Nonie Lesaux. Photo source: Harvard Graduate School of Education
Nonie Lesaux. Photo source: Harvard Graduate School of Education

Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children, issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Strategies for Children (SFC), we congratulate Dr. Nonie Lesaux on her appointment as Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care. We applaud Governor Baker for appointing a nationally known literacy expert as the Board Chair.

Over the last several years, we have been fortunate to work in partnership with Dr. Lesaux, including commissioning the 2010 Strategies for Children report “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” which Dr. Lesaux wrote. This report has served as a foundation for addressing and improving the state’s literacy efforts, starting from birth.

We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Lesaux in her new role of giving young children the strong start they deserve to help secure a successful future. Nearly 40 percent of Massachusetts 3rd graders fail to read at grade level. Third grade reading strongly predicts a child’s future academic success.

We applaud the leadership of outgoing Board Chair Jay Gonzalez, and we thank him for his strong commitment to young children. He has driven a focused agenda to help close the achievement gap and support young children and families.”

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Lesaux, who is a Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) professor, has done extensive work in the field of early education. She has written numerous articles and books, and as her Harvard biography notes, she leads “a research program that focuses on increasing opportunities to learn for students from diverse linguistic, cultural, and economic backgrounds in today’s classrooms.”

“I’m pleased to welcome Nonie as chair of the Board of Early Education and Care,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. “With years of experience in the education field, Nonie has risen as a leader for early education and literacy reforms in the Commonwealth and brings a unique skill set to the table that will strengthen programs and enrich education for young children.”

“Nonie’s expertise in language and literacy development, knowledge of early educator practice, and experience working with policymakers will be a significant asset to the Board of Early Education and Care,” Early Education and Care Commissioner Tom Weber said.

“Nonie’s insight and analytical expertise will be an asset to the Board and Commissioner Weber as we strive to improve the quality, affordability, and availability of early education and care in Massachusetts,” Secretary of Education Jim Peyser added.

And Lesaux herself said:

“It is an honor to serve as the Chair of the Board of Early Education and Care. I look forward to working with the board, Commissioner Tom Weber, and the EEC team to further the mission of providing children with the foundation for healthy development and educational accomplishment.”

She added: “I thank the Baker-Polito Administration for this opportunity to support our Commonwealth’s children, their families, and all those involved in setting the youngest members of our communities on a path toward lifelong success.”

As we’ve blogged, Lesaux published an opinion piece in WBUR’s online publication Cognoscenti, called: “Why Reading Programs in Massachusetts are Failing.” In this piece she wrote that Massachusetts’ reading programs weren’t “adding up to meaningful improvements.”

She participated in HGSE’s 8 x 8 video series, which features some of the latest thinking on education policy.

Lesaux also serves as co-chair of this state’s Early Literacy Panel, which is “charged with providing recommendations to state education agencies on the alignment, coordination, implementation, and improvement of all existing efforts that bear on children’s literacy outcomes, guided by the goal of improving third grade reading outcomes in the Commonwealth,” according to the Executive Office of Education (EOE).

SFC’s Kelly Kulsrud, our director of reading proficiency, also serves on the panel. Following the guidance of its new co-chair Ann Reale, EOE’s undersecretary and chief operating officer, the panel will focus on early literacy assessment, including a summary of what assessments are being used in the field. The panel will meet through fiscal years ’16 and ’17 and submit recommendations to state officials about best policies and practices.

We’ll continue to report on this promising and important work, and we wish Lesaux success in her new role.