Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mass: The importance of investing in early education and care

Pre-school teachers are poorly paid in many jurisdictions.  It seems to be seen as a job "anyone can do". Below is a plea that they should be paid more.  It is rather light on evidence that more money would improve teaching

The benefits of accessible, affordable, and quality early education and care are significant, lasting, and critical to addressing some of the Commonwealth’s most entrenched issues. A successful early-education and care system allows parents, in particular working mothers, to be fully productive and active participants in the workforce, provides caregivers and educators with high-quality employment opportunities, and begins the formal education and development of our children and future workforce. In addition to these immediate benefits, investments in the system will compound over time. With targeted investments in our early-education professionals, and the subsequent improvement in the quality of care, we can begin to address the root causes associated with persistent problems such as the achievement gap and income inequality and ensure continued economic success in the Commonwealth.

The economic and societal advantages of a high-quality early-education and care system, which are multifaceted and multigenerational, rely on a skilled and dedicated workforce. Research indicates that children who receive high-quality care are more likely to pursue and persist through higher education and find gainful employment. Additionally, parents are far more committed to, and productive in, their jobs when they know that their children are receiving high-quality care, and that the care can have a valuable long-term impact on their child’s future. In particular, access to quality care allows more mothers to remain in the workforce and continue to advance in their careers. The impacts are felt more broadly as fewer public resources are needed for future interventions to compensate for a lack of early skill-building and its associated benefits.

To achieve these long-term benefits, the Legislature has an opportunity to build on the investment of public and private stakeholders. Through substantial grants and provider rate increases, the state has started to significantly strengthen early-education services and programs. It has also leveraged federal dollars to establish new preschool classrooms and programs.

However, barriers to expanding access and enhancing quality of education and care continue to hinder progress. Specifically, professionals in this sector tend to be under-supported both financially and professionally. The substandard compensation of early educators has led to high turnover, which adversely impacts the quality of care. An average salary for an early educator ranges from $22,000 to $27,000, compared with $40,000 for an entry-level public school teacher. Not only is that salary unsustainable, but the lack of clear career pathways discourages professionals from seeking out additional education. While we in the business community commend the state for its dedication in this area, the Commonwealth can do more to address these issues.

The state House of Representatives has proposed a comprehensive and targeted early-education and care package that works to address many of the challenges facing the sector’s workforce. Most notably, House Speaker Robert DeLeo proposes increasing the provider rate by $20 million and dedicating $8.5 million to establishing workforce- and professional-development programs with the state’s community colleges. These proposals will help to elevate the early-education and care profession by offering a livable wage and the opportunity to build the skills that are necessary for a long-term career in the field.

As the House and Senate work to finalize their budget recommendations for fiscal year 2019, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership encourages the Conference Committee to adopt he House proposals. Be assured, the return on this investment will minimize the need for the Legislature to spend additional time and money in the future, since these solutions target the underlying cause of many entrenched problems. The Legislature has the opportunity to demonstrate its continued commitment to our children, families, and the early educators who provide the quality care that cultivates an inclusive and productive economy.


Mom seeks punishment for principal who she believes is responsible for daughter’s suicide

FOR AN entire school year, a 12-year-old girl endured merciless bullying online and in the hallways by cruel classmates whose taunts included, “When are you going to kill yourself?”

Mallory Grossman’s mother made “numerous” complaints to administrators at the New Jersey middle school, but they did nothing to help her daughter, she claimed to The Post.

On June 14, 2017, Mallory killed herself in the family’s Rockaway home. Her parents on Tuesday filed a wrongful-death civil case against the principal, Rockaway Township, its board of education and several other school officials in Morris County Superior Court.

“The story isn’t about Mallory. It’s about everybody’s Mallory. It’s about everybody’s niece and their nephew and their grandchildren,’’ her mum Dianne Grossman said.

She said principal Alfonso Gonnella, specifically, has “blood on his hands”.

On the last day of her daughter’s life, Mrs Grossman went with Mallory to talk to Mr Gonnella in a last-ditch attempt to get help for her child, court papers say.

During the three-hour meeting, the principal handed a poker chip to the pre-teen cheerleader and gymnast. He then directed the girl to inscribe her initials on the token and asked her: “Are you all in?”

Mallory was “humiliated,’’ the papers say.

