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Archive for the ‘K-12’ Category

The Early Childhood Agenda has been released!

On Tuesday, early education advocates gathered at the Massachusetts State House for the release event. Watch a video replay here. And check out #EarlyChildhoodAgenda on Twitter.

“The Early Childhood Agenda imagines, prioritizes, and builds collective action around equitable and impact-driven solutions by providing a space for the early childhood community to work across sectors for better policy development,” a newly released brief explains.

It’s an exciting plan for unified action that can improve the experiences of young children and families in Massachusetts.

The Agenda includes the input of more than 1,000 people who contributed to a conversation that identified 10 priorities. They are:

1 Work with state government to “pass and implement comprehensive early education and care legislation that addresses family affordability and establishes a career pathway and funding mechanism to drive investments in workforce compensation.”

2 Ensure “early childhood professionals across multiple sectors have access to competitive wages and an affordable benefits package (health care, paid leave, retirement, child care)” by drawing on “operational grants, state-funded benefits, an opt-in group health plan, unionization, and premium assistance programs”

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One of the most important lessons you learn in a conversation with Mo Barbosa is that everything in youth development work is – or should be – connected.

“The better we do with zero to five,” Barbosa says of working with young children, “the better we’re going to do with the next 10 to 15 years of development.”

Barbosa is the senior director of Community Engagement at Health Resources in Action, where his goal as a trainer and facilitator is to professionalize the youth work field. He is the facilitator for convenings of The Early Childhood Agenda, which are hosted by Strategies for Children.

Barbosa’s sweeping focus is on the zero-to-24 age range – “or 24-ish” he says, “as we’re starting to understand the brain, we’re going a little bit later.”

But instead of a well-paved road that leads from birth to early adulthood, children and families in Massachusetts — and the rest of the country — face a fractured system. 

“There has been this historic difference between where you get child care and how much of it is early education and how much of it is just a place to put your kid,” Barbosa says. “And that difference has dictated quality. It has dictated pay. And it has dictated opportunity.”

Barbosa recalls running an early childhood program in St. Louis where children who lived in local housing projects would not go to kindergarten because they could not pass the screening test. Instead, they would enter first grade as six-year-olds with no early childhood classroom experiences.

The solution?

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Massachusetts is a leader in educational excellence, but not for all its students.

As a new report – “There Is No Excellence Without Equity: A Path Forward for Education in Massachusetts” — from the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership (MEEP) explains, “for a long time now, our state’s high overall rankings have masked deep inequities in student learning experiences and outcomes.”

Strategies for Children is a MEEP member.

The disparities the report cites were bad before Covid hit, and many have been aggravated by the pandemic.

“In parts of Boston and cities like Chelsea, Brockton, and Springfield, where infection and death rates were highest, the pandemic inflicted new levels of trauma and anxiety on families already facing significant adversity,” the report says.

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“To meet the caregiving needs of the K-12 educator workforce and the developmental needs of the youngest students, the United States needs sustained, significant federal investments in the accessibility and affordability of high-quality child care.”

“Why K-12 Teachers and Their Students Need Investments in Child Care,” by Emily Katz, The Center for American Progress, June 8, 2022 

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The new 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out. It’s the annual, Annie E. Casey Foundation report that takes a deep dive into how the nation’s children are doing.

This year, the data book points out that while the pandemic and widespread economic uncertainty have caused harm, there are also pockets of progress. 

This year’s report focuses on children’s mental health.

“As of July 2022, the health crisis had killed more than 1 million people in America, including more than 1,600 children,” the foundation says of the pandemic’s impact. “During this same time span, more than 200,000 kids had lost a parent or primary caregiver to the virus.”

This has “helped fuel what the U.S. surgeon general has called a mental health pandemic for youth. According to the Data Book, the incidence of anxiety and depression among kids has spiked. Comparing pre-pandemic to the first year of the COVID-19 crisis: The share of children struggling to make it through the day rose nearly 26% — from 9.4% (5.8 million kids) in 2016 to 11.8% (7.3 million kids) in 2020.”

Another challenge is racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties that have con­tributed to “dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly trou­bling men­tal health and well­ness con­di­tions among chil­dren of col­or. Nine per­cent of high-school­ers over­all but 12% of Black stu­dents, 13% of stu­dents of two or more races, and 26% of Amer­i­can Indi­an or Native Alaskan high-school­ers attempt­ed sui­cide in the year pri­or to the most recent fed­er­al sur­vey.”

