Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children


The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) put its annual report to the Legislature on line in February. It’s a helpful resource for advocates and other sector stakeholders that looks back at how Massachusetts invested in young children in 2017. It highlights the state’s past progress in key areas getting attention in 2018, such as workforce supports and early childhood mental health. The state has done lots of good work that it can be proud of — and it has challenges that require attention and creative solutions.

“The Department of Early Education and Care serves as the entry point of Massachusetts’ birth to 21 education pipeline,” the report says. Guided by its Strategic Plan, EEC is working to make progress in four areas:

• boosting children’s school readiness

• running high-quality programs

• building a strong, adequately paid workforce, and

• leading with the “utmost integrity, transparency and accountability”

This year’s annual report views this work through two key lenses: stability and quality.

“Despite a challenging fiscal environment, EEC made important progress in 2017 towards these goals,” the report says, pointing to progress that includes:

• the highest annual rate increase in EEC’s history of 6 percent in FY18 to support higher salaries for early educators

• an increase of all infant/toddler rates to the 50th percentile of the market rate

• the distribution of $5.7 million in UPK Grants (through a renewal process) to 138 preschool programs serving 7,276 children, and

• the addition of nearly 2,300 spots for children who are eligible for subsidized care; on average the state provided subsidized care for some 54,000 children per day

Since 2016, individual programs have slowly made progress on quality, with more moving up from Level 1, the lowest tier on the state’s Quality and Rating and Improvement system (QRIS), to Level 4, which is the highest level of quality. Here are the numbers:

2016                                                                        2017

QRIS Level 4: 23 programs                               QRIS Level 4: 28 programs

QRIS Level 3: 207 programs                             QRIS Level 3: 219 programs

QRIS Level 2: 1,501 programs                          QRIS Level 2: 1,522 programs

QRIS Level 1: 3,508 programs                          QRIS Level 1: 3,462 programs

Total # of rated programs: 5,239                     Total # of rated programs: 5,239


To boost the stability of its programs, EEC is looking to future. This year, the report says, EEC plans to:

• “revise and finalize a Career Lattice for family, group, and school‐ age educators that will frame the essential competencies for each category of educator and set the stage for the development of a new EEC Teacher Qualifications System in FY19”

• continue revising its QRIS standards

• work with consultants to release research on the Preschool Expansion Grant program, and

• “continue to endeavor to deliver the most effective high‐quality, comprehensive early learning and development system in the nation.”

As EEC Commissioner Tom Weber said in the report’s cover letter:

“As the Department of Early Education and Care looks ahead, we will continue to work with all of our partners to increase access for families and to improve the quality and safety of our licensed programs. We thank the early education and care provider community, advocates, and especially the Legislature for continuing to support the Department in its mission of giving the Commonwealth’s children the best start possible.”

We look forward to seeing EEC’s hard work and growth continue.