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Join us TODAY for the release of the work done by the Early Childhood Agenda – a unified plan that draws on many voices to improve early childhood programs in Massachusetts. 

You can register here and meet us at the Grand Staircase inside the Massachusetts State House at 11 a.m.

Starting at 11 a.m., we will also livestream the event on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

We’ll be sharing “a targeted list of policy priorities… shaped by community voice and needs, and the different perspectives and lived experiences of partners to highlight the field’s top priorities for the next two years.”

These priorities cover five broad areas:

• Financially Secure Families

• High-Quality Experiences

• Thriving Early Childhood Workforce

• Robust System Infrastructure and Local Partnerships, and

• Healthy Beginnings

So please join us live — or via our livestream — to ensure that Massachusetts is a place where all young children can thrive.

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What helps children make a successful move from Head Start to kindergarten?

Strong systems that rely on sound policies and practices.

Figuring out how to build these systems is the work of the Understanding Children’s Transitions from Head Start to Kindergarten (HS2K) Project. And now the project is sharing several briefs and a report on how best to do this work in Head Start programs and other early childhood settings.

It’s research that promises to guide policymaking and program practices.

Launched in 2019, the project “is a systems approach that recognizes that effective transitions require intentional engagement from both the sending programs (Head Start) and the receiving programs (elementary schools),” its website explains.

The HS2K project is “organized around four prominent mechanisms (‘4Ps’) that can influence the transition experience: perspectives, policies, professional supports, and practices.”

These practices “must be implemented at multiple levels — among classroom teachers in Head Start and kindergarten, families and teachers, elementary school principals and Head Start directors, Head Start grantees and school districts, and state and federal agencies.”

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with NORC (a nonpartisan research center at the University of Chicago), the National P-3 Center, and Child Trends.

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The pandemic wiped out part of Massachusetts’ child care workforce.

Now Boston is trying to rebuild.

And the scale of this challenge is substantial.

“The childcare industry in Massachusetts lost about 10% of its workforce since the start of the pandemic,” WBUR radio reports. “In Boston, that’s translating into long wait lists and shorter hours of care. According to city officials, about 50 early education classrooms are sitting empty because child care centers can’t find enough people to operate at capacity.”

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu “was quick to point out that the estimate doesn’t include centers that have had to cut hours because they’re short staffed.”

To address this daunting gap, the city is using $7 million from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act to launch the Growing the Workforce Fund.

The fund will provide scholarships and financial aid to 800 students who want to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

“Today’s investment is a welcome one for early educators like me,” Lisa Brooks, an early educator at Horizons for Homeless Children, says in a city press release. “Relieving the burden of debt associated with higher education will help educators continue to focus on the important work of building the foundation for our students’ future success.”

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“The strength of Massachusetts is its families. And they sorely need our help. Our state has some of the highest child care costs in the country. Our care workers don’t make a livable wage.

“So today, let us pledge to be the first state to solve the child care crisis. Let’s finally pass legislation in line with Common Start to make sure every family pays what they can afford, and that care workers are paid what they deserve. This is something our families, workers, and businesses all agree on.”

“Read Gov. Maura Healey’s inaugural speech,” WBUR Newsroom, January 05, 2023

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Krongkan “Cherry” Bovornkeeratiroj

Krongkan “Cherry” Bovornkeeratiroj

“In Amherst, I had the chance to volunteer with young children, and that changed my life,” Krongkan “Cherry” Bovornkeeratiroj, an intern at Strategies for Children (SFC), told us in a recent interview. 

This story started six years ago when Cherry moved from Thailand, where she worked as a financial auditor, to Amherst, Mass., where her husband is a graduate student — and where she volunteered to work in a preschool program. 

Cherry was used to the more formal educational approach that she had experienced in Thailand. Amherst was different.

“Our school system focuses heavily on academics and rarely teaches us to speak for ourselves. Most of the time we listen and listen.”

“The first day I walked into the classroom in Amherst, I saw kids enjoying activities. There were no chairs in rows.”

It was a high-quality program where children’s feedback was valued. For example, in the case of one child bumping into another, teachers would ask what the harmed child needed: a hug, an apology, an ice pack? 

 “Instead of lecturing, teachers asked students questions and encouraged them to think critically,” Cherry says.

This volunteer experience prompted her to apply to graduate school.

“But when I was admitted, I found out I was pregnant.” And the pandemic hit. So Cherry waited for a couple of years, then she enrolled in the Master of Arts (MA) in Leadership, Policy & Advocacy for Early Childhood Well-Being program at the Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

“Once I shared my passions with my academic advisor, she told me to talk to Amy,” Cherry says of Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director.

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It was time to say goodbye at this week’s meeting of the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). 

