Education Reform in Maryland: Early Childhood Education Advocacy and the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future

During the 2020 legislative session in Maryland, education advocates worked together in support of the Kirwan Commission recommendations for education reform at the early childhood, primary, and secondary levels.

The Maryland Association for the Education of Young Children (MDAEYC), in partnership with many education organizations throughout the state, advocated for adopting the Kirwan Commission recommendations as part of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the education reform legislation.  This Blueprint legislation was introduced and passed in the Maryland House and Senate, and is pending final passage.

As part of the Coalition for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, MDAEYC leaders Christina Lopez and Stephanie Schaefer coordinated with coalition partners and participated in a successful advocacy day and Pep Rally in Annapolis in support of the Blueprint legislation.  On February 17, 2020, the day the bill was introduced, over 400 hundred educators, families, and advocates attended the pep rally , flooding the hearing room and filling two overflow rooms to watch the hearing remotely.  In the morning before the Joint Legislative Hearing, Brit Kirwan and others spoke to the advocates.

Stephanie is proud to have played a role in the advocacy efforts of MDAEYC.  In consultation with MDAEYC’s public policy leadership, Stephanie drafted a bill analysis and summary of the Kirwan/Blueprint recommendations, included in MDAEYC’s position statement in support of this landmark education legislation. The position statement filled a need in the early childhood education community by providing a detailed, item-by-item summary of the Kirwan Commission recommendations, making the several-hundred page recommendations more accessible and offering recommendations for its adoption.

The Kirwan Commission (formally titled Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education) was established by the Governor and the General Assembly to review and make recommendations for Maryland’s education system. The Kirwan Commission began meeting in 2016, and issued several reports summarizing its recommendations. The most recent report from the Kirwan Commission is the January 2019 Interim Report.

The Commission’s report makes recommendations in five policy areas:

  1. Early Childhood Education;
  2. High-quality and Diverse Teachers and Leaders;
  3. College and Career Readiness Pathways;
  4. More Resources to Ensure All Students Are Successful; and
  5. Governance and Accountability.

The key early childhood education recommendations of the Kirwan Commission were included in the Blueprint bill.  They are:

  • Expand full-day pre-K;
  • Support capacity-building for new and current programs;
  • Implement a school readiness assessment for all students entering kindergarten; and
  • Expand Judy Centers, Family Support Centers, and the Maryland Infants and Toddlers Program.

The provision of Universal pre-K is a critical component of the legislation that will enhance educational equity and access to high-quality early learning for all children in Maryland.  MDAEYC supports the Universal pre-K provisions; however, it remains a source of contention for some within the early childhood education community, due to the financial challenges it may create for child care programs, who face a potential loss of many 4-year-olds from their programs. Community-based programs, including child care centers, can apply to provide pre-K, and the funding formula for pre-K expansion requires that by year three, 50% of the pre-K funding is slated to go to community-based providers.

The Blueprint coalition partners look forward to enactment of the Blueprint legislation, and the opportunity to work with colleagues and policymakers to help implement the provisions of this landmark bill.


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MDAEYC Week of the Young Child – Family Fun on April 30th in Wheaton Regional Park

MDAEYC Montgomery County Chapter is celebrating the Week of the Young Child!  Come join us at Wheaton Regional Park on Sunday, April 30th, from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm for family fun (event flyer ENGLISH / event flyer ESPANOL).  MDAEYC celebrates the Week of the Young Child each year, raising awareness of the importance of early learning for children, families, and early childhood education professionals.  WOYC event 4-30-17 English

Families with young children can come out and enjoy our free activities: face painting, crafts, music, movement, and snacks.  Information about early learning and community resources will also be available.

Early childhood teachers and providers can come out and volunteer to staff the event.  Volunteers can earn 1 PAU for participation at the event.  Multilingual volunteers are encouraged to participate. Interested volunteers should contact Alicia at to sign up.  Please include “April 30” in the subject line to indicate that you are volunteering for this event.  WOYC event 4-30-17 Espanol

MDAEYC Montgomery County Chapter thanks our partnering and sponsoring organizations for their support of early childhood education at this event and throughout the year: MDAEYC  ~  Montgomery College Workforce Development  ~  Montgomery County Child Care Resource and Referral Center ~ Discount School Supplies  ~  Latino Child Care Association of Maryland.

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MDAEYC MoCo Park Fest on April 10 – Come Out and Play!

