A boy plays with a kitchen set in preschool

Strategies for Children

Ensuring Massachusetts invests in high-quality early education programs that prepare children for success in school and life.

When it comes to policy, few groups in our country are as vulnerable as young children. Children depend on adults—their families, elected officials, administrators, teachers and others—to make sound decisions for their healthy development.

Elected officials, educators, and other stakeholders rely on the credible, research-based data, sound policy advice, and organizing might of organizations like Strategies for Children. Building effective and efficient early childhood systems requires a holistic approach.

Founded in 2000, Strategies for Children, Inc. and its “Early Education for All” campaign, work to ensure that Massachusetts children have access to high-quality early education and care that prepares them for success in school and life. With an ultimate vision of Massachusetts as a leader among states for early learning systems, Strategies for Children engages in policy development and monitoring, constituency building and partnerships, research, and advocacy to achieve its goals. It also provides technical assistance to communities to plan for, build, and improve local early learning systems.

Approximately 443,000 children age five or younger live in Massachusetts. Research shows that strategic and sustained investment in a continuum of early childhood education and care, from birth to kindergarten, helps to prepare children for success in school and life. These investments are even more important for the 17% of young children statewide who live in poverty and whose development may be significantly delayed as their families struggle to find employment at livable wages, adequate housing, food security, and other basic needs. These opportunity gaps take root early and contribute to longer term educational achievement gaps. Children who start behind in school often struggle to catch up, and this is particularly true in reading, where a child’s kindergarten vocabulary correlates strongly with reading ability at every subsequent grade through high school. This makes a comprehensive approach to school readiness essential for children to reach their full potential.

Strategies for Children engages in policy development and monitoring, constituency building and partnerships, research, and advocacy to achieve high-quality early education for Massachusetts children.

Strategies for Children Infographic

Massachusetts has yet to fully invest in high-quality universal pre-kindergarten, despite its commitment to this goal with the passage of an Act Relative to Early Education and Care in 2008. An estimated 67,470 preschool-age children in the State, or 30%, are not enrolled in any early education program prior to kindergarten. This percentage varies by community, notably: 25% in New Bedford, 30% to 40% on Cape Cod, 47% in Springfield, and 53% in Lowell. Even if children are enrolled, program quality varies greatly. The Commonwealth’s participation in the federally funded Preschool Expansion Grant and recent workforce development investments are a significant move in the right direction. Unlike K-12 public schools, the five and under early childhood space is not, in most cities and towns, an organized constituency with central leadership and governance. For the many local communities and gateway cities that want preschool, the lack of financial resources and birth-to-five system-building expertise creates an obstacle that can be difficult to overcome.

Strategies for Children’s efforts have led to the creation of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care in 2006; enactment of legislation creating Universal Pre-Kindergarten in statute; an increase in kindergartners attending full-day programs, tripling the percentage of children in full-day kindergarten since 2000 to 95% today; and enactment of third grade reading legislation. Its advocacy, along with partners, has helped to sustain and even increase early childhood funding even as State budgets decreased, including $78 million for Universal Pre-K grants and $41 million for Early Childhood Educator Scholarships since 2006. Collectively, this work has helped position Massachusetts to successfully secure competitive federal grants, including a $15 million Preschool Expansion Grant in 2014 and a $50 million Early Learning Challenge grant in 2011.

Strategies for Children’s work relies on strategic communications and engagement with the public on the issues that matter most to healthy child development. Using a variety of digital tools, Strategies for Children’s prioritizes transparency and community involvement. Their blog, Eye on Early Education, has over 1,000 subscribers and covers the latest policy discussions. Strategies for Children is a sector leader on Twitter, with over 14,000 followers and their website is the home base for their online presence, updating all 251 cities and towns in Massachusetts on the early education research and policy.

From policy and regulatory advocacy, to raising public awareness, Strategies for Children works to make high-quality early education a reality for all. One of Barr’s earliest partners, Strategies for Children is a trusted ally and champion of the Commonwealth’s children.

Strategies for Children works to ensure that Massachusetts invests the resources needed for all children, from birth to age five, to access high-quality early education programs that prepare them for success in school and life.