Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Conditions of Education in Western Mass: Rennie Center

I'm at the annual Conditions of Education in Western Massachusetts, put together by the Rennie Center, in Holyoke. It appears as though today is about the Preschool Expansion Grant. The hashtag is #COE2018

Commissioner Tom Weber (Early Ed and Care)
"a hotbed of important activity of early ed and care for a long, long time"
"really want to commend the communities of western Mass"
25th anniversary "room we have to build upon"
a lot of work done in Western Mass: community-led initiatives in place
"do we have the ability to do this at scale?"
much privately provided; happens in families
thinking about systems that are scalable
"take non-traditional funds...and be able to create a different kind of model"
"what could be achieved if we were to bring together some of the strengths of the public schools and some of the strengths" of private providers
redesigning quality rating and improvement system; revisions coming forward this summer and fall
much more practical and accessible
"much more program focused"
lessons on professional development; career pathways of early educators
rate increases "but we know we need to go beyond just these rate increases"
elevate quality across the more than 9000 programs across Massachusetts

Amy Checkoway from Abt Associates
Jocelyn Bowne from EEC
Bowne: collaborative community focused model
expand access to full-day full year; concern about high turnover and limited availability of educators with BAs
concerns with literacy and limited preschool access
Boston, Holyoke, Lowell, Lawrence, and Springfield: providers provided educators and space, public school provided grant management, PD, and special education
residency, age, and income requirements
prioritizing vulnerable children: those without access to early ed, second language English, children of color
Checkoway: impact study
"if this model made a difference in children's outcomes"
regression discontinuity design (used where random assignment of children is not desirable or possible)
create two groups of children to compare outcomes: kids who have completed one year of preschool in these classrooms; compared to those just starting school without the preschool
children may differ in age by as little as one day
direct child assessment data measured at the same time: vocab, early literacy, early math, executive function all tested
substantially large impact on early reading; significant difference in math
not measurable difference in executive function
looked at gender; not a significant difference
significantly larger impact on those from homes with languages other than English
core features of this model related to high quality
first research taking place in community-based programs (rather than public school programs, where much research has taken place)
"seem to have the biggest impact on the kids I think we worry about the most"
local collaborative structures required as part of the grant, including directors themselves
organzing family engagement and professional development
focus of coaching as discussed
thinking about inclusion: how services are provided
enrollment took time in outreach to those who had not previously been engageed; "often door to door"
coordinate and reduce the time necessary for each individual program; bring families together across program sites; needed dedicated family support staff
work together very intentionally

Panel: Stephen Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council; Dexter Johnson, YMCA of Greater Springfield; Laura Mendes, preschool grant coordinator for Springfield Public Schools
Mendes: Springfield and Holyoke chosen because of some long-established relationships in communities
"formalize it, operationalize it...longer lasting than those drive-by initiatives, so we could have some really great impacts"
linkages we make to those who haven't been a part of this grant
"bigger than those folks at the table right now"
Johnson: YMCA has four of the classrooms
relationship part of it
money "brings people to the table, but it doesn't bring people together"
Huntley: Holyoke model is slightly different from Springfield, as we're actually in the Holyoke Public Schools
relationship with not only administration but kindergarten teachers are much much stronger
"collaboration has really come alive with this project"
Johnston: key component is the school system, and having the school system be part of those conversations; "have to be the lead agencies, as they will have these kids down the road"
Mendes: "just because there are good relationships doesn't mean you can't have hard conversations...have them in a respectful way"
Huntley: worked hard to showcase our best foot within the Holyoke Public Schools; showcase best work "gives creditability to the partnership"
Johnston: challenge is anytime you have that many people at the table, everyone's not going to be on the same page at the same time
greatest challenge over time
confusion of message to the public, especially if we're in the same building together
tough to explain what this is and exactly how parents can benefit from it
Mendes: public school common language is different than community based common language are different
Huntley: in many ways, set up to be competitors with each other; takes time to establish trust
Huntley: data's huge; it tells us our outcomes
need to count advancements
Mendes: had some internal data in Springfield mirrors what is shown today
system than makes is easier for families to enroll and find more about what's available to them

Rep. Vega: "if the point scale goes up, then the money goes away" then what
"did we look at trauma...poverty does not mean a child cannot learn, but it means they're facing things that other kids aren't"
d'Entremont...seems to be talking about start-up costs...
Huntley: trauma's huge
"really trauma is built into everything we do on a daily basis with the children"
Mendes: "not everything you do is academic...it's social-emotional...so much work to be done in that zero to three space as well"

Andy Churchhill: challenge of data on how kids are doing over time; difference agencies overseeing
tracking kids from one system to the other
Mendes: have made some gains on that

to Q on challenges: getting students enrolled
Johnston: parents needs for childcare v. preschool times and needs
Huntley: chasing parents for verification of information
Mendes: free preschool for all that doesn't divert funds from the public schools

Respondent: Linda Noonan, MBAE
constantly have to evaluate and change directions
education and workforce "have to see each other as resources"
"not just access, but access to something worthwhile"
"delighted to hear about the use of data...data is our friend and not our enemy"
"data is essential for equity...and measure for outcomes"
"now Springfield has to focus on K to 12"
respond to Vega "in the real world, when the money goes away, you re-evaluate"
"you can't get the funding if you're not showing effectiveness"
acknowledges her Board members who know "that the Turnpike goes west as well as east"

Secretary Peyser: so much focused around the question of how
started as a total quality manager
"it's not enough to have a great strategy, a great plan, a great proposal, what you really need is great impact on the ground to make a difference"
empowering teams
"ensuring folks on the front lines not only given power to act..." but to work in collaboration
"most interested in the vocabulary bar...that one is probably most connected to" learning later
and then there was this riff about who acquires what sort of language and why
strongly focused on statewide testing, statewide standards and results...I think the purpose of focusing on those things
"core of education reform" it wasn't
"not to control what goes on in the classroom, but to enable schools and districts to do what they needed to do"
ensure all are "given the opportunity to learn"
"that really has to happen at the local level...context and structure matters a lot"
ensure that work is going on where schools are the unit of change
among things needed: "adequate and equitable funding that districts can depend on over time"
"state is focused on the 'what'; the schools should be focused on the 'how'"
districts should be focused on systems of support
Empowerment zone: thinking of structure, need to figure out how to replicate

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