Come Celebrate the Week of the Young Child in Montgomery County, Maryland!

WOYC Park Fest 2016MDAEYC Montgomery County Chapter is hosting a Week of the Young Child park event on Sunday, April 10, 2016 at Cabin John Regional Park from 2:00 to 5:00 pm.

Come move, dance, and play in the park! Young children and their families can enjoy music and dancing, face painting, yoga and movement, crafts, snacks and door prizes.

Volunteers needed: MDAEYC MoCo needs assistance with setting up activities, staffing tables, handing out materials, and packing up at the end of the event. Early childhood educators can earn 1 PAU for volunteering at the event (volunteering details here).   High school students can earn SSL hours for volunteering.

The Week of the Young Child (WOYC), an annual event sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, is celebrated in communities throughout the nation.  WOYC events shine a spotlight on young children and the early childhood education profession.

MDAEYC — Montgomery County Chapter is a membership organization of early childhood education professionals who live or work in Montgomery County, Maryland.  You can follow the Montgomery County Chapter on Twitter or Facebook.

Event flyerWOYC flyer 2016 top screen shot

Volunteers needed flyer 

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Five Facts about Young Children in Montgomery County, Maryland

image - boy building with blocksAs Montgomery County and the nation celebrate the Week of the Young Child, here are some facts about the County’s young children and their families.

  1.  There are over 66,000 young children under age 5 in Montgomery County.
  2. The number of families with young children in the County is growing. The number of families with children under age 6 in Montgomery County grew by 11% between 2000 and 2010, from 27,701 families to 30,680 families.
  3. Child care is a major expense for families.  The average weekly cost of full-time child care for an infant in Montgomery County is $348.00.  The average weekly cost of full-time child care for a preschooler in Montgomery County is $259.00.
  4. Child care costs represent 21% of an average family’s budget in Montgomery County.  This estimate of average family expenses is based on a family of four with an average family income within the County.  It includes the average cost in Montgomery County for full-time infant care in a family child care home ($12,452), and the average cost for full-time child care for a preschooler in a child care center ($13,451), totaling nearly $26,000 in average annual child care costs for two young children.Child Care Costs - Chart
  5. Although Montgomery County is relatively affluent, 9.7% of the County’s children live in families with incomes below the poverty level. There were 23,094 children under age 18 in poverty in the County, according to 2013 Census estimates.


The Annie E Casey Foundation. (2015). KIDS COUNT Data Center.  [Selected KIDS COUNT Indicators for Montgomery County, Maryland.]

Maryland Family Network. (2015). Child Care Demographics 2015.

For additional detail on data sources, see PDF version of this post with endnotes.



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Week of the Young Child Family Fun in the Park Fest to be held April 19th

This week is the Week of the Young Child, and in Maryland, the MDAEYC — Montgomery County Chapter is hosting a Family Fun in the Park Fest to celebrate!  The Park Fest will be held at Cabin John Regional Park on Sunday, April 19th, from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon.  Families with young children are invited to come out and join us for some fun hands-on activities, including sensory play experiences, craft projects, and face painting.  The park is located at 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda, MD 20817.  The Park Fest will be held near the playground. Flyer for Week of the Young Child Park Fest

The Week of the Young Child runs from April 12th- 18th this year, and is an annual celebration to focus attention on the needs of young children and their families, and to recognize early childhood education programs that serve their needs.  The National Association for the Education of Young Children, the world’s largest early childhood education association, hosts this celebration each year.  Local communities around the nation are hosting events celebrating young children this week.

MDAEYC — Montgomery County Chapter is a membership organization of early childhood education professionals who live or work in Montgomery County, Maryland.  You can follow the Montgomery County Chapter on Twitter or Facebook.  We hope to see you at the Park Fest on Sunday!

Family Fun in the Park Fest Flyer in PDF

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Understanding Research: Top Ten Tips

This is a #TBT post, sharing a research guide I wrote in 2001 for the National Association of Child Advocates, which became Voices for America’s Children. As the push for evidence-based policy grows, these points remain relevant today. The original four-page brief (PDF) is also available here.

data chart imageResearch allows us to assess the effectiveness of policies and programs affecting the lives of children and families. Having research evidence to recommend or refute specific policy choices is especially relevant in this era of increased demand for accountability in human services and government.

But how can you tell if a given research study is one you can trust? Below are tips to evaluate the research you encounter.

  1. Consider the source. Evaluate the credibility of the individual(s) and the organization that produced the research. Research produced by respected researchers and institutions is more likely to be trustworthy. Also, research produced or funded by groups with a strong political or commercial agenda is less trustworthy, since these groups have a vested interest in the study’s findings supporting their viewpoint.
  2. Media is also a source to be evaluated. Media coverage may not fully or accurately summarize the original research. Because research can be technical and complex, and because media coverage often seeks to be attention grabbing and succinct, media reporting of research sometimes oversimplifies the research, leading to misinterpretation.
  3. Has the research been published, and where? Research published in peer-reviewed research journals is more trustworthy because it has been scrutinized by other researchers before being published. Unpublished research, or research published in publications that don’t critically evaluate it, has not gone through such scrutiny. However, even good research starts out unpublished, so just because a study is unpublished does not mean that it is poor quality.
  4. Research results are really about the topic as measured, not as we may think of it. Look closely at how the topic in a study was measured. Since a research topic, such as aggression, could mean different things to different people, researchers always come up with a more specific definition of the topic they are studying. The results from a study are really about the precise definition, rather than the larger topic.
  5. Different types of research have different strengths. Another indicator of the quality of a research study, and the claims that can be made based on it, is the study’s research design. Experimental design studies offer the strongest evidence about the impact of a program. Quasi-experimental studies are especially useful for studying complex systems as they exist naturally in the community. Qualitative studies often provide descriptive, story-like accounts of people’s experiences in a program or in a community.
  6. Sampling is more important than sample size. While a study’s sample size is important, even more important is the way the sample was collected. Quantitative research is based on the assumption that the findings for a sample of people can be generalized to the larger population. If the procedures to select the study’s sample are not done well, then we cannot assume that the findings for the sample generalize to the population, and the study’s findings would not be valid.
  7. Statistical significance explained. One of the things advocates value most about research is getting “hard data,” i.e., numbers, about the effects of a policy on children. A study reports a statistically significant difference between those who received a program and those that did not. But what does statistical significance mean, and what can we conclude from it? A statistically significant result is one that is unlikely to be due to chance. Researchers use statistics to test whether the results they found are likely to be due to the effect of the program being studied and not to other unrelated factors. Statistical significance is different than the substantive significance, or meaningfulness, of a finding. A result may be statistically significant but unimportant. Conversely, a result may not be statistically significant, but it may be meaningful.
  8. Research findings are about groups. Research results are usually based on comparisons between groups of people. This makes research findings particularly relevant for policy decisions since policies affect groups of people, but less relevant for individual case decisions.
  9. All research is not created equal. When comparing the results from different studies with conflicting findings, higher-quality studies should be given more weight. Better studies can refute poorer studies; there is not a one-to-one comparison.
  10. Any one study is not the whole story. Although we usually come across research one study at a time, research is most valuable when many specific studies are taken together to tell the whole story of what we know on a given topic. Any single study, no matter how good, needs to be viewed in the context of other research on the topic.

 These research tips were also presented in my 2002 Evaluation Exchange article published by the Harvard Family Research Project.  That issue was devoted to public education campaigns and evaluation, and provides additonal good resources and examples.  

Image: Shutterstock, via leungchopan.

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Maryland’s ECE Teachers Deserve a Worthy Wage

Did you know that child care workers in Maryland earn less than mechanics, administrative assistants, and hairdressers?  Child care workers in Maryland earn an average hourly wage of $11.07, according to the latest data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This pay rate translates into an average annual wage of $23,020, a meager income which is only slightly above the poverty threshold for a family of three.  Preschool teachers in Maryland fare slightly better, with an average hourly wage of $15.44.Chart, mean hourly wage for Maryland workers

Today is Worthy Wage Day, an annual day of action to call attention to the important work of early childhood educators  and raise awareness of the need to improve the wages of the early childhood workforce.

Numerous studies show the impressive benefits to children and to society from high-quality early learning.  If we value the quality of the early care and education that young children receive, we must value the teachers and caregivers that provide it.

The early childhood field is plagued by high job turnover rates of about 30 percent of the workforce annually.  Paying better wages helps early learning programs attract and retain talented teachers, who are critical to providing quality early learning experiences for young children.  Of course, part of the challenge in paying early childhood teachers higher wages is that families can ill-afford to pay more for early learning.  That’s why greater public investments in early childhood education, like the proposed federal Strong Start for America’s Children Act, are so important.  These investments would enable programs to improve the quality of their services, help enable teachers to earn wages more worthy of their talents, and keep early learning services affordable for families.

