Ambitious Vision: Principal Leadership in PreK–3rd Learning Communities

The National Association of Elementary School Principals has published an ambitious vision of the principal’s role in PreK–3rd reform. This report, Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice, outlines six competencies that together form a comprehensive approach to leading early learning partnerships. This approach will require district support in addition to principal leadership. The full report fleshes out the competencies in helpful detail and includes descriptions of exemplary practice, questions for reflections, self-assessments, and links to tools and other resources. More to follow in a future post.

The PDF version of the report is free until November 15.

Putting Seattle’s Pre-K Ballot Initiatives in Context

While most of the country’s obsessive politics-watchers will be surveying a variety of hotly contested Senate, House, and gubernatorial races on November 4, the early education community will have an eye trained on Seattle, Washington. Voters there will have not one, but two early education programs on the ballot.

See Connor Williams’ piece on New America EdCentral.

Quality of Words, Not Quantity, Is Crucial to Language Skills, Study Finds

From yesterday’s New York Times:

It has been nearly 20 years since a landmark education study found that by age 3, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than more affluent children, putting them at an educational disadvantage before they even began school. The findings led to increased calls for publicly funded prekindergarten programs and dozens of campaigns urging parents to get chatty with their children.

Now, a growing body of research is challenging the notion that merely exposing poor children to more language is enough to overcome the deficits they face. The quality of the communication between children and their parents and caregivers, the researchers say, is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears.

A study presented on Thursday at a White House conference on “bridging the word gap” found that among 2-year-olds from low-income families, quality interactions involving words — the use of shared symbols (“Look, a dog!”); rituals (“Want a bottle after your bath?”); and conversational fluency (“Yes, that is a bus!”) — were a far better predictor of language skills at age 3 than any other factor, including the quantity of words a child heard.

Quality of Words, Not Quantity, Is Crucial to Language Skills, Study Finds

Massachusetts Full-Service Program Yields Results in Elementary Schools

By the start of middle school, The Afterschool Corp. estimates that children in poverty have received 6,000 fewer hours of learning outside of school—both enrichment and support—than their middle-income peers. While many programs target low-income students who are struggling academically or emotionally, it can be more difficult to find enrichment activities to build on the strengths and interests of students progressing normally in school.

To fill those gaps, some elementary schools in two states—Massachusetts and Ohio—are working to better coordinate with local partners to provide the kinds of cultural and extracurricular experiences, as well as social services and supports, that boost all students’ long-term academic progress.

From Learning Payoff Found for ‘City Connects’ Program in Education Week.

Revised Foundational Competencies and Essential Experiences, Birth-3rd

Massachusetts has issued a revised version of its Foundational Competencies and Essential Experiences document and is seeking feedback by the end of this week.

From the website:

Massachusetts has embarked on an exciting journey – the development of a comprehensive birth through grade 3 policy agenda – that will result in the implementation of innovative and bold strategies; increased alignment and collaboration across the early education, K-12, and higher education sectors; and most importantly, the provision of enhanced services to children and families across the state.

In early May, we issued the first draft of the attached document, entitled Building the Foundation for College and Career Success from Birth through Grade 3. Based on the valuable feedback that we have received over the past several months, we are pleased to share this revised document.

This document is serving as the foundation of the comprehensive birth through grade 3 agenda, and it presents essential competencies that should be demonstrated by all children and the essential experiences that will lead to the development of these competencies. This document is also aligned with the Massachusetts Definition of College and Career Readiness, which was adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education during the spring of 2013, it reinforces the importance of preparing our children for lifelong success starting at birth, and it reflects the unique developmental experiences of children from birth through grade 3.

We would greatly appreciate your feedback about this revised document, and there are two ways in which you can share your thoughts. First, you can send an e-mail message to Saeyun Lee ( at the Department of Higher Education (please include the name of the document in the title of your message). And second, you can respond to our online survey by October 10, 2014.

CAYL Institute’s 10th Anniversary and Related Resources

Congratulations to Dr. Valora Washington and the CAYL Institute on its 10th anniversary. Its community of practice now includes over 600 fellows. I attended the anniversary celebration a couple of weeks ago, where the strength of its fellows network was very much in evidence. See the summaries of the keynote speakers comments in the newsletter below. In addition to links in the newsletter to MassBudget’s Children’s Budget site and the Subprime Learning reports, see these resources from MassBudget and the New America Foundation:

Building a Foundation for Success (MassBudget)

Report Finds Limited Support for Early Ed in School Turnarounds (New America Foundation)

School Year Begins, States Enhance PreK-3rd Continuum with Race to the Top Funds (New America Foundation)

