For Immediate Release - October 12, 2012

Patrick-Murray Administration Awards $1 Million in Grants to Strengthen Coordination Between Pre-K Through 3rd Grade Education and Improve Child and Family Outcomes

BOSTON – The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced $1million in grant awards to strengthen coordination and partnerships between early learning and elementary education programs and services in several communities across the Commonwealth.  The “Pre-Kindergarten to Third Grade Alignment for Educational Success” initiative supports local school districts and community-based early education and care providers in better integrating and coordinating their systems to ensure a streamlined educational experience for children and families that will improve student achievement outcomes and help close achievement gaps among students in Massachusetts.

This initiative is part of the Massachusetts Early Learning Plan, a four year blueprint for the Commonwealth to advance innovative and achievable education reform initiatives that will help close the achievement gap among students in their earliest years, before they form.  The Massachusetts Early Learning Plan is funded through a $50 million federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant which Massachusetts won in December 2011.  The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is overseeing the implementation of the plan - a coordinated effort among several state agencies, including the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and community stakeholders.

“We are committed to building a world-class public education system in Massachusetts, and these grants will help ensure our children have access to high quality education in their earliest years,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Education is Massachusetts’ calling card around the world and central to our competitiveness in the global economy.  We invest in education because we believe that it is the single most important investment government can make in our collective future.”

The grant funding announced today was awarded to five communities to strengthen and advance their PreK-3rd Grade partnerships and coordination.  The lead agencies for the grant awards are: Square One (Springfield), Somerville Public Schools, Boston Public Schools, Berkshire United Way (Pittsfield), and Thrive in 5/United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (Boston).  The funds will be disbursed over two years.  EEC awarded grants to communities with an existing infrastructure for PreK-3rd grade systems that will serve as the foundation for enhanced coordination and alignment of programs and services.  Components of this more effective and aligned system include:  cooperative governance structures, educator collaboration and shared professional development, aligned curricula and assessment systems, streamlined data collection, joint parent and family engagement efforts, and access to extended learning opportunities. 

“Building stronger early education systems that provide an aligned experience and smooth transition for children and families is critical to improved child and family outcomes by 3rd grade,” said Department of Early Education and Care Commissioner Sherri Killins.  “Partnerships that bring together both systems and key collaborators with a common focus and shared goals will help us achieve the goal of establishing a cradle to career education pipeline in Massachusetts that prepares our citizens for lifelong success.”

“The bold reforms that the Administration and Commissioner Killins set forth in the state’s Early Learning Challenge initiative will ensure that all children in Massachusetts are on a path to success by grade 3,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. “By supporting high quality early education and elementary programs, these grant funds will improve instruction and increase student outcomes.”

Grantees will bring together the private early education and care programs (center based, family child care and out of school time programs), and the public school Pre-K to Grade 3 programs in the community to coordinate services, align standards and assessments, engage parents and families, and share professional development.  Grantees will collaborate with appropriate partners in the community, including the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement networks, Educator and Provider Support grantees, Head Start/Early Head Start, Early Intervention, Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, institutions of higher education, foundations, public libraries, literacy programs, museums, faith-based organizations, businesses, health care providers, and agencies that support individuals with disabilities. 

Learn more about the Commonwealth’s successful Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge plan

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About the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) provides services for children in Massachusetts through a mixed delivery system, which includes, but is not limited to public, private, non-profit and for-profit preschools, child care centers, nursery schools, preschools operating within public and private schools, Head Start programs and independent and system affiliated family child care homes.  EEC is responsible for licensing early education and care and out-of-school time programs throughout Massachusetts and for administering child care financial assistance to low-income families with children birth to 13 years of age.  In addition, EEC provides support for information and referral services, inclusive programming for children with special needs, parenting and family support, and professional development opportunities for educators in the early education and out of school time fields.  EEC is committed to building an improvement process that addresses both the performance of programs and the developmental outcomes of young children.  Research shows that high quality early education promotes positive child development and that enriching out of school time learning experiences can level the playing field for low-income and at-risk children.  To raise awareness of the critical importance of fostering the cognitive, social and emotional development of young children by emphasizing its future impact on economic development and prosperity for everyone in Massachusetts, EEC launched the Brain Building in Progress campaign.  For more information about EEC’s programs and services, visit www.mass.gov/eec.  For more information on the science of brain building and the importance of healthy child development, visit www.brainbuildinginprogress.org