New Article Collections Page

I’ve gathered together a number of articles and case studies on a new Feature Articles page. And see this week’s Marshall Memo, a weekly digest of education news for principals and other education leaders, for a summary of the Primary Years Agenda article.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Snapshots of Birth–3rd Strategies in Five Communities

This week I’m posting short bulleted summaries of the core strategies of the first five EEC alignment partnerships, an idea prompted by a helpful conversation with Titus DosRemedios of Strategies for Children last week at an ESE Kindergarten Networking Meeting. These updated summaries may be helpful to the seven new communities coming on board in the Round Two grants. You can also find short paragraphs on each community here. Click on the EEC Alignment Partnerships category in the blue panel on the left to see all the posts thus far on these communities.

Pittsfield and Boston represent the ends of the continuum in the graphic above. Springfield, Lowell, and Somerville are all implementing two-pronged strategies that include both community-wide and targeted components.

Pittsfield

  • Community Goal: The Pittsfield Promise–90% reading proficiency on the 3rd grade MCAS by 2020
  • Berkshire United Way as community backbone organization
  • Supported by a strategic plan and six committees
  • Focus
    1. Community-wide family engagement around literacy
    2. Home-visiting
    3. Preschool participation, quality and alignment
    4. Out-of-school time programming

Boston

  • Implement BPS K1 (preschool) model in 14 community-based classrooms
    1. BPS K1 (preschool) model
      • Integrated OWL and Building Blocks curriculum
      • Making Learning Visible professional development
      • Skilled coaching
      • NAEYC accreditation
      • Demonstrated results; national and international recognition
    2. Implement model in 14 community-based classrooms (Boston K1DS)
      • Teachers with BA degrees
      • K1 curriculum
      • Professional development
      • Compensation
    3. Potential to expand to additional community-based classrooms contingent on results

Springfield

  • District and community-based preschool collaboration
    1. Joint selection of community preschool curriculum
    2. Joint identification of shared standards
      • Priority Teaching Strategies Gold domains
      • Social-emotional standards
    3. Common formative assessments
    4. Common professional development and outreach
    5. Public/Private Professional Learning Community Meetings
      • Preschool teachers from two elementary schools and several community-based programs
      • Cross-site visits
    6. Define kindergarten readiness
    7. Expand teacher-to-teacher observations
    8. Share kindergarten assessment data

Lowell

  • Pilot project in two low-income neighborhoods (expanding to three this fall)
    1. One elementary school, center-based preschools, and family childcare providers in each
    2. Use of CLASS observations across settings
    3. Training in Teaching Strategies Gold
    4. Communities of practice for center-based and family childcare programs
      • Professional development workshops
      • Use of ECERS-R and FCCERS-R tools
      • Addition of coaching beginning this fall
    5. Family engagement workshops and activities
  • Emergent community-wide school readiness agenda

Somerville

  • Four strategies focused on early literacy
    1. Kindergarten Readiness Group
      • Public/private preschool and kindergarten teachers
      • Half-day workshops over three semesters
      • Cross-site visits
      • Using Play to Address Standards” theme
    2. Literacy coaching
      • 8 classrooms (public, private, and Head Start)
      • Two observations and debriefs with literacy coach each month all year
      • Pre- and post- ELLCO observations
    3. Teaching Strategies Gold training
    4. Website for families with young children
      • Outreach to parents on use of site through agencies
  • Universal Kindergarten Readiness Plan

This post was completed as part of a contract between the MA Department of Early Education and Care and Cambridge Education (where David Jacobson worked at the time). Contract # CT EEC 0900 FY13SRF130109CAMBRID. 

Welcome

The Learning Hub is launching this week. The website is a simple, homemade one that we can use as a sort of pilot. It will give us an opportunity to try out different ideas and approaches, and most importantly, to gather your feedback. I’ll be sending out a survey in a few weeks. In the meantime, please share your thoughts and reactions. Based on this initial experience, we will be in a good position to enlist professional website design expertise.

See this page for an explanation of the role of the Hub and this one for three overarching strategies for carrying out the Birth-Third agenda. The blog is starting off with two context-setting pieces: an overview of the original five Birth-Third Alignment Partnerships supported by the MA Department of Early Education and Care and a summary of Birth-Third leader Kristie Kauerz’ presentation in Springfield. Kristie reviews the research on brain development and achievement disparities and then presents the evaluation framework she and Julia Coffman have created.

Upcoming posts will address joint public/private professional development initiatives in Somerville and Springfield, the implementation of Boston Public Schools’ pre-kindergarten curriculum in community-based pre-kindergartens, Pittsfield’s community-wide strategy for dramatically increasing reading proficiency by 2020, and Lowell’s alignment and school readiness work across family childcare providers, center-based providers, and the public schools. Some of these are longer mini-case studies as I set the current stage for future posts. I hope to follow with some shorter posts as well.

The site will begin to fill up quickly, and down the road I expect to develop both case studies and guidance documents based on trends and patterns that emerge across the Birth-Third initiatives covered in the blog.

My plan is to post more substantial pieces on Tuesdays and notices here and there as they turn up while continuing to develop the tools and resources sections. Please share tools you think other communities can use or get ideas from, and I welcome suggestions regarding resources as well.

Thanks to the many Birth-Third leaders across Massachusetts who have shared their time, perspectives, insights, and wisdom with me over the last few years. And yes, for sending me all your notes and documents. I look forward to continuing to work with you. Feel free to reach out if I can be of help.

Five Communities to Watch

Massachusetts Birth-Third Alignment Partnerships

Over time the Birth-Third Learning Hub aspires to examine the broad range of efforts underway in Massachusetts to improve outcomes for young children. Five communities in particular provide an important stream of information and experience regarding Birth-Third strategies. Boston, Lowell, Pittsfield, Somerville, and Springfield received Birth through Grade Three Alignment Partnership grants in 2012 from the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to deepen their early years work. Additional grants for a second round of Alignment Partnerships will be announced in March. Cambridge Education is documenting  the original five partnerships for the EEC, and this blog is part of an effort to share the experiences the five partnerships have had thus far.

Funded by the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top -Early Learning Challenge program, the EEC has awarded each of these communities $100,000 grants for each of two years. (In Boston, the Boston Public Schools and the city’s community-based preschool collaborative, Thrive in Five, both were awarded $100,000 grants for a combined initiative that also includes philanthropic investment.)

Each community has formed a Birth through Grade Three Alignment Partnership composed of community-based preschool providers, a school district, each community’s Community Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grantee, each community’s Educator and Provider Support grantee, and other organizations. Three partnerships are led by school districts (Boston, Lowell, and Somerville), one by the local United Way (Pittsfield), and one by a preschool organization (Springfield).

These five communities are especially good candidates for learning about implementation efforts. Building on previous foundational work, they are implementing a diverse range of promising strategies, and they vary in terms of community size and stage of project development.

Community District Enrollment % Low-Income Lead Organization Primary Use of Funds
Boston 55,114 71.7% Boston Public Schools/Thrive in Five Coach/
Coordinator
Lowell 13,879 75% Lowell Public Schools Consultant/Coaches
Pittsfield 5,987 56.5% Berkshire United Way Coordinator
Somerville 4,922 69.2% Somerville Public Schools Coordinator
Springfield 25,283 87.5% Square One (CB Provider) Coordinator/Consultant

Project Strategies. As described further below and in subsequent posts, the communities’ strategies differ both in terms of how developed they were at the onset of the grant and whether the thrust of their work is targeted on specific classrooms, preschool centers, and schools, or aimed more broadly at the community level. Boston and Pittsfield are building on previously established initiatives and thus began the grant with relatively well-developed strategies in place. Boston’s project targets 14 community-based classrooms; Pittsfield is implementing a city-wide (and increasingly county-wide) strategic plan.  Lowell, Somerville, and Springfield, while building on past efforts, have formed new leadership groups and developed new strategies during the grant process, strategies with both targeted and community-wide prongs.

Here are brief descriptions of each community’s strategy. Future posts will explore each community’s work and cross-cutting patterns in more depth (in alphabetical order).