Related:  Maryland child care workers’ wage infographic on Facebook.

The American Federation of Teachers has a toolkit of resources for Worthy Wage Day.Worthy Wage Day logo, AFT

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Pre-K is Good for Pennsylvania Business

Pre-K for PA Infographic

Pre-K for PA Infographic

Pre-K for PA released a report prepared by ReadyNation/America’s Edge which shows the economic boost that prekindergarten investments can generate in the state economy.  For each dollar invested in pre-k in Pennsylvania, a total of $1.79 in economic activity is generated in the state.

The report also estimates that if Pennsylvania invested funding in pre-k to provide access for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the Commonwealth, that investment would generate an additional $800 million in goods and services outside the early learning services sector.  This additional $800 million would be generated in the following major Pennsylvania sectors as follows:

  • Chart showing sectors of the economy with additional investments in early learningprofessional, business and other services (23%);
  • insurance, money and finance (18%);
  • construction and real estate (17%);
  • retail and wholesale trade (13%);
  • health services (12%); and
  • other sectors (17%).

Pre-K for PA is an issue campaign in support of access to high-quality pre-k for every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania.  Its founding organizational members are key early childhood and children’s organizations (Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, the Pennsylvania Head Start Association, PennAEYC, PAEYC, and DVAEYC) and supporters of pre-k investments (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Mission: Readiness, and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia).

This report is one in a series of reports by ReadyNation I co-authored which document the potential economic impact of investments in early learning.

Edited to add:  Press coverage of the report:


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Narrowing the Skills Gap in New York by Investing in Education

In New York State and in many places around the nation, there are not enough skilled workers to meet the needs of today’s workplaces.  And the need for skilled workers keeps growing.

skills gap report chart

Chart from report. ReadyNation/America’s Edge.

When we think about jobs with different skill levels, we may think of white collar jobs or blue collar jobs.  But a substantial and growing segment of jobs are middle skill jobs — those that require more than high school but less than a four-year college degree.  In New York, these middle-skill jobs comprise 33 percent of all jobs in the state.

A new report released today by ReadyNation/America’s Edge shows that New York is projected to face a deficit of 350,000 middle-skill workers needed to fill jobs in the state. By 2020, 81 percent of the high-growth, high-wage jobs in the state will require at least a two-year degree.  And in STEM fields, 95 percent of jobs in New York will require education beyond high school.

What can New York citizens and policy makers do to address the growing demand for skilled workers?  The report calls for innovative high school education approaches, along with rigorous Common Core Learning Standards, to help prepare tomorrow’s workforce and help close these skills gaps.  These education models each promote a set of cross-cutting skills referred to as 21st century learning skills, which include: critical thinking, problem solving, working collaboratively, and communicating effectively. These education models, such as Career Academies, Big Picture Learning, and the New Tech Network, prepare students for college and career success.

The press release of the report.  

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Early Learning Investments Can Help Kids AND the Economy

Report cover image

Those of us working on children’s issues know that investing in high-quality early learning for young children pays off over the long run, with better academic performance in school, increased rates of employment, and decreased involvement with crime.  Less well known are the impressive short-term benefits of early learning for the local economy.

The business leaders’ organization ReadyNation/America’s Edge released a report today, which I contributed to, illustrating the short-term economic activity that can be generated by early learning in Illinois.   As the report states:

For every $1 invested in early care and education in Illinois, an additional 94 cents are generated, for a total of $1.94 in new economic activity in the state.  This strong economic boost for local businesses is higher than investments in other major sectors such as transportation, retail trade and manufacturing.  This strong economic boost for local businesses is higher than investments in other major sectors such as manufacturing ($1.79), transportation ($1.91) and retail trade ($1.93).

While investments in any industry generate additional economic activity, what’s impressive here is that the early learning sector has one of the highest “multiplier effects” in the local economy compared to other major sectors.  Although the figures cited here are specific to Illinois, the same general pattern holds true across the country, with the early learning sector at or near the top compared to other major sectors.

Early learning promotes economic development.  Not only does it help kids get the right start in life, it generates additional economic activity in the local economy which benefits businesses and our communities. When policymakers are faced with tough budget choices, its good to know that early learning is an investment that can help children learn, help parents work and help grow the economy.

The press release for the report.

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Filed under early childhood education, Early Ed Quality, Illinois, state policy, Uncategorized