Quality & Targeted Programs

EEC administers multiple programs which provide early educational opportunities for very young children and their families. These programs target specific populations and aim to improve the overall quality of programming.

Research in child development has laid out the links between early childhood development and future educational success. The brain develops at a tremendous rate before birth and during a child's first years of life. Studies show the importance of providing very young children with educational opportunities before school to maximize brain development and to ensure that all children are ready for school and do not fall behind. Third grade has become the benchmark for early reading as research has shown that students not reading by third grade are more likely to struggle and fall behind in school, repeat a grade and drop-out.

Programs in this category have evolved from this research and attempt to extend educational opportunities to all of Massachusetts very young children, especially those from economically disadvantaged households. Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Services provide support to children and families in early education and care programs focusing on lowering the number of school suspensions and expulsions. Head Start, aims to increase the capacities of children and their families. Children receive quality early learning while parents receive health, nutrition, parenting and other supportive services. UPK provides funds to establish preschool classrooms in under-performing or lower income communities. Funds can be used to enhance teacher training, raise pay and benefits, and to help organizations offer full day comprehensive high quality preschool programming. Reach Out and Read partners with pediatric physicians to give out free books during children's doctor visits and to encourage family reading. Services for Infants & Children funds two grants administered by EEC. The Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grant funds approximately 100 grantees which deliver family support programs, parent education, and provide information and referrals for other services. The Educator and Provider Support (EPS) grant funds professional development for providers.

EEC has instituted the Massachusetts tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to ensure a level of quality in the care provided by these programs. QRIS provides a clear set of evaluation standards where previously, evaluation of programming was done in disparate ways utilizing multiple systems.

Public K-12 education is an essential equalizing institution, but many children who start school behind their peers remain behind and struggle throughout their education. Half of Massachusetts' fourth graders scored below proficient in reading and the state has a large achievement gap. The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) ranks Massachusetts 23rd in pre-kindergarten funding in 2011, down from 8th a decade ago. Early education programs enhance a child's physical, cognitive, and social development, and directly impact subsequent success in school and later life. But to be successful, they must be adequately funded. Both Head Start and UPK have been cut significantly since FY 2008.

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