Image: Screenshot

Image: Screenshot from Final Rule Fact Sheet

The Obama administration is making child care better and safer.

Thanks to a newly announced rule, some “370,000 child care settings across the country that participate in the federal child care program… will benefit from new health and safety requirements, staff training requirements, and criminal background checks for staff,” federal officials explain in a press release.

The new rules spring from bipartisan legislation that President Obama signed into law in 2014.

“Many parents rely on child care programs, and it is important that their children are cared for in safe learning environments with qualified providers,” according to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell. Continue Reading »

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. Continue Reading »

“Pre-schoolers might be tiny, but they get suspended and expelled in big numbers.

“Now, a new study suggests that even for teachers who want to shift that dynamic, real change only happens with real training.

The study, from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education, looked at what happened in Nashville and Tampa when teachers there learned about a new preschool discipline approach called the Pyramid Model.

“They found that teachers who got 13 weeks of in-person and email feedback about their use of the new model changed their practices more — and reported better behavior among their students — than teachers who knew about the model but weren’t getting one-on-one support.”

“Want to reduce suspensions and expulsions in pre-K? Find a coach,” by Grace Tatter, Chalkbeat Tennessee, September 28, 2016

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, Continue Reading »

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Early education policies are all over the map — literally and figuratively. While some states are making big investments in very young children, others lag behind.

How are specific states doing? The Ounce of Prevention Fund, a national advocacy organization, takes a look in its August 2016 State Policy Update. It’s a “mini-update” that “provides a snapshot of early childhood care and education budget and policy changes in states during the 2016 legislative sessions as of July 2016.”

This year, “numerous states across the country made major policy changes and investments that advanced access to high-quality early learning programs,” The Ounce says, pointing to:

• Rhode Island, where “codified key elements of the state’s home visiting system” became law “through the passage of The Rhode Island Family Home Visiting Act. The state’s Department of Health is required to work with other state agencies to identify vulnerable families and offer them the opportunity to enroll in evidence-based home visiting programs.”

• In Nebraska, tax credits abound. “The School Readiness Tax Credit Act will create two new state tax credits… for early childhood programs and individual early childhood professionals in 2017.” Continue Reading »

“When it comes to children’s brains, Rahil Briggs describes them as … sticky.

“ ‘Whatever we throw, [it] sticks. That’s why they can learn Spanish in six months when it takes us six years,’ says the New York City based child psychologist, ‘but also why if they’re exposed to community violence, or domestic violence, it really sticks.’

“Briggs works at the Healthy Steps program at the Montefiore Comprehensive Health Care Center in the South Bronx, screening children as young as 6 months for mental health issues.

“That may sound young, too young maybe, but that’s when some experts believe it’s important to catch the first signs that something may be wrong. Many say waiting until kindergarten is too late.”


“Screening Mental Health In Kindergarten Is Way Too Late, Experts Say,” NPR, September 9, 2016

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Want to spread early literacy? Send in a parent. Moms and dads who talk, sing, and read out loud can fill their children’s worlds with engaging, enriching language.

But the challenge for Springfield, Mass., and other cities is figuring out how to reach parents and engage them in sharing a love of language and learning with their children.

To find good ideas on family engagement, the Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative (RS4G), which is backed by The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, did a simple thing: It asked parents.

“Focus groups of parents, and largely moms who participated in one of our three sessions, revealed what we knew: that parents have clearly moved into the digital age,” Sally Fuller writes in a blog post on the Davis Foundation’s Read by Fourth Grade website. “Email, for anyone who has children, is almost recognized as a thing of the past. Moms told us almost universally that their primary engagement with the world comes through social media and texting. The smartphone serves as the communications tool of choice.” Continue Reading »

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