Click for the CAYL Institute’s Special Newsletter …

Congratulations to Dr. Valora Washington and the CAYL Institute on its 10th anniversary. Its community of practice now includes over 600 fellows. I attended the anniversary celebration a couple of weeks ago, where the strength of its fellows network was very much in evidence. See the summaries of the keynote speakers comments in the excerpted newsletter below. In addition to links in the newsletter to MassBudget’s Children’s Budget site and the Subprime Learning reports, see these resources from MassBudget and the New America Foundation:

CAYL Institute Special Newsletter

1 0 th A N N I V E R S A R Y
S A N K O F A   C E L E B R A T I O N
…looking back while moving forward
The CAYL Institute’s 10th Anniversary Sankofa Celebration was held on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at Wheelock College. Co-chaired by Wheelock College president Jackie Jenkins-Scott and CAYLPresident Dr. Valora Washington, this special event sought to analyze past, present, and future realities for the field while recognizing the people who work tirelessly to ensure a better tomorrow for all young children in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The event was composed of two parts —  a symposium proceeded by a reception.

T H E    S A N K O F A

G U E S T    S P E A K E R S  

Carol Nolan, Director of Policy for the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care

Chrissy Pruitt, Principal of Jefferson Elementary School in Rockland andCAYL Fellow

From left to right: Marie Enochty, Dr. Valora Washington,
Laura Bornfreund, and Chrissy Pruitt

From left to right: Chrissy Pruitt, Jackie Jenkins-ScottCarol Nolan, Dr. Valora Washington,
Laura Bornfreund, and Jeff Bernstein
K E Y N O T E    S P E A K E R S

Jeff Bernstein, Senior Policy Analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center

Jeff discussed the Massachusetts state budget for early education in the past decade, the present realities for Massachusetts, and MassBudget’s recommendations for the future in his presentation “State Budget and Funding for Early Education.”

Future approaches and strategies analyzed included:

  • Implementing a public/private hybrid model for ECE
  • Expanding universal ECE programs in the public schools
  • Utilizing and expanding access of private providers for low income children

For more information, visit and follow MassBudget on twitter @massbudget.

Laura Bornfreund, the Deputy Director for New America’s Early Childhood Initiative

Laura discussed the findings and implications of her research pertinent to the national landscape of ECE by discussing her works Subprime Learning: Early Education in America since the Great Recession(January 2014) and Beyond Subprime Learning: Accelerating Progress in Early Education (July 2014).

Recommendations for the future included:

  • A stronger focus on teaching and learning, and especially on improving the quality of interactions between adults and children;
  • Bridge the continuum birth – 3rd grade;
  • Professionalize and improve the workforce;
  • Emphasize families;
  • Embrace children’s multiple languages as assets;
  • Rethink standards and assessment to between coordinate teaching and learning;
  • Improve accountability systems to promote learning and development;
  • Collect and use data responsibly and soundly; and
  • Use implementation science and openness.
(from Laura’s presentation: “Subprime Learning and Beyond”)

Follow Laura on twitter @lbornfreund or visit her blog at

Expanding Prekindergarten, Not Forgetting Kindergarten

Is New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s method for expanding Pre-K a model for other cities?
Six experts’ views on the implications of NYC’s PreK expansion for other cities.

The View from 3 Feet
4 year-old experts talk about the value of preschool in this video, a project of the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation’s National Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

As Preschool Ascends, Is Kindergarten Being Left Behind? 
Education Week’s Christina Samuels asks, “But what about kindergarten? Does the focus on preschool mean that we are already providing a consistent, high-quality option for the first “official” year of school?”

The Case for the New Kindergarten: Challenging and Playful
And in case you missed it, see this commentary by the authors of a recent kindergarten study:

The Way to Beat Poverty (Kristof and WuDunn)

Commentary from the Sunday New York Times:

One reason the United States has not made more progress against poverty is that our interventions come too late. If there’s one overarching lesson from the past few decades of research about how to break the cycles of poverty in the United States, it’s the power of parenting — and of intervening early, ideally in the first year or two of life or even before a child is born.

Parent-Child Home Program in the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about the Parent-Child Home program, which operates in many communities in Massachusetts.

For all the energy poured into [New York City’s] preschool expansion, some researchers and early-childhood advocates say that the most at-risk children need help with literacy much earlier than pre-K. While skeptics question whether these home-visiting programs are effective enough to warrant the cost, supporters say they pay off in better school readiness and lower public payments for special education later on.

“Everybody is going to benefit from pre-K, but in order to bridge the achievement gap some children are going to need services in addition to pre-K and those are the families we focus on,” said Sarah Walzer, chief executive officer of the Parent-Child Home Program.

For more information, see the Massachusetts Parent-Child Home Program’s Facebook page.