Birth–3rd Policy Developments in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts team that participated in the National Governors Association early learning policy academy reports several new developments:

  • The Boards of the Department of Early Education and Care and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have created a joint birth through grade 3 sub-committee that will include representatives from both boards.
  • The team has released an updated version of Building the Foundation of Future Success for Children from Birth through Grade 3 and hopes to get it approved by both Boards this spring. 
  • The team is exploring the possibility of holding a series of birth through grade 3 regional meetings this spring.
  • Resources and information will be posted at the state’s birth through grade 3 website, including a presentation that Ralph Smith and Amy O’Leary shared at the joint EEC/ESE Board meeting.

For additional information, here is the team’s latest email notification: Continue reading “Birth–3rd Policy Developments in Massachusetts”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Quality and Family Engagement

The political dynamic seems to have changed since this Washington Post article was published almost a year ago, but see Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s discussion of preschool quality and wraparound services for parents as he describes his administration’s work on early education in Chicago.

Too many Republicans today ridicule the value of early education. That would come as a shock to their parents, many of whom, no doubt, read to them when they were young and made sure they had many educational experiences. Democrats, on the other hand, want universal early education and are willing to spend whatever is required. But more money for more slots will not automatically achieve the goal of preparing children to learn.

Largely missing from this debate are the essential role that parents play in their children’s education and the importance of the quality of a child’s early learning experience. Parents must be engaged or their children will be shortchanged. In addition, the hours in preschool must provide high-quality learning built around best practices so the time does not become just expensive babysitting.

Not To Be Missed: Chris Martes in Commonwealth Magazine

Don’t miss the recent article in Commonwealth Magazine by Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children: “A Chance to Lead on Early Education.” As Martes says,

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.

Joint Sub-Committee on Birth–3rd Alignment Approved Last Night

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.

Kindergarten-Readiness Tests Gain Ground

This Education Week article discusses new kindergarten-readiness assessments, including advances and concerns. See comments by Kyle Snow and Libby Doggett in the excerpts below.

All 3,500 kindergarten teachers in Maryland are using a new readiness assessment this year that rests on teachers’ observations of children’s work and play to build a detailed picture of what they need as they begin the school year.

What’s happening here reflects a national surge of interest in better sizing up and serving children as they enter the K-12 school system. Parr’s Ridge teacher Amy Knight is one of tens of thousands of teachers who are learning new ways of merging assessment with observation and instruction.

Experts say that Maryland’s new kindergarten assessment showcases key features of age-appropriateness for young children. “It’s right in the middle of the plate when it comes to good practice” in early-childhood assessment, said Kyle L. Snow, who has studied the issue as a senior scholar at the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Libby Doggett, who oversees the Early Learning Challenge Grant program as the deputy assistant secretary for policy and early learning at the U.S. Department of Education, said the department’s guidance incorporates the early-childhood field’s cautionary notes about age-appropriate testing.

The guidance says such tests should be used to “provide information to help close the school readiness gap at kindergarten entry, to inform instruction in the early elementary school grades, and to notify parents about their children’s status and involve them in decisions about their children’s education. [They] should not be used to prevent children’s entry into kindergarten or as a single measure for high-stakes decisions.”

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: