Early Childhood Task Force Report 2015
The Cambridge Early Childhood Task Force Report released this past week recommends creating a comprehensive birth to grade three early education and care system to address achievement and opportunity gaps.
The Task Force was made up of city and school department staff, parents, early childhood and health experts from community based organizations and family childcare settings. With support from national experts in the field, the group reviewed the research to identify best practices nationally and locally. They engaged in a needs assessment process, surveying local providers and doing focus groups with parents, principals, teachers, early childhood providers and others. What emerged from the research and the needs assessment confirmed the availability of many strong programs and services within Cambridge but also confirmed the significant challenges families and providers face without a coherent system that links families, early childhood providers, and the schools.
The needs assessment of current services for birth through grade three identified the following key focus areas: access to information, affordability and quality of programs, family engagement and support, and behavioral and mental health for children.
“The vision we maintained throughout this process is to better prepare children to enter school ready to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally,” said Ellen Semonoff, Assistant City Manager for Human Services, adding that the Task Force recognized that it would be a multi-year ongoing effort to build an effective early childhood system that would improve the outcomes for Cambridge’s children. The first step in this process is to create an effective Birth through Third Grade governance structure tasked with turning the recommendations of this report into a full-fledged strategic plan.
“The Task Force recommendations come with significant initial costs and we anticipate that the costs of developing a high quality system will continue to grow for a number of years as our pilot program is evaluated and expanded,” said City Manager Richard C. Rossi. “We are aware that building a coherent system is more time consuming and less flashy than just adding more slots or more dollars to an existing system. But we have an opportunity to be leaders nationally and regionally by building a system that coherently knits together our existing resources and thoughtfully brings in new resources to meet the needs of our youngest residents.”
The City Manager and Superintendent of Schools jointly presented the report at a Cambridge City Council/School Committee roundtable this week. There was a lively discussion with lots of questions, but the overall response from elected officials was strongly positive.
Link to 2015 Early Childhood Task Force Report