“We now know there are more kids in more programs, but clearly not enough, clearly not enough,” Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, told the 100 participants at a meeting that was held last month in downtown Boston for the community teams from across Massachusetts that are focused on expanding preschool opportunities for children and families.
We’re including audio clips and photos from the event in this blog post.
Strategies for Children’s Amy O’Leary presents a brief history of state policy for early education and care.
Each team had received either federal Preschool Expansion Grant funds to add high-quality preschool seats (5 communities); state-funded preschool planning grants (13 communities); or both. Combined, these communities are Athol, Boston, Brockton, Cape Cod, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, North Adams, Pittsfield, Springfield, Somerville, and Worcester.
Their work represents the cutting edge of preschool implementation thinking in the state.
“When the money starts to flow, you folks will be ready,” Martes said, anticipating future appropriations for preschool programs.
At Strategies for Children, we believe that community readiness is essential. Communities that are ready (meaning actively collaborating across public and private preschools as well as developing thoughtful plans for classroom space, curriculum, professional development, and governance) can deploy funds quickly and effectively to create sustainable growth in high-quality pre-K programs.
Springfield Public Schools’ Pat Roach shares his perspective as Chief Financial Officer.
While waiting for the necessary funds to implement plans and serve more young children, communities are sharing the many lessons that they’ve learned so far. The following themes emerged at the downtown Boston event:
• partnerships among school districts, private providers, and community organizations are essential
• engaging families helps ensure that children succeed
• communities need accurate data at the local and state level to put pre-K programs where they’re most needed
• higher pay is crucial for hiring and keeping teachers
• funding is key, and sprinkling funds across the state seems fair, but hasn’t led to sustainable growth
• Massachusetts needs stronger employment pipelines that connect vocational high school students to associate degrees in early education experienced consultants have helped communities plan more effectively
Moving forward, the work being done by these leading communities promises to become a foundation for statewide progress, influencing state policy as well as the rest of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts that might be interested in advancing their early learning systems.
Lisa Kuh, David Jacobson, and Benita Danzing share thoughts on Somerville’s preschool planning process.
As Martes said in the meeting, the goal is that “by 2020, Massachusetts will stand out as a leader among states in its commitment to effective early education programs and systems.”
To read community plans and learn more about preschool expansion efforts in Massachusetts, visit the Department of Early Education and Care website, or contact Amy O’Leary at email@example.com.