From the White House to business boardrooms to the offices of scores of Republican and Democratic mayors, governors, and members of Congress, we’re seeing historic momentum on expanding and improving preschool programs.
As the country moves forward, Massachusetts has a chance to lead. Standing on the shoulders of Eliot and other pioneers, the Commonwealth is poised to build a preschool system whose graduates will grow up to transform our families, workplaces, and communities.
Are some teams “smarter” than others? Researchers at MIT and Carnegie Mellon say yes. They have found three characteristics that distinguish smarter teams. You may be surprised by the results, which make a strong case for well-structured, interactive meetings guided by discussion protocols that create a level playing field for rich conversations.
Lisa Kuh, Somerville’s Director of Early Education, has started the Somerville Early Education blog. For a good introduction and number of helpful links, see two posts Lisa wrote on Executive Function & 21st Century Skills:
This post is the first in a series about how children move through environments and the role of self-directed activity, classroom schedules and room arrangement, and what “counts” as choice time in school and at home.
A young child moves across the room to put away her supply box. For some of us a simple task. For the young child, a potential obstacle course where many things can happen along the way – an accidental bump of a peer turns into a conflict; a joyful conversation with a friend ensues; difficulty figuring out how to get from one side of the room to another during a high traffic time. We take for granted what goes into getting from one place to the next. But young children need time and modeling to make these excursions successful and also develop important cognitive and motor abilities while doing so.
Executive function skills support planning, completing and evaluating tasks, and oversee communication exchanges (Cognitive Connections – Sarah Ward, FAQ). Executive function is like the air traffic control system for the body and mind (The Art of Control). It helps us to understand a series of steps such as: come into the classroom, put my things away, wash hands, go to the rug – and to make choices about how to approach tasks. Many children need previewing and practice for their executive function systems to work efficiently and for some children, this must be an important part of their day – and not just with arrival and clean up routines.
I have occasionally referred to the Collective Impact Model, a powerful approach cross-sector collaboration used by many communities across the country, including Pittsfield. The approach is based on the five conditions shown in the graphic above. The Collective Impact Forum has recently shared a great collection of resources in its Top Reads and Resources for 2014. In particular I recommend Committing to Collective Impact: From Vision to Implementation and Collective Insights on Collective Impact, the second and third items on the list. Also, see the video about Somerville’s Collective Impact initiative, Shape Up Somerville, under Top Videos.
The following passages from “Essential Mindset Shifts for Collective Impact” (in the Collective Insights document) reinforce the connections between relationships, capacity, and innovation that I described in October. Note the joint emphasis on evidence and relationships and on “collective seeing, learning, and doing.”
We have seen that data and evidence are critical inputs for collective impact efforts, but we must not underestimate the power of relationships. Lack of personal relationships, as well as the presence of strong egos and difficult historical interactions, can impede collective impact efforts. Collective impact practitioners must invest time in building strong interpersonal relationships and trust, which enable collective visioning and learning. …Collective impact can succeed only when the process attends to both the use of evidence and the strengthening of relationships. …
We believe that a critical mindset shift is needed: Collective impact practitioners must recognize that the power of collective impact comes from enabling “collective seeing, learning, and doing,” rather than following a linear plan. The structures that collective impact efforts create enable people to come together regularly to look at data and learn from one another, to understand what is working and what is not. Such interaction leads partners to adjust their actions, “doubling down” on effective strategies and allowing new solutions to emerge.
Last night at a joint meeting of the Boards of the Department of Early Education and Care and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Boards approved motions to create a joint sub-committee on Birth-3rd Alignment. The Sub-Committee will focus on alignment and coordination and include two members from each Board and one staff member from each agency.
I just learned that tomorrow’s convening at Harvard, The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education: Linking Science to Policy for a New Generation of Pre-Kindergarten, will be live-streamed at this URL. The event includes an impressive roster of presenters and discussants (LeadingEdge_flyer).
A new study shows that mobile technology may offer a cheap and effective solution. The research, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month, found that preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages.