Kathleen Hart, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
For Immediate Release
May 16, 2014
Massachusetts One of Six States Advancing New Focus on Early Learning
WORCESTER – Massachusetts' top education officials today spoke to educators, parents, business leaders, and community partners from across the Commonwealth at a statewide conference to emphasize the importance of preparing even the youngest children for eventual success in college and careers.
Thomas Weber, Commissioner of Early Education and Care; Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education; and Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education addressed 250 attendees at the Birth through Grade 3 Policy Forum: Developing Strategic Pathways to College and Career Success held today at the DCU Center in Worcester. The conference was designed to explore the ways in which policy makers, educators, parents and a range of other stakeholders can work together to best equip children, in their earliest developmental years, with the experiences and environments they need to build strong foundations for learning in school and beyond. The Commissioners delivered a unified message on the importance of building a healthy and strong foundation for learning starting at birth so that all children will be on the pathway to lifelong success.
"The first five years of a child's life present us with an unprecedented opportunity to impact their development and learning trajectories and set them on a path of success," said Early Education and Care Commissioner Thomas L. Weber. "A seamless education system that begins at birth and links across all sectors is necessary to ensuring that our children achieve at high levels and succeed throughout their education and careers."
"Too few students in Massachusetts are ready for grade-level work by the end of third grade," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "I am glad to be part of this collaboration that will help build stronger foundations for children."
"Across all three of our education agencies, we are focused on building brainpower," said Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education. "Too many of our students wind up in remedial courses, which greatly reduces their chance of ever earning a college degree. I am pleased to join my colleagues in supporting new strategies to give younger children tools they need to be successful later in life."
In June 2013, the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices, a research and development entity that supports governors and the development of solutions to public policy issues, announced that Massachusetts and five other states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania) had been selected to participate in a national policy academy to improve learning outcomes for children from birth through grade 3. With the generous support from the NGA, including a grant of $25,000 plus technical assistance from national experts, Massachusetts is developing a comprehensive birth through grade 3 policy agenda that reflects a growing body of research about the critical importance of the earliest years of a child’s life and builds on successful initiatives that are being implemented across the state, such as the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge and K12 Plans.
The foundation of the Birth to Three agenda is the identification of the essential "competencies" or skills that all children should demonstrate in order to be well prepared for college and careers in the 21st century. For example, Massachusetts will build upon successful early literacy programs with the goal of preventing achievement and developmental gaps from forming before children reach school age. The competencies will also serve as building blocks for the knowledge and skills included in the new Massachusetts Definition of College and Career Readiness adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education during the spring of 2013. Additionally, the new agenda will include strategies to enhance early learning standards, develop a birth through grade 3 assessment system, improve educator effectiveness, and provide comprehensive support to children and families.