As the new school year begins, Strategies for Children is taking a look back on where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished. Key aspects from a year of our work are presented in a new print and online document called “Highlights: July 2012 – July 2013.”
As our president and CEO Carolyn Lyons writes, “It’s been an exciting 12 months here at Strategies for Children (SFC). We have seen a tremendous level of leadership and support for high-quality early education from policymakers, opinion leaders, and the media at the national, state, and local levels. We have helped thousands of early educators to advocate and demonstrate the importance of what they do every day to support young children.
“It made a difference: for the first time since the Great Recession, we have seen an increase in early education funding in Massachusetts. We are moving in the right direction. Over the next year, SFC will build upon this momentum. Among other priorities, we will work to position early education at the forefront of the 2014 elections and to prioritize investments in the fiscal year 2015 state budget. We invite you to join us as we ‘tip’ early education and ensure that all of our children have the foundation they need to be successful in school and in life.”
Last summer, SFC created and convened the Massachusetts Reading Proficiency Learning Network: five communities that are focused on early education and early literacy.
The network represents more than 100,000 children, ages zero to nine, in Boston, Holyoke, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester. Network members meet quarterly and receive customized technical assistance from SFC.
“In year one, communities engage in an innovative improvement process, developed by SFC and Dr. Nonie Lesaux, where communities map, assess, and determine how to best allocate resources to impact children’s literacy outcomes,” as Highlights explains.
It has also been a busy legislative year. Last fall, the Massachusetts Legislature passed and Governor Patrick signed into law An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency. In January, Governor Patrick proposed significant new investments in high-quality early education in his FY14 state budget proposal. And this summer, the Legislature’s FY14 budget included $26.5 million in funding for new early education and care line items.
The past year has seen widespread media coverage of early education. Activism has grown, from business leaders making their case for a strong early start for children to early educators, parents and children themselves “sending 16,000 stars, letters and postcards to Governor Patrick and the Legislature through SFC’s Rising Stars campaign.”
Strategies for Children has hosted events at the State House and across the state. And in April, we welcomed 400 people to the Early Childhood Summit 2013, which we co-hosted with the Boston Children’s Museum, The Center on the Developing Child and the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There are still big challenges to be addressed. As we explain in Highlights, “Across the nation and here in Massachusetts, our achievement gaps are persistent and costly. Nearly 40% percent of the commonwealth’s children are not able to read proficiently by third grade—a critical predictor of their future success.”
“The time has come to act upon the irrefutable evidence that to close these gaps, we must invest in high-quality early education.”