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Archive for the ‘Achievement gap’ Category

A series featuring communities that have a plan to expand preschool.

Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Adornetto

 

In Pittsfield, we know how important early education is. Children who don’t get a strong start can’t read proficiently by third grade. In our city, 2017 MCAS data shows that only 44 percent of third graders are proficient in English and only 44 percent are proficient in math. We want to see these numbers improve because, to put it bluntly, children who struggle to read may also struggle to succeed.

Because helping children takes a team approach, in 2012, the Berkshire United Way formed Pittsfield Promise, a coalition focused on ensuring that our third-graders can read proficiently. To achieve this goal, members of the coalition work closely with early childhood programs, social service and health providers, businesses, and community members.

In 2016, Pittsfield was awarded a preschool expansion grant. We are using this funding to create a collaboration between the Pittsfield Public Schools and two local center-based early childhood programs.

In this mixed-delivery model, the Pittsfield Public Schools is the lead partner and fiduciary agent. (more…)

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“With 80 percent of brain development happening in the first three years of a child’s life and state data showing that early childhood education can eliminate the achievement gap for low-income children, Doña Ana County has stopped waiting on Santa Fe for a plan to ramp up early childhood education, and is creating a model that has the potential to work in the rest of New Mexico.

“ ‘What we’re trying to do is solve the problem in Doña Ana County, but I do believe that by doing this work, we’re going to affect how New Mexico looks at the situation,’ said Frank Lopez, executive director of Ngage New Mexico. The education nonprofit organized a coalition of early childhood educators, child well-being nonprofits and community members that has the ambitious goal to guarantee universal access to early childhood education in the county.”

“Doña Ana County maps out plan for early childhood education,” NMPolitics.net, October 18, 2017

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Yesterday, Massachusetts officials released the results of the new MCAS, “an updated version of the test that was given for the first time in spring 2017 to students in grades 3-8 in English language arts and mathematics,” according to a press release.

The results show some good news. But the new test also reveals how much work Massachusetts still has to do to help all of its students succeed.

The new version of the MCAS “was created with input from hundreds of teachers following a thorough review and update of the state’s curriculum frameworks. The next-generation MCAS establishes high expectations to better reflect whether students are on track for the next grade level and ultimately for college and a career.”

“In general, the new standards for Meeting Expectations are more rigorous than the standards for reaching the Proficient level on the legacy MCAS.”

“Spring 2017 is a baseline year for a new test in grades 3-8, and spring 2017 scores should not be compared to previous years’ scores.” (more…)

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“Salem has much to recommend it to new residents, including a revitalized downtown, myriad housing options, a university, nightlife and a major museum. But for some years now, the public schools have been its Achilles heel.”

“That’s why it was so heartening last week to hear about a new approach to education that is starting to take place here, an approach that Paul Reville, a former state education commissioner and current Harvard professor, said is at the forefront of a national effort to update the way schools help children in this century. Reville, Superintendent Margarita Ruiz and Mayor Kim Driscoll spoke to the Salem Rotary about it last week.”

“As part of this By All Means program, the city is approaching learning as a community endeavor, calling on community groups, youth groups, the hospital, the university, sports groups and others to step up and help kids get the resources they need to be successful in school.

“The big issue, Reville says, is no secret: Children don’t enter kindergarten on a level playing field. Some have been read to every night, nurtured in preschool, taken to museums, exposed to dancing lessons or nature camps. Others have had none of those advantages. And the resulting achievement gap grows as the years go on, and some children continue to get everything from sports camps to homework help, and others do not.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Inequality between children from low-income families and those from high-income families starts early – and creates a daunting achievement gap.

“…children’s earliest learning experiences and outcomes” vary considerably “based on their parents’ incomes and education,” Sara Mead writes in “Education Inequality Starts Early,” a U.S. News and World Report article.

Mead focuses on children’s earliest years, a topic she says is missing from recent debates about inequality.

The seeds of educational inequality are sadly familiar. Middle class children are more likely to be read to, and according to the well-known Hart-Risley study, they hear 30 million more words than their lower-income peers.

“As a result, by the time they enter kindergarten, children from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds are already far behind their peers in the highest quartile of socioeconomic status on measures of early reading and math skills,” Mead writes.

The good news: (more…)

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“The problem is Massachusetts has a significant and persistent achievement gap, evident long before children enter school. Too many children show up for school already behind and too many of them will never catch up.

“As we have stated before, our country’s next greatest investment should be early childhood education.

“After all, the human brain develops more rapidly between birth and age 5 than during any other subsequent period.

“And according to several studies, children who participate in high-quality early childhood programs develop better language skills, score higher in school-readiness tests, and have better social skills and fewer behavioral problems once they enter school than those who do not have the benefit of pre-K services.”

“Early ed for all,” an editorial in the Cape Cod Times, July 16, 2017

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What do we know about preschool?

To find answers, researchers in different disciplines from a number of universities and from the think tank Brookings set up a task force to review the evidence “on the impact of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs.”

The result is a new report, “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects,” released by Brookings and Duke University. Videos of related panel discussions are available here.

This effort produced “one, clear, strong message,” NPR reports. “Kids who attend public preschool programs are better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don’t.”

“This timely report can guide states and local communities, including several here in Massachusetts, as they continue to expand access to high-quality preschool,” Titus DosRemedios, director of research and policy at Strategies for Children, says.

Included in the report is a six-part consensus statement that says: (more…)

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Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

More than 120 early education professionals and experts have signed an open letter that urges state lawmakers to increase their investment in early education.

“As Massachusetts legislators consider the state budget and investments in early education, we would like to highlight the widespread agreement among experts and researchers in the field about the effectiveness of such investments,” the letter says.

It goes on to point out that while: “Quality early childhood education can reduce the achievement gap.”

And: “Investing in quality early childhood education pays off.”

It is also unfortunately true that: “There are a number of pressing problems that undermine early education in Massachusetts.”

Among those who have signed the letter are professionals and experts we’ve blogged about before, including Anne Douglass of the University of Massachusetts Boston; preschool teacher Teddy Kokoros; and Jack Shonkoff of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child.  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Every year, thousands of young children enter foster care just as they’re getting old enough to enter school — and they face challenges in achieving success.

“On any given day upwards of 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system are living in the care of someone other than their biological parents,” the American Institutes for Research says on its Education Policy Center InformED Blog.

The post is the first in a series “examining educational challenges facing youth in foster care—early childhood into college—and some promising solutions.”

Children in foster care creates considerable instability.

“One-third of these children enter the foster care system before age five, just as they should be making the transition from preschool to kindergarten. Seventy-five percent must change schools when they enter the foster care system, and during their first year in foster care, they experience an average of three different home placements—often changing schools again and again.” (more…)

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Paul Tucker

Photo from Rep. Paul Tucker’s Facebook page

Each year for five years, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has run an Early Learning Fellows program: a dynamic effort that’s designed for emerging leaders – legislators and legislative staff members.

“The program is geared toward those chairing or serving on human services, education or appropriations committees who want to expand their knowledge and learn from other legislators and experts across the country,” NCSL explains on its website.

The training is important because, “States have been leading efforts to improve the quality of child care, implementing preschool and innovative ways to support families with young children across the age spectrum from birth to kindergarten and into the early grades. They are also addressing challenges with governance, financing, data systems and teacher training/professional development.”

This year’s class includes State Representative Paul Tucker (D-Salem), as well state legislators from California, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wyoming. (more…)

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