived.

Perfect is, of course, hard to come by, but Child Care Aware of America is pushing for vast improvements with a new policy agenda, “Igniting Possibilities, Promoting Innovation” — a blueprint that can be used by federal, state, and local leaders. (more…)

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Now that more and more people are talking about high-quality preschool programs, it’s important to make sure that they know what high-quality means.

One way to share that message is to educate journalists who write about preschool programs. If they understand more about preschool, they’ll do a better job of informing their audiences.

So, the next time you talk to a journalist, be sure to talk about what quality is — and what it isn’t — and be sure to share resources that illustrate your point.

One resource is a recent New York Times Magazine story about Kejo Kelly, an early educator in Springfield, Mass. As we’ve blogged, this story delves deeply into quality.

Another resource is “The Most Important Year: Pre-kindergarten and the Future of Our Children,” a book by Massachusetts-based writer Suzanne Bouffard.

Bouffard’s book is featured in another useful resource, an article on the Education Writers Association’s website called, “What Reporters Should Look for in Early Learning Settings: Lectures don’t work well for young children. Look instead for child-directed fun.” (more…)

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