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Boston Public Schools preschool teacher Mary Bolt watches Jason DePina Jr., 5, draw a picture of Batman for his book about superheroes in the classroom’s writing section. Photo by Lillian Mongeau/Hechinger Report

Boston Public Schools preschool teacher Mary Bolt watches Jason DePina Jr., 5, draw a picture of Batman for his book about superheroes in the classroom’s writing section. Photo by Lillian Mongeau/Hechinger Report

A new article in the Atlantic (courtesy of the Hechinger Report) — “What Boston’s Preschools Get Right” — looks at how Boston is building high-quality programs — and how some cities are pushing ahead on pre-K even though state and federal governments are lagging behind.

At Dorchester’s Russell Elementary School, a day in a pre-K classroom “could be a primer on what high-quality preschool is supposed to look like,” the article says. “Children had free time to play with friends in a stimulating environment, received literacy instruction that pushed beyond comprehension to critical thinking and communication, and were introduced to complex mathematics concepts in age-appropriate ways. All three practices have been shown to go beyond increasing what children know to actually improving how well they learn in kindergarten and beyond.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Washington, D.C, is the “pre-K capital,” “where nearly all 4-year-olds (and most 3-year-olds!) go to school,” according to the online news site LA School Report.

Why does a California-based publication care about Washington, D.C? Because Los Angeles is about to make its own investment in early education.

What makes D.C. a pre-K capital?

“Spurred by a landmark 2008 law, the District enrolls 85 percent or more of its four-year-olds (depending on who’s counting) and an even more remarkable 60-plus percent of three-year-olds.”

So on a Wednesday morning at “the Lincoln Park campus of AppleTree Early Learning, a network of pre-K charter schools,” young students are “nearing the end of a three-week unit on paleontology and archeology.” (more…)

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An Enormous Rainbow envisioned by children at the Richard Murphy School in Dorchester

An Enormous Rainbow over Boston envisioned by children at the Richard Murphy School in Dorchester

Back in January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent a letter to children in the Boston Public Schools’ kindergarten program.

“As Bostonians you have the right to share your opinions about our city,” Walsh wrote. “I hear you are learning about structures as part of the construction unit. I have a question for you: What suggestions do you have about constructions in our city to make Boston a fairer and more interesting place for children?”

Walsh advised the children to take their time answering and to consult with each other as well as with their teachers and their parents. “Write your ideas,” the mayor said, and “make a model” of them.  (more…)

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

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TKMy name is Teddy Kokoros, and for the past 13 years I’ve had the pleasure of working as a preschool and pre-K teacher at the Transportation Children’s Center (TCC) in Boston. I first started working at TCC after completing my associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Bay State College’s now defunct Early Childhood Education program. Under the tutelage of my professor Linda Small, I got both the academic knowledge and the field experience via internships that I needed to be a competent early educator.

Initially, after completing my associate’s degree, I transferred to Wheelock College to continue my education but quickly had to drop out to work full-time when my family experienced financial and other hardships. I needed a full-time job to help out. Luckily, TCC, where I had completed an internship, was hiring and gave me a job as a preschool teacher. (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

States face a persistent problem: Classrooms full of children who struggle to read.

“Only about one-third of all children attending school in the United States can read proficiently by fourth grade,” the New America foundation explains on its website. “The numbers are even more dismaying for our most vulnerable students. How can state policymakers lessen the achievement gap and improve literacy outcomes for all children?”

To find answers, New America has taken a look at all 50 states’ birth-to-third-grade policies.

The resulting report is a ranking of states called, “From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth- 3rd Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers.”

“Accompanying the research are interactive maps of state progress displayed via New America’s data visualization and policy analysis tool, Atlas.” This is an easy, graphic way to access findings for individual states. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is weighing in on preschool with an article about the challenges of creating programs that maximize best outcomes for children.

Called “Preschool is for Real,” the article starts by noting that children and teachers are doing a lot of hard work.

“Imagine yourself as a preschooler. Everything’s an adventure, from pretending you’re a superhero to chasing a butterfly to painting a self-portrait. There is so much to explore, discover and learn at preschool, and it all feels like play—hours and hours of play,” the article says.

“But behind all the fun and games, preschool teachers have one very serious goal: To prepare children for kindergarten and future academic success. To achieve that, they have the daunting task of helping young children learn specific social, emotional, physical, linguistic, cognitive, literacy and math skills, which are defined in state learning guidelines or standards. All this sounds very much like school, although preschool teachers make it all feel like play.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) wants to know what you think preschoolers should know about science, technology, and engineering.

EEC is requesting public feedback on its adoption of Pre-Kindergarten Science, Technology and Engineering Standards.

From studying the moon to understanding more about the earth’s rocks, soil, and water, these topics capitalize on children’s natural curiosity and excitement about how the world works – making the preschool years an ideal time to learn these lessons.

We blogged about the standards a couple of years ago when they were in draft stage. As we explained then, the standards cover “biology and the life sciences (plants and animals); earth and space science; and the physical sciences.” (more…)

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Performance space designed by children in Boston. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Performance space designed by children in Boston.
Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

What does it mean to be a citizen — for preschool children?

They can’t vote. But they are great talkers bursting with ideas. And as citizens their ideas — about playgrounds, transportation, and how to make communities more fair — should be heard and, ideally, seen, since their thinking could change the world.

Because Ben Mardell believes strongly in these principles, his career has been like a megaphone for very young citizens. A professor of early education at Lesley University, Mardell has worked hard to create opportunities for children to participate in civic life.

One recent example that we blogged about is the Our Boston project, which culminated in an exhibit at Boston’s City Hall the featured children’s models of playgrounds, a language museum, a book bus, and a ferry system.

Now an article in the Atlantic written by early educator Amy Rothschild — “The Citizen Preschooler: What should young children learn about being part of a democracy?” —profiles work being done in Washington, D.C., by Mardell and Project Zero, a research group based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. (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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