Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Here at Strategies for Children (SFC) we’re proud to release our annual Highlights report, a summary of our accomplishments over the last year.

“Strategies for Children is evolving to fill a new role in the birth–third grade continuum,” Chris Martes, SFC’s president and CEO, explains in the report. “Building upon our expertise in advocacy, awareness-raising, and coalition building, SFC is bridging the worlds of policy and practice, and helping to ensure public and private resources are allocated effectively to impact outcomes for children.”

Year in Review

In partnership with Governor Deval Patrick, the Legislature, and others, our work has resulted in two consecutive years of early childhood funding increases — including $535 million in early education and care funding for fiscal year 2015, the largest annual increase since 2008.

We’ve completed the first year of the Massachusetts Reading Proficiency Learning Network. “Representing more than 80,000 children, the Network is composed of four communities all focused on ensuring high-quality early education and early literacy.”

SFC was also asked to be a member of the Massachusetts team participating in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices policy academy.

To fuel the public policy conversation, SFC worked with 27 co-sponsors to host the “2014 Gubernatorial Candidates Forum: Early Childhood and Education, Closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gaps,” at University of Massachusetts Boston.

More than 200 people attended another forum: “Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates—Early Childhood and Education,” at the Boston Children’s Museum featuring the final two candidates John Connolly and Marty Walsh. This event was co-sponsored by SFC and 36 other organizations.

And SFC held the third event in our series on literacy best practices, “Designing and Implementing Effective Volunteer Efforts Focused on Literacy.” The series attracted a diverse group of more than 500 early educators, K-12 teachers and administrators, nonprofit community leaders, advocates, and philanthropists.

Recognition and Reaching Out

We’re honored to have won the 2014 Excellence in Advocacy award from the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. SFC has also been awarded funding from national philanthropies to provide technical assistance to other states.

We’ve had an impact in old and new media. SFC and its policy and advocacy agenda were featured 33 times in 20 newspapers and magazines, including the Boston Globe, the Cape Cod Times, the Lowell Sun, and the Wall Street Journal.

We’ve worked with advocates to send more than 1,300 grassroots email advocacy messages to legislators and the governor. And we’ve reached public leaders with our Rising Stars campaign, thanks to participation from early education and care programs across the state.

We’ve also reached new highs on social media, including 5,000 followers on Twitter and more than 325,000 page views here on the Eye on Early Education blog. (Thanks for your continued support, loyal blog readers!)

Looking forward, we are encouraged and excited by the momentum and enthusiasm for early education. As Chris Martes says in the report, “If we hope to close the achievement gap (evident between groups of children as young as 18 months), the commonwealth must invest in high-quality early learning supports and programs for all children, beginning at birth.”

Chris notes that the time to act is now since, “as a political issue, early education is more prominent in this year’s Massachusetts gubernatorial race than in any previous state election. This presents a huge opportunity to achieve our vision.”

So please read SFC Highlights and help Massachusetts make new and innovative progress on early education and care.

Our children are counting on us.