We caught up with JD Chesloff, who just completed a 10-year term on the Board of Early Education and Care (EEC), and asked him about what he’s seen over the last decade.
As readers of this blog know, JD’s career includes working at Strategies for Children and in the State House. He was also chair of EEC’s Board, and he is currently the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable.
What has he seen as an EEC board member?
“The organization has matured over the last 10 years. It started out as a fledgling idea of having all of the early childhood activity in one place.”
“It’s grown up over that time and now it’s a clearly equal member at the education table with K-12 and higher education.”
JD praises the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and its focus on ensuring that children and families have access to high-quality programs. The department has also wrestled with serving all children, making universal access part of its vision in a 5-Year Strategic Plan.
What was the most personally satisfying part of JD’s time on the Board?
His work on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
As JD explains it, it was “Incorporating STEM into the early childhood agenda intentionally, and also incorporating early childhood into the STEM agenda.”
“If you walk into most early childhood classrooms, you see an intentional focus on STEM because it’s in the curricula. It’s also an integral part of professional development for early childhood educators.”
“On the flip side,” JD adds, “the state’s annual convening of 1,500 people around STEM,” at the Massachusetts STEM Summit, “now has specific strands about early childhood and involves early childhood educators in a significant part of the day.” The business roundtable is a co-sponsor of the summit.
“For young children, 0 to 5, it’s not about STEM, it’s about play, but there are ways that teachers who are trained properly can foster STEM competencies around curiosity and teamwork and asking questions. All the things that are foundational to a STEM education, really begin in the early years. And EEC has been great about intentionally incorporating that concept.”
In addition to his professional work, JD is also the father of daughters who attended early education programs that were licensed by EEC — so, he got to see the department’s research and evidence-based practices play out in his family’s life.
“It gave me a perspective of how lucky we are living in Arlington to have access to great programs.”
What has impressed him the most?
“By far, it’s the dedication of the field. It is remarkable the time and effort and commitment and caring that educators put into their jobs, whether it’s in Arlington or visiting other communities, these people are absolutely dedicated to what they’re doing. And oftentimes not compensated accordingly.”
That’s why, JD says, it’s essential to develop a real workforce system for early educators that looks at compensation, professional development, and other supports.
“That’s what the Speaker’s efforts are about,” JD says of Speaker Robert DeLeo’s work and his Early Education Business Advisory Group, which JD belongs to. “It’s building an early education workforce system.”
The advisory group’s report helped with advocacy for more workforce funding, which resulted in a historic $38.5 million rate increase in 2017.
So even though JD has left EEC’s Board, he isn’t leaving early education and care.
In addition to the business advisory group, and his on-going STEM work, JD will continue to serve on the advisory board of ReadyNation, a nonprofit organization that leverages the skill of the business community to promote “solutions that prepare children to succeed in education, work, and life.”
Our final question for JD, which we also asked back in 2010: What’s his favorite children’s book?
His answer now is the same as it was then: “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” a book he read when he was a child.
Do his daughters also like this book?
“They do,” he says, laughing. “They didn’t have a choice. They had to like it.”