Mr Gonnella “lacked any suggestions to punish the offenders, but instead, placed the bulk of the responsibility on Mallory to rectify the situation,’’ the papers say. “His bright solution to nine months of bullying is a poker chip? And to have her write her initials and date it and to ask her if she’s all in? And hours later she goes home and dies?” Ms Grossman said.

Mallory’s father, Seth Grossman, was the one who “discovered his daughter Mallory minutes after she attempted suicide and was present during her last moments of life,” the shattered parents’ say.

Mrs Grossman said that meeting followed a full school year of cruel texts and Snapchat messages from other students.

One girl coldly asked, “When are you going to kill yourself?’’ in front of other classmates — just weeks before the suicide.

Another bully, identified in court papers by the initials A.B., took a surreptitious photo of Mallory by herself, then texted it to her with the caption “You have no friends,” the papers say.

In another instance, an unidentified student sent a similar photo to classmates via Snapchat with the caption “U have no friends” and “Poor Mal”, court papers state.

Her mum pleaded with school officials to intervene “numerous” times during the 2016-17 school year, but the educators’ tone-deaf responses only made things worse, court papers say.
'I keep waiting for her to come home … like she's away at camp … I just miss my Mal.'

When the parents once complained about bullying in the lunch room, the school suggested their daughter eat in a guidance counsellor’s office — “further isolating Mallory from the student body,” the papers say.

Another time, administrators had Mallory and her tormentors “hug each other” rather than actually discipline anyone.

School officials advised the family not to file a formal complaint under New Jersey’s Harassment Intimidation and Anti-Bullying policy, the papers say.

The family’s lawyer, Bruce Nagel, added, “We are hopeful that the filing of this lawsuit will bring national awareness to the epidemic of cyber-bullying and that we do not have to attend any more funerals of students who have been the victims.’’

Dianne Grossman said her death is “a perpetual sadness you have to learn to live with’’.

The Rockaway Township Board of Education did not return a request for comment. Mr Gonnella did not return calls or emails from The Post.


Proposed Australian education reforms are naive

Gonski had no professional knowledge of education. He's a lawyer and a businessman. He got his job because he was a good networker --  so his recommendations were just an idealistic fantasy

The sequel is generally worse than the original movie. The same could be said of the ‘Gonski 2’ review into Australian schools.

Despite a one-year process, hundreds of submissions, and a cost to the taxpayer of at least $700,000 (not including the eight-person government secretariat), the review came up with wide-sweeping, general recommendations that don’t offer useful guidance for the school system.

As we outline in a policy paper released this week, the review also failed to fulfill its terms of reference to examine the evidence regarding the most effective teaching and learning strategies, and to provide advice on how the extra $24.5 billion of taxpayer money for schools over the next 10 years should be used. There is practically no discussion of the cost-effectiveness of the recommendations.

And the review’s most significant recommendations face substantial implementation challenges and aren’t supported by rigorous evidence.

A key focus of the review is growth in learning — recommending a new online continuous assessment tool — as opposed to an age-based or year-based curriculum. This seems impractical, and many teachers have expressed concerns about the teacher time involved in frequent individual student assessment.

In addition, there is no evidence that such an assessment tool would have a positive impact on student achievement. The idea of creating ‘learning progressions’ for the entire curriculum has no support in academic literature. And there is no evidence supporting the implementation of such a broad-ranging assessment tool — the report offers no examples to show that such an expensive and time-intensive reform would be effective. If implemented nationally, it would be a lengthy and costly experiment, with Australian teachers and students as the guinea pigs.

If this recommendation is to be adopted, it should proceed only after a careful trial of the online assessment system in a sample of schools, to determine the efficacy of the approach and lessons for implementation.

Almost as problematic is the report’s recommendation to establish a national education evidence institute (which now has bi-partisan support at the federal level). In theory, a new body like this has merit. But there are obvious risks — like becoming politicised and being too focussed on pleasing stakeholders — that aren’t adequately addressed by the review.

If such a body is to be established, then it should have high standards of evidence and commission outside experts to conduct evidence reviews on important topics in their fields, similar to medical research institutes.

The Gonski 2 recommendations should be approached with great caution. They are potentially expensive and disruptive to the work of teachers and the lives of students, and have little or no evidence basis — a recipe for educational disaster.


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