In addition, “many LGBTQ young peo­ple are encoun­ter­ing chal­lenges as they seek men­tal health sup­port. Among het­ero­sex­u­al high school stu­dents of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, 6% attempt­ed sui­cide; the share was 23% for gay, les­bian or bisex­u­al students.”

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care

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Check out this new feature from WBUR radio that is aptly titled: “We asked 8 child care workers about their joys and frustrations. Here’s what they said.”

It’s part of a week-long series on early education and care.

This particular article and audio clip features:

Bernadette Davidson

Kiya Savannah

Vanessa Pashkoff (whom we’ve blogged about)

Kimberly Artez

Llanet Montoya

Anna Rogers

Kitt Cox, and

Stacia Buckmann

WBUR asks these early educators to discuss “the joys and challenges of working in this industry, and why some are leaving the profession,” as the field grapples with challenges.

“The child care workforce in Massachusetts is about 12% smaller today than it was before the start of the pandemic, according to a recent analysis from the University of California, Berkeley,” WBUR explains.

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“Compared with K through 12 students, preschoolers are suspended at nearly 3 times the frequency of older students,” Molly Kaplan, the host of the ACLU’s At Liberty podcast, explains in a recent episode called, “How To End the Preschool to Prison Pipeline.”

The episode focuses on the racial and social inequities that even very young children must face.

To explore the issue, Kaplan interviews Rosemarie Allen, a School of Education professor at the State University of Denver.

As Allen’s faculty webpage explains, “Her life’s work is centered on ensuring children have access to high quality early childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally appropriate… Her classes are focused on ensuring teachers are aware of how issues of equity, privilege, and power impact teaching practices.”

On the podcast, Allen describes the cascade of expulsions that young children can face.

“We’re finding that children as young as eight months old began to be suspended and expelled from their child care programs, usually for doing typical things that babies do, like crying or biting,” she says.

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Vanessa Pashkoff

Vanessa Pashkoff

Vanessa Pashkoff spent time in high school and college working as a nanny. And she was always inspired by “the spark of children and wonder,” she says. But as a student in McMaster University, in Canada, where she’s from, she earned a degree in political science. 

“I was convinced I was going to be a social worker.” 

A friend, however, was going to teach in Korea, and that inspired Pashkoff to look into teaching abroad. She applied to a program, got accepted, took a crash course in teaching English as a second language and spent a year teaching a preschool class in Japan. 

“I lived in Kobe,” Pashkoff recalls, “and I loved it. It was amazing to help people learn and to see another environment and the cultural differences. It really was what I was looking for without knowing it.” 

“I created some incredible relationships with families, and I am still in touch with them to this day.” 

While she was in Japan, Pashkoff decided to apply to Brock University in Ontario, Canada, so she could earn a degree in education. 

“It was the kind of thing where everyone else seemed to know that I was going to end up being an educator or a teacher, and I just never wanted to admit it,” she says.  (more…)

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“The Baker-Polito Administration, along with CEDAC’s affiliate Children’s Investment Fund (CIF), has announced $7.5 million in Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Fund (EEOST) capital improvement grants. Lt. Governor Polito joined Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy at East Boston Social Centers to announce the thirty-six organizations that received grant awards to fund expenses for capital improvements related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

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“Our Administration is pleased to support childcare providers across the Commonwealth who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to care for children and support families returning to work. Since the start of this grant program, we’ve invested more than $39.2 million in capital funding at childcare programs that impact the learning experiences of more than 9,000 children in communities across Massachusetts.”

— Governor Charlie Baker (more…)

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“School districts across the United States are hiring additional teachers in anticipation of what will be one of the largest kindergarten classes ever as enrollment rebounds following the coronavirus pandemic.

“As they await the arrival next fall of students who sat out the current school year, educators are also bracing for many students to be less prepared than usual due to lower preschool attendance rates.

“ ‘The job of the kindergarten teacher just got a lot harder,’ said Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. He coauthored a report that found that the number of 4-year-olds participating in preschool fell from 71 percent before the pandemic to 54% during the pandemic, with poor children much less likely to attend in-person.”

“Schools across U.S. brace for post-pandemic surge of kindergartners in fall,” the Associated Press, June 13, 2021

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