Mass. wins federal grant for early education

Posted Dec. 16, 2011, at 9:52 p.m.

BOSTON — Federal education officials announced Friday that Massachusetts is one of nine states sharing a $500 million grant to improve early childhood education.

Massachusetts will receive $50 million as its share of the grant. The money is part of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education initiative.

The goal of the competition is to get more young children ready for kindergarten — considered key to their future success in school and in the workplace.

States were asked to show they are committed to making early education programs more available, coordinated and effective. They were also asked to focus on professional development for teachers and to assess the education level of children entering kindergarten.

Gov. Deval Patrick said the money will also let the state narrow persistent educational achievement gaps between students of different racial, ethnic and income groups.

“These resources will help us reach kids at an early age, before achievement gaps form, to ensure they are prepared for lifelong success in school and beyond,” Patrick said in a statement.

Patrick said the grant will also help the state push ahead with his administration’s goal of ensuring all students have access to high quality pre-kindergarten education.

Part of the Massachusetts plan is to increase the quality of all early education programs by making sure all programs meet state standards.

The proposal also establishes English language development standards for children from birth to age 5 and is designed to help the state reach out to parents of all cultural backgrounds to press the importance of literacy.

Another part of the proposal would let the state form partnerships with local early learning initiatives, such as the Boston Children Museum’s Countdown to Kindergarten, to help young children make the transition to school successfully.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville said the plan “reflects our ongoing commitment to providing our pre-K children with access to the types of high-quality, educational and developmental experiences they will need to succeed in school and beyond.”

Thirty-five states, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, competed for the grants. Other winners besides Massachusetts include California, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and the state of Washington.

Massachusetts won a $250 million Race to the Top grant last year to help turn around low-performing schools.

The latest grant comes on the heels of an announcement Patrick made last month detailing several new initiatives he said are aimed at making sure all children in Massachusetts are proficient in reading by the third grade.

The plan includes starting a pilot kindergarten literacy program in several areas of the state with achievement gaps.

The governor’s plan also calls for creating a Commonwealth Education Innovation fund to raise money for educational initiatives around the state.

Patrick said studies show that most students who are not proficient in reading by the third grade will continue to struggle academically in the future.

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