Aspire Institute Wins Key Grant

March 01, 2012

800 Programs and Educators in 225 Communities across the Commonwealth Will receive Training and Support

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) awarded a $953,000 grant to the Aspire Institute at Wheelock College to develop a resource center on assessment, screening, and measurement that supports quality improvement in early education and care and out of school time programs across Massachusetts.

With this award, the Aspire Institute has launched the Center for Assessment and Screening Excellence (CASE), to assist programs in gathering essential information on children's developmental progress and customizing curricula and instruction to ensure that children receive maximum benefit from their learning experiences.

"Evidence-based child assessment and screening helps educators understand children's development and what opportunities children need to continue to grow," said Department of Early Education and Care Commissioner Sherri Killins. "It also informs educators about their own areas of competency and where they need to further develop their knowledge and skills. The foundation of program quality is providing opportunities and experiences which address the individual needs of children."

To help all children reach their full potential, EEC has implemented a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) which defines levels of quality for programs and requirements for program quality improvement. The use of child assessment, screening and measurement tools is a key component of QRIS.

With this funding, EEC will work with the Aspire Institute to build an infrastructure to provide the training, consultation, materials, and support that programs need to become skilled in child assessment and screening and in measuring program quality. The Aspire Institute will coordinate with EEC's regional Educator and Provider Support Grantees to identify and recruit participants, to deliver training and to distribute assessment tools.

Training will be available at introductory, intermediate and advanced levels, and will be adapted to address the needs of English Language Learners (both educators and children) as well as children with special education needs. A combination of on-line and face-to-face instruction, followed by on-site work, will be used. A "Training of Trainers" model will support sustainability and increase access for programs beyond those that directly participate in this initiative.

Initial training sessions have been scheduled for Lowell on March 31, Springfield on April 22, and Worcester on April 28. Additional sessions will be held in Pittsfield, Leominster, Framingham, Brockton, Revere, Hyannis, and Boston.

The establishment of the Center for Assessment and Screening Excellence is one of many efforts the Patrick-Murray Administration has undertaken towards building a system of high-quality early education and care throughout the Commonwealth.  The Administration is committed to providing our youngest citizens with the necessary foundation for healthy and positive educational development, in order to ensure all students are prepared for future success.

Recently, Massachusetts was one of nine states selected for a federal grant in the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge. This $50 million award will support Massachusetts' implementation of an Early Learning Plan over the next four years to expand high quality early education services and close achievement gaps in education.

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