Board chair Nonie Lesaux and Massachusetts’ Secretary of Education Jim Peyser are both stepping down.

To acknowledge their contribution Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Childrens’ executive director, spoke at the meeting and later reflected further on the service of Lesaux and Peyser, especially as EEC and its board have navigated the historic challenges of the pandemic. 

Amy appears at the 13:09 timemark in the video posted above. Her full statement is posted here. And here are some excerpts of her comments and additional thoughts: 

“To say that the decisions made by leaders in the Baker-Polito administration and the Massachusetts legislature over the last three years saved lives may sound dramatic. But I believe it is true.

“From setting up emergency childcare in a matter of days, to supporting COVID testing for children, families and staff, to listening to the field when drafting responsive new policies to ensure safety and health, to funding programs to stay open and support parents’ choices about when to send their child back to a program to the creation and continued funding for the C3 grants. Just keeping the day-to-day operations of the Department running was an incredible achievement.”

Amy also praised “the incredible stories of the educators, program directors, family child care providers, school age staff, CEOs and community leaders who have shown up for children and families every single day.”

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“As soon as he took office in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt summoned the U.S. Congress to Washington for a three-month special session. Having promised to work quickly to lift the country out of the Great Depression, he pushed through 15 major initiatives, including the Emergency Banking Act, the Farm Credit Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act. Looking back during a radio address in July, he called that period of frenzied legislative activity ‘the first 100 days.’

“This January, governors, mayors, and legislators will be sworn into office across the country. Child and family issues were front and center on the campaign trail, and many of them campaigned on a promise to expand early childhood education. We urge newly elected leaders in red and blue states alike to follow Roosevelt’s example by using their first 100 days in office to rapidly make good on that promise, and to support children and families with better child care opportunities by the time a new school year starts next fall.”

“When he ran for mayor of New York City in 2013, Bill de Blasio made universal prekindergarten the central issue of his campaign. The day he took office, on January 1, 2014, as a blizzard slowed the city to a crawl, de Blasio had Roosevelt’s first 100 days in mind. The people of New York had given him a mandate, but he knew he had to move quickly to make universal prekindergarten a reality. He dubbed the program ‘Pre-K for All’ and committed to having it ready at the beginning of the next school year, in September — a mere eight months away. In his first 100 days, he wanted to build an unstoppable momentum.”

“The First 100 Days: How Newly Elected Legislators Can Make Good on Early Education,” by Danila Crespin Zidovsky and Nonie Lesaux, New America Blog Post, December 7, 2022

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The Prince and Princess of Wales came to Boston last week, and one issue on the royal agenda was early childhood.

The princess, also known as Kate Middleton, visited Harvard to meet with researchers at the university’s Center on the Developing Child.

For Middleton, it was part of a long-standing commitment to young children. As the Royal Foundation for the Prince and Princess of Wales explains on its website:

“Over the last decade, The Princess of Wales has spent time looking into how experiences in early childhood are often the root cause of today’s hardest social challenges, such as addiction, family breakdown, poor mental health, suicide and homelessness.”

In 2020, The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (the prince and princess’ royal titles at the time) released a report on the public’s opinion of early childhood in the United Kingdom based on the responses of half a million people — and factoring in the impact of the pandemic. Among the report’s observations:

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Next month, Massachusetts will have new leadership, so it’s time for advocates to learn about and reach out to key players in state public policy.

One good place to start is learning about the transition teams that have been created by Governor-elect Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll.

The key committee for early childhood advocates to focus on is called “Thriving Youth and Young Adults.”

Chaired by Amanda Fernandez, the CEO of Latinos for Education, and Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Rachel H. Monárrez, the committee is looking at, “How we address learning loss from the pandemic and give all children and families equitable access to the educational, social, emotional and behavioral supports they need.”

Serving on the committee are well known members of the early education and care community, including:

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Great news! Early education and care got a financial boost earlier this month when Governor Charlie Baker signed a $3.76 billion economic development bill into law.

As our FY’23 budget webpage explains, this investment includes “an additional $150 million to continue the C3 Stabilization Grants through the end of the fiscal year in June 2023, and an additional $315 million in the newly created High-Quality Early Education and Care Affordability Fund.”

We are grateful to the Legislature for passing this bill and to the governor for signing it.

In a State House News story that ran in the Sentinel & Enterprise, Baker says Massachusetts can invest in child care and be fiscally prudent:

“Recognizing the importance of childcare investments, I am approving sections in this bill that redirect $315 million from the Commonwealth Taxpayer Relief Fund to the High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund. However, we can invest in childcare and make sensible tax changes at the same time. With the state in a historically strong fiscal position, the tax cuts that the Legislature has committed to prioritizing next session will be affordable without a special set-aside.”

A WBUR report focuses on the relief for some workers, noting:

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