Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children
Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

In a recent statement,  Dr. Chi-Cheng Huang, vice chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care, eloquently makes the case for Governor Patrick’s proposed new investments in high-quality early education. Dr. Huang is associate chief medical officer at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center and a former pediatrician at the Boston Medical Center. He is also an adjunct assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine and assistant professor of internal medicine at Tufts Medical School.

“I have had the fortune of serving some of our commonwealth’s youngest citizens and their families and helping to impact their long-term development,” Dr. Huang writes. “But at the same time, I am well aware that no one sector can completely influence their outcomes; that it is the combined efforts of parents, families, educators, caregivers, peers, community-based organizations, religious institutions, and other role models that help to ensure that our infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children will grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted, well-educated, successful, and contributing members of society.”

Dr. Huang summarizes the research on the benefits of high-quality early education. He notes the state’s persistent achievement gap. He summarizes the governor’s proposal to invest $350 million over four years to improve the critical third grade reading benchmark, increase school readiness and close the achievement gap. Among other things, it would eliminate the wait list for infants, toddlers and preschoolers – a wait list that now stands at roughly 30,000 children. The proposal would also invest in quality across the state’s mixed delivery system of private and public providers. Governor Patrick calls for $131 million in new investments in early education in his fiscal year 2014 budget recommendation.

The governor’s proposal, Dr. Huang notes, comes at a time when the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) has laid a strong foundation for a statewide system of high-quality early education.

“EEC has accelerated its work by taking expansive steps to bring many initiatives to scale,” Dr. Huang writes. “These include using evidence-based literacy and universal screening practices in communities; improving educators’ competencies through professional development to promote effective practice and increase retention; enhancing data systems to better inform program practice and state decision-making; providing individualized opportunities for children in formal settings and informal environments such as museums and libraries, and creating an early learning and development assessment system from birth to grade three.  Additionally EEC is supporting local communities by investing in birth-to-third-grade linkage that is focused on the key elements of cross-sector alignment, leadership, teacher quality, Instructional practice and environments, data and assessments, engaged families, and transitions.  Massachusetts is ready to take additional steps for even further development of the early education system, as well as the entire education pipeline that includes elementary, secondary and higher education.”

In a state whose economy demands a pipeline of skilled, well-educated workers, Dr. Huang concludes that we must be concerned with the wellbeing and education of all the commonwealth’s children.

“Making sure our youngest children have the rich environments of supportive relationships to build healthy brains is one of the most important challenges we face as a society,” he writes. “Your son or daughter’s classmate, the family sitting next to you on the T, or the child you see at the library or on the playground, all matter to our collective prosperity.  Our ‘common wealth,’ and the commonwealth’s future, is in all of our hands.”