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Archive for the ‘Early Learning Challenge’ Category

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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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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“The individual and collective progress of the 20 Early Learning Challenge States is changing the early childhood landscape for the better… It is exciting to watch these states make meaningful improvements as they tackle common and state-specific challenges and share lessons learned.”

Linda Smith, deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development at the Administration for Children and Families, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, in “Early childhood education gets push from $1 billion federal investment,” The Washington Post, August 1, 2016

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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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SSIK Cover

By guest blogger Titus DosRemedios

By now, regular readers of this blog are well aware that learning begins at birth and that the process of getting children ready for kindergarten begins long before their first day of school. That’s why New Bedford’s community-based early education programs are collaborating with public school leaders, human services providers, and many other partners to improve kindergarten readiness.

To reinforce the importance of kindergarten readiness throughout the provider community, the New Bedford Birth to Third Alignment Partnership held a kick-off event at Keith Middle School on October 13, offering both an a.m. and p.m. session and drawing more than 50 attendees.

Superintendent Pia Durkin was on hand to reinforce the importance of early childhood from the district’s perspective and to applaud the collaboration happening in the community. “Our motto is ‘We’re building an excellent school system,’ but we know we can’t do it alone,” Durkin told attendees. “We need partners.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Education officials have released the state’s new social-emotional learning (SEL) standards: officially called the “Massachusetts Standards for Preschool and Kindergarten in the Domains of Social and Emotional Learning, and Approaches to Play and Learning.”

It’s a key step toward teaching young children the so-called “soft” skills they need to be successful in school and later in life.

“Children enter early education programs with a vast diversity in experiences, language, culture, development, and ability, creating the widest developmental range of any age group,” the standards say. “Some may have spent extensive time in group settings, others no time at all.” Given these diverse experiences, building social and emotional skills is an essential part of building a cohesive group.

Massachusetts isn’t alone. Educators and advocates across the country have the same goal. (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 Source: Governor Inslee's Facebook page

Photo Source: Governor Jay Inslee’s Facebook page

“I signed a landmark bill for our state’s littlest learners today. The Early Start Act will help more than 48,000 children get access to quality early learning thanks to historic new levels of funding. This is about creating a continuum of education which starts with our youngest learners, and extends right on through college. Thanks to everyone who helped fight this fight. It doesn’t end here, but today – we celebrate!”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee writing on his Facebook page, July 6, 2015

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“I want to congratulate Gov. Jay Inslee, educators, and other leaders in Washington state on the Early Start Act, which will improve early learning opportunities for over 48,000 children, building on the successes the state’s Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge grant. It’s a huge step toward a vision for a comprehensive early learning system that will make Washington a leader in doing the right thing for our youngest children. I hope more states will answer President Obama’s call to expand early learning opportunities – and that Congress will support them.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a statement, July 7, 2015

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“Woooohoooooo! Fantastic news for SO many early learners & ECE professionals throughout our state! Thank you Governor Inslee for remaining focused on our most valuable resource! Advocate, educate, legislate! ♡”

Beka Johnston, commenting on Governor Inslee’s Facebook post, July 7, 2015

 

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

The state has a new mental health guide that focuses on young children called “Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Resources and Services: A Guide for Early Education and Care Professionals.”

It’s a road map that’s packed with information as well as phone numbers and Internet links that early educators can use to connect children and their families to a wide array of resources and organizations.

Early education professionals will find “descriptions of services and supports for families with young children, as well as resources that can benefit your program, whether you work in an early education and care center or family child care setting.”

And: “To support staff conversations with families about their children’s social-emotional development, the guide also includes advice on how early childhood professionals can share their concerns with parents.”

The guide is published by the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI), “an interagency initiative of the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services.” CBHI worked with the state’s Department of Mental Health and its Department of Early Education and Care.

Some of the funding for this project came from the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant that was awarded to Massachusetts in 2011.

(more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Imagine a citywide approach to helping young children prepare for school.

That’s the city New Bedford is striving to be. The city’s public school system is working with local center-based preschool providers, as well as diverse stakeholders including the New Bedford Art Museum, the city’s housing authority, and the United Way of New Bedford to develop school readiness programs.

“We’ve never really had that alignment conversation,” Diane Sullivan said in a recent interview. Sullivan is the supervisor of Early Childhood Special Education for New Bedford Public Schools.

Sullivan helps lead the Birth through Third Grade Alignment Partnership effort, which has been underway in New Bedford since fall 2014. The work is funded by the Department of Early Education and Care, using federal Early Learning Challenge funds.

Taking what Sullivan calls a “good first step,” New Bedford has decided to focus on helping preschool-age children build strong social and emotional skills.  (more…)

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