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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

J.B. Pritzker is best known as a Chicago-based venture capitalist and philanthropist. He has also donated millions of dollars to early education. But this fall, Pritzker is sporting a new job title: early education policy wonk.

Pritzker has co-authored a paper, with the nonprofit Bridgespan Group, called “Achieving Kindergarten Readiness for All Our Children: A Funder’s Guide to Early Childhood Development from Birth to Five.”

In the paper, Pritzker and his co-authors point to the vast unmet need for high-quality early education and care — and they argue that philanthropists can play a key role.

As a related fact sheet explains, “Remarkably, 1 in 4 American children come from low-income families and enter kindergarten not ready to learn.” And, “50% of all low-income children from birth to 5 are at risk of not being fully prepared for kindergarten.” (more…)

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Woodland Early Learning Center. Photo Source: U.S. Department of Education Flickr page

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Woodland Early Learning Community School. Photo Source: U.S. Department of Education Flickr page

“As our country continues to move forward on the critical task of expanding access to high-quality early learning programs for all children, we must do everything we can to ensure that children with disabilities are part of that,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said earlier this month while he was visiting the Woodland Early Learning Community School in Kansas City.

“Duncan visited the city public school as the first stop on his annual 10-city Back to School bus tour,” the Kansas City Star reports. “This year’s tour, under the theme ‘Ready for Success,’ was set to highlight the importance of including children with disabilities in high-quality early learning programs and to push the importance of community focus on early childhood education.”

To encourage this work, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have released a “Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

On Wednesday, September 16th, 2015, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing for all bills related to early education and care. Among these is “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

Supported by the “Pre-K for MA” Coalition, which is being led by Strategies for Children (SFC) and Stand for Children Massachusetts, the bill calls on Massachusetts to follow in New Jersey’s footsteps and create high-quality pre-K programs for 3- and 4-year-olds who live in underperforming school districts. The bill was filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

We see the bill’s targeted, phased-in approach as getting us closer to our ultimate vision of high-quality early education for children in Massachusetts.

This proposed legislation would build on the recent history of progress in Massachusetts: (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Fall is coming and it’s going to be a busy season for early education and care advocates. There’ll be hearings on important legislation and the crucial work of drafting the budget for fiscal year 2017.

To make the advocacy case, try this useful tool: the 2013 policy brief “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education.”

As we blogged earlier this week, the brief is a “review of the current science and evidence base on early childhood education.” Yesterday, we looked at the impact on children’s academic skills and on their socio-emotional development.

In today’s blog, we’ll look at what the brief says about early education’s quality, its long-term outcomes, and its effect on diverse subgroups.

 

Quality Matters

“Children show larger gains in higher-quality preschool programs,” the brief says, summing up the research. “Higher-quality preschool programs have larger impacts on children’s development while children are enrolled in the program and are more likely to create gains that are sustained after the child leaves preschool.”

“The most important aspects of quality in preschool education are stimulating and supportive interactions between teachers and children and effective use of curricula.” (more…)

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Mayor Michael A. Nutter. Photo Source: City of Philadelphia Flickr account.

Mayor Michael A. Nutter. Photo Source: City of Philadelphia Flickr account.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter has just released an exciting and sweeping plan to revitalize his city’s early learning programs. It’s a detailed effort that could also serve as a blueprint for other cities.

Called “A Running Start Philadelphia: For Every Child Birth to 5,” the plan is a path toward ensuring that all of the city’s children are ready to succeed in school.

“What happens — or doesn’t happen — from infancy to the time a child enters kindergarten can set the course for his or her whole life,” the plan says. “And what happens — or doesn’t happen — in the first five years of life for Philadelphia’s 110,000 children can set the course for the long-term future of our entire city.”

One daunting obstacle is poverty.

“Two years ago, the City unveiled Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, a comprehensive plan that brings together hundreds of individuals and organizations to address our city’s unacceptable poverty level,” the plan says, adding that early learning is “a critical component of the plan” to avoid “passing on the crippling legacy of poverty to a new generation…” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Last December, Massachusetts was awarded a $15 million federal Pre-K Expansion grant for five communities: Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield.

Now that six months have passed, we decided to check in with Anita Moeller to see how this grant-funded work is going. Moeller is the director of the expansion grant program at the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

It’s a busy season of laying groundwork, Moeller explained. The five communities are working on budgets, identifying teachers, outfitting new spaces, and submitting their final plans to federal authorities.

As EEC Commissioner Tom Weber wrote last fall in the state’s application for this funding, “The Federal Preschool Expansion Grant has inspired Massachusetts to think boldly and to offer a plan that engages and leverages the strengths of the Massachusetts mixed-delivery system to reach more children and advances our goal of achieving a universally-accessible, high-quality system of early education and care.”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Early education is a proven way to help children succeed, but a key challenge for policymakers is figuring how to pay for these programs.

That’s why the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) has just released a discussion guide on “State Financing Strategies for Early Education and Care Systems.” The guide helps policymakers understand which investment strategies could work in their communities.

When it comes to early education, policymakers often face two persistent financing problems.

First, “it is more often the case that available funding, rather than the true costs of quality programs, determine funding decisions,” and second, policymakers often lack “a comprehensive picture of all the available resources that could be utilized for a given program because of the generally siloed nature of funding (e.g., by agency or funding stream rather than by goal or service).”

So while “some state and local investments are increasing,” other states are not “investing sufficient dollars to ensure all children have access to high-quality programs.”  (more…)

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