Press Release provided by the Healey-Driscoll Administration:
In Malden, Administration highlights early literacy focus in universal pre-k classrooms
The Healey-Driscoll Administration announced this morning at the Mystic Valley YMCA that they are awarding $850,000 to four organizations to increase access to evidence-based and culturally responsive literacy supports for Massachusetts preschoolers, enhancing school readiness and future academic achievement. These initiatives include coaching and professional development for districts focused on universal preschool, identifying preschool language and literacy assessments for districts to use, as well as creating a Preschool to Kindergarten Transition Toolkit to support children of all abilities.
Education Secretary Tutwiler, Early Education and Care Commissioner Kershaw, Malden Mayor Christenson and State Representatives Ultrino and Donato visited preschool classrooms today to see an early literacy lesson in action, as well as discuss with local partners how the state’s Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (CPPI) is supporting Malden to expand access to high quality preschool in public and community-based settings, including support in selecting high-quality preschool curriculum that integrates evidence-based practices in early literacy.
“Literacy is foundational to a student’s ability to succeed in school and beyond,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Our administration is committed to improving early literacy—and we’re starting by expanding this effort into our preschool classrooms. We’re taking a data-informed approach to push effective literacy strategies, high quality curriculum, and professional development that can improve learning outcomes for all of our students.”
“Our administration is approaching early literacy with urgency. We’re committed to investing in programs that support our younger students and ensure they are using materials and strategies backed by evidence,” said Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll.
“The Healey-Driscoll administration is prioritizing evidence-based early literacy because of the simple, yet profound reality that establishing literacy skills early is not only foundational to the remainder of that students’ education, it is foundational to the remainder of his or her life,” said Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler. “I am proud that our agencies are working together to further expand efforts to our preschoolers, setting up our youngest students for lifelong learning and success. We have to get this right.”
Through a new multi-pronged, cross-agency effort by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Administration is increasing access to evidence-based and culturally responsive early literacy programming for early education and care programs. A portion of the funding will be used to assess the early education and preschool field to better understand where high quality literacy materials and professional development should be targeted. Other funds will go toward increasing access to preschool language and literacy assessments so educators can identify where students are struggling and make informed adjustments, known as responsive teaching. This investment will also support the development of a Massachusetts Preschool to Kindergarten Transition Toolkit to guide transition planning for children of all abilities across the state’s mixed delivery early education system. Together, these efforts will create more high-quality learning environments and implementation of practices that are data-driven and grounded in equity.
“It is critical we support early education programs and schools to intentionally align policies, curricula and assessments to ensure a smooth transition between preschool and kindergarten – which is essential for a child’s educational success and love of reading,” said Early Education and Care Commissioner Amy Kershaw. “Early education is the start of the educational journey for our youngest learners. I am proud to be partnering with our education colleagues and these organizations to develop and provide programs with resources and supports so children can develop the language and literacy skills they need, closing the learning gap before they enter kindergarten.”
This investment in high quality, effective early literacy programming supports for preschoolers expands DESE’s Mass Literacy initiative to early education students. This initiative helps every student develop language comprehension, fluent word reading, and writing skills they need to develop a strong foundation for literacy in grades preK-3. Also, under GLEAM (Growing Literacy Equity Across Massachusetts) and Accelerating Literacy grants, DESE has been offering opportunities for districts to receive multi-year technical support and financial resources for improvements in ELA/Literacy teaching and learning. In the 2022-2023 school year, DESE released the Commonwealth’s own early literacy curriculum, a completely free, high-quality reading foundational skills curriculum for students in pre-K-2, called Appleseed. In an Appleseeds district, kindergarten students at or above reading benchmark went from 28% to 85% in just one year.
“Early literacy is a shared priority, and I’m glad to continue our work with the Department of Early Education and Care in support of our youngest learners,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley. “Efforts such as this funding, combined with the grants, training and resources we’ve made available to K-12 schools, will help our students become more successful readers and learners.”
The $850,000 comes from several funding sources: $700,000 from CCPI funding in the fiscal year 2024 budget and $150,000 through the federal Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five (PDG B-5). Through CPPI, EEC funds districts across the state to develop partnerships between the school district and local private early education and care programs to expand access to high quality preschool within the district. Massachusetts was awarded a three-year, $36 million federal PDG B-5 grant in January 2023 to better promote the educational, health and economic outcomes of young children and their families across the Commonwealth.
“This is a most important investment as we believe that the key to upward mobility in life is literacy,” said Malden Mayor Gary Christenson. “What makes this investment especially important is that it is targeted toward our preschoolers, which is critical in a city like ours with several community-based partners as well as the Malden Early Learning Center. Thanks to the Healey-Driscoll Administration and our State Delegation for making this possible and for officially announcing it in our community.”
“Massachusetts has consistently been a national leader in education, and now is the time for us to continue this investment by increasing access to high-quality and affordable early education and literacy,” said State Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “Focusing on evidence-based and culturally responsive early literacy programs will support our children from the start and set them up for future success down the line.”
“We are thrilled that the Healey-Driscoll Administration is allocating $850,000 towards early education and literacy programs,” said State Representative Paul Donato (D – Medford). “As a long-standing advocate of childhood education, I recognize that is it extremely important to build a strong educational foundation starting from a young age. The children in Malden and in the rest of the state will greatly benefit under the guidance and support of Governor Healey, Lieutenant Governor Driscoll, Secretary Tutwiler, and Commissioner Kershaw.”
“As an educator and a former school principal, I have seen first-hand how important early literacy is in shaping our children’s future,” said State Representative Steven Ultrino (D – Malden). “Here in Malden, we are fortunate to have teachers and staff who are dedicated to helping our students develop these critical, foundational skills. With the additional investment and leadership from Governor Healey, Lieutenant Governor Driscoll, Secretary Tutwiler, and Commissioner Kershaw, we can ensure that all young students in Malden, and across the Commonwealth, are equipped to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”
"Early literacy is essential in providing young students with a solid foundation for their educational journey, and the legislature has recognized this imperative by appropriating historic increases in state funding for our early education and childcare ecosystem in recent legislative sessions, including for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative,” said State Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D – Melrose). “As a former teacher, education attorney, and the mother of two elementary school learners, I am especially mindful of the impact of evidence-based early literacy programs such as the CPPI on closing opportunity gaps, and I am thrilled to see state investments directed to Malden to expand high-quality preschool curriculum for students in my district."
The organizations receiving awards are:
Pyramid Model Consortium and Teaching Lab
$350,000 per organization
Conduct an assessment of preschools to better understand the supports programs need to implement evidence-based, culturally responsive practices. The assessment data will inform professional development for administrators and educators participating in CPPI. The money will also fund monthly coaching to CCPI teams to help them create high-quality learning environments and use data to inform instruction.
Institute for Child Success
Identify valid, reliable, and developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate preschool language and literacy assessments for Massachusetts preschool programs. Assessments will help educators tailor their instructional practices and supports.
Create the Massachusetts Preschool to Kindergarten Transition Toolkit for a mixed delivery system that is grounded in evidence-based practices and integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion principles. The toolkit will be piloted at community and public preschool and kindergarten programs to support children of all abilities.
Pictured (from left): Malden Superintendent of Schools Ligia Noriega-Murphy, Mayor Gary Christenson, Early Education and Care Commissioner Amy Kershaw, Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler, and State Representatives Paul Donato and Steve Ultrino