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Joint Initiatives with the Department of Early Education and Care to Promote School Readiness and Student Success

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
March 15, 2013


I am pleased that Early Education and Care Acting Commissioner Tom Weber and Board Chair J.D. Chesloff will be joining us at the March 26, 2013 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to discuss initiatives underway at the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). In particular, they will present information on EEC's $50 million federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-Early Learning Challenge) grant and on joint projects between EEC and our agency.

EEC's RTT-Early Learning Challenge grant builds on its Board's five-year plan that outlines a core set of strategies to monitor, assess, and improve children's learning experiences in their first five years and to produce greater school readiness, especially among children with high needs. Among the key components of EEC's RTT-Early Learning Challenge grant is a strengthened partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) on a number of birth to grade 3 initiatives.

Birth to Grade 3 Framework

With a national focus on grade 3 proficiency in reading and mathematics and the importance of learning in the early years, EEC and DESE have worked together to develop a Birth to Grade 3 Framework that recognizes children's development and learning in the earliest years in order to provide them with a pathway to early school success. Over the past three years, Massachusetts has embraced birth to grade 3 alignment as a comprehensive strategy to improve young children's access to high quality birth to grade 3 programs and strengthen the capacity of elementary schools to sustain student learning gains in the early elementary school years. By integrating these two efforts, the Commonwealth aims to enable all children to be proficient in reading and mathematics, and to develop the social-emotional and physical development skills that will support students' academic success by the end of third grade.

The following outlines several major initiatives within the Birth to Grade 3 Framework that our agencies have embarked upon to improve developmental and learning outcomes for children by grade 3.

Selected Joint Initiatives between EEC and DESE

Birth to Grade 3 Strategy Development - Through collaboration with ESE, EEC has invested its RTT-Early Learning Challenge federal funds to help communities improve child outcomes through a comprehensive birth to grade 3 strategy. The Birth to Grade 3 Community Implementation/Planning grants are focused on strengthening the existing infrastructure within targeted local communities with low performing schools.

Early Childhood Special Education - DESE has an Inter-Agency Service Agreement (ISA) with EEC to administer approximately $8 million federal early childhood special education funds designed to support services for students ages 3-5 with disabilities. Through the ISA, EEC administers the federal entitlement grant to all school districts with young children with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Approximately 14,000 eligible young children are served each year. EEC also works closely with DESE on professional development and technical assistance for educators to strengthen services and supports for young children with disabilities.

Standards, Curriculum, and Instruction - EEC and DESE have worked together to develop the preschool curriculum standards as part of the Commonwealth's broader effort to incorporate the Common Core State Standards into the revised Massachusetts English Language Arts and Mathematics Frameworks that were adopted in 2011. This collaborative work around standards has continued since the 2011 revisions in two ways:

  1. The agencies are working to align the state's infant-toddler, preschool, and kindergarten standards to ensure that our expectations for young children's development and learning are consistent across ages and are based on sound research about child development.
  2. As DESE works to revise its Science Curriculum Framework, EEC has partnered with Wheelock College to develop preschool science standards that will align with DESE's K-12 framework to ensure that our frameworks continue to address curriculum starting at the pre-kindergarten level.

Early Childhood Formative Assessment - Under its RTT-Early Learning Challenge grant, EEC is required to design and implement a Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA) initiative. The federal requirements for this initiative include measurement of kindergarten children's skills and competencies in the domains of language/literacy, mathematics, social-emotional development, and physical development within the first six weeks of the kindergarten year. Our initiative, known as the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA), has been designed as a series of formative assessment tools for kindergarten. The expectation is that districts will use the assessments to measure the four developmental domains listed above and to guide kindergarten teachers in designing appropriate instruction for children through the effective use of data.

EEC and DESE developed a four-year roll-out plan for the MKEA that includes all 306 school districts with a kindergarten enrollment to participate in the initiative.

WIDA-ELD (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment English Language Development) Standards - EEC and DESE are working to develop preschool standards for English language learners that align with the K-12 English language development standards recently adopted by Massachusetts. The goal of this work is to have standards for educators who work with children from birth to age 5 who are English language learners that informs instructional practices and supports to aid in the development of young children's literacy skills.

I look forward to an informative session with Acting Commissioner Weber and Chair Chesloff. I have asked Senior Associate Commissioner Bob Bickerton and Donna Traynham, DESE's Coordinator of Learning Support Programs, to join our EEC colleagues for the presentation and discussion.

Last Updated: March 19, 2013
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