Mather SchoolBoston. The Boston Public Schools (BPS) and Thrive in Five are supporting 14 community-based preschool classrooms in implementing the BPS pre-kindergarten model. This model includes literacy and math curricula, professional development, coaching, and additional compensation for most of the participating teachers. Rigorous internal and external evaluations have found that Boston’s pre-kindergarten model has led to growth in language, math, executive function, and self-regulation skills. The BPS pre-kindergarten model has received national attention due to the size of the child outcomes, the scale of implementation (2,300 students), and the impact on multiple domains (Evidence Base on Preschool Education). BPS is committed to supporting the implementation of its pre-kindergarten model in additional community-based classrooms if this pilot study yields outcomes comparable to those in BPS classrooms. EEC funding is supporting a coach and professional development for each site and is supplemented by philanthropic funding.

Lowell. In Lowell, the CFCE, led by the early childhood department of the school district, is targeting two low-income neighborhoods, each of which includes a participating school, a preschool center, and family childcare providers. The alignment leadership team is focused on improving quality through the QRIS process, school readiness, formative assessment, and family engagement. The project supports communities of practice for center-based staff and family childcare providers, the use of CLASS observations in schools and preschool classrooms to inform center and school improvement priorities, and training in Teaching Strategies Gold. Through its initial alignment discussions, the Lowell partnership identified school readiness as an important issue and has begun additional work developing a school readiness definition and action plan for the broader community. Lowell has hired Early Childhood associates as a consultant to support the design and implementation of its strategy.

IMG_2684Pittsfield. In 2012, community leaders in Pittsfield committed to the Pittsfield Promise, a community initiative to achieve a single goal: “By 2020, 90% of Pittsfield students will achieve reading proficiency as demonstrated by 3rd grade standardized tests.” Berkshire United Way serves as “backbone” organization, and the Pittsfield Promise has the support of a broad range of community institutions, including the local hospital, library, museum, and newspaper. The community has developed a strategic plan based on five strategies that are being developed and carried out through a network of six committees. The EEC grant supports a coordinator, a staff member of Berkshire United Way, to support and align the work of these committees around the following priorities: family engagement (including a city-wide literacy campaign and home visiting), preschool participation, quality and alignment, and out-of-school time.

IMG_2974
Members of the Somerville Kindergarten Readiness Group in small group discussion.

Somerville. Building on a history of strong support for families, the Somerville Public Schools formed a new alignment leadership group to guide the work of the EEC grant and hired a full-time project coordinator. Somerville’s leadership team has developed a strategy that has four main components:

  • A Kindergarten Readiness Group composed of community-based preschool teachers and leaders and public school kindergarten teachers that is focused on aligning EEC and Common Core standards and using developmentally-appropriate practice to meet standards.
  • Literacy coaching using the ELLCO as an observational tool for 8 preschool classrooms (2 Head Start classrooms, 2 public school, and 4 community-based). Lead teachers and their co-teachers are participating in coaching and whole-group activities. The Alignment Partnership is also offering a language and literacy full-day workshop plus two follow-up mentoring sessions to an additional 20 teachers.
  • Training in Teaching Strategies Gold for community-based preschool teachers.
  • A new online resource for families with young children and outreach by community organizations teaching adults how to use it.

Springfield. The Springfield Alignment Partnership, led by Square One, a community-based preschool provider, builds on a history of collaboration between the school district and the preschool community as well as on the Davis Foundation’s Read! Reading Success by Fourth Grade initiative. Its leadership steering committee has hired a staff person at Square One to coordinate the work with the help of an outside consultant. Springfield’s project is organized around three broad strategies: Curricular and Assessment Alignment, Teacher and Adult Caregiver Capacity/Quality, and Data Use and Strategic Planning. Planned activities include selecting and/or developing an early education curriculum for the community and identifying standards to focus on across public and private settings, including common developmental domains in Teaching Strategies Gold and shared social-emotional standards. The partnership will then provide professional development and outreach around these domains and standards, identify common formative assessments to use across preschool settings, expand teacher-to-teacher observations, and share kindergarten assessment data with pre-kindergarten providers. Springfield has re-instituted monthly “PLCs” of community-based and public preschool and kindergarten teachers that participate in shared professional development and conduct cross-site classroom observations.

This post was completed as part of a contract between the MA Department of Early Education and Care and Cambridge Education (where David Jacobson worked at the time). Contract # CT EEC 0900 FY13SRF130109CAMBRID.