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Fighting For Our Children

Posted on 01/17/2014 @ 10:28 AM

By Jorge C. Godoy Jr., Deputy State Director

Sen. Rudy Garcia

“When I served in the State Senate, fighting for our children and families in Tallahassee was a key part of my agenda, and it continues to be. Now that I am a father to three children, it’s even more important to me.” – Sen. Rudy Garcia

In partnership with the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe and The Children’s Trust, the former State Senator, Rudy Garcia, has been hosting a weekly radio show for Univisión América on WQBA 1140 AM entitled “Luchando por Nuestros Hijos” (translation: Fighting for Our Children). In it, he discusses important issues related to the health and well-being of our community’s children – from children’s health and education to child safety and family life.

This past week, two representatives from The Children’s Movement of Florida, Jorge Godoy and Oscar Londono, were invited on to the show to discuss the work we, as an organization, have been doing on behalf of Florida’s children – from advocating for increased investment in our voluntary pre-k program to improving children’s health care access and enhancing parenting information and engagement.

As we continue building a movement for all of our children here in Florida, we are reminded of the words of Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” With the help of organizations like The Children’s Trust and the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe and the continued support of countless Floridians, like Sen. Rudy García, we are indeed working together to do so much and continuing our collective work of “luchando por nuestros hijos.”

Maryland’s Kindergarten Assessment

Posted on 01/06/2014 @ 09:36 AM

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

By Alyssa Haywoode, Eye on Early Education

What do children learn in preschool and kindergarten? Maryland decided to find out by implementing a kindergarten readiness assessment tool.

“More than a decade ago, Maryland became among the first states to administer a comprehensive test of skills at the academic starting line,” according to a recent Washington Post article.

To do its assessments, the state uses the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR).

“In 1995, the state Department of Education began developing a model system to evaluate and support children’s learning in kindergarten,” according to “A Look at Maryland’s Early Data System,” a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures. The state “used the commercially available Work Sampling System (WSS) to align child developmental evaluation with curriculum, learning standards and instruction. The program began as a pilot in 1997 in seven school districts.”

“The MMSR is not a ‘test,’ but a set of systematic, carefully-defined daily observations, work samples, and age-appropriate guidelines by which a teacher assesses the skills of each entering kindergartener,” the Department of Education explains in the 2010-2011 Maryland School Readiness Report.

“Under the MMSR system, all children entering kindergarten are assessed for level of mastery,” according to the Maryland State Department of Education website.

It is an “assessment and instructional system designed to provide parents, teachers and early childhood providers with a common understanding of what children know and are able to do upon entering school,” the website notes.

The MMSR indicates three levels of school readiness: fully ready, approaching readiness and developing readiness.

Students are assessed in seven learning domains: language and literacy; social and personal skills such as self-control; mathematical thinking; scientific thinking; social studies, including awareness of communities and the need for rules and laws; the arts; and physical development and health.

“MMSR incorporates research-based instruction, age-appropriate assessment of children’s learning, and effective communication among teachers, parents and early childhood providers. Teachers and providers receive on-going professional development to implement these practices,” the state’s website says.

Today, the observational nature of early assessments means that children often don’t realize when they are being assessed. As the Washington Post article explains:

“At Summit Hall Elementary School in Gaithersburg, kindergartners learn math by looking for patterns in stories, making patterns with Froot Loops and crayons, and jump-jump-hopping on a classroom rug,” the Post says.

The article notes, “less than half of students arrive at school having attended a formal pre-kindergarten program. Some have no preschool experience, while others have just moved here from another country.”

“As they worked and played on a September morning, their teachers carefully recorded observations in notebooks and on laptops of who volunteered answers and how they penciled in their wobbly names. The children had no idea that these animated lessons were actually part of the first standardized state test of their academic careers.”

The article adds, “the teachers’ cumulative thoughts and impressions will form part of a kindergarten assessment in Maryland to show how prepared the students are for school.”

The results of the assessment process “have helped inform policy decisions in Maryland over the past decade that led to universal full-day kindergarten and publicly funded pre-kindergarten available for all children from low-income families,” the Post says in this article.

Among the results during the 2012-2013 year, according to the Post:

  • “In Montgomery County, 80 percent of all kindergartners are school-ready, up from 61 percent in 2001-2002.”
  • “In Prince George’s County, 73 percent of all kindergartners are school-ready, up from 36 percent in 2001-2002.”
  • “Statewide, 82 percent kindergartners are school-ready, up from 49 percent in 2001-2002.”

As Sue Hankin, a Summit Hall kindergarten teacher, told the Post, the readiness test helps teachers understand where students are and what instruction they need.

Celebrating a Great Year

By John Knight, Early Literacy Coordinator on 12/30/2013 @ 10:33 AM

The holiday season is a special time of year - a time to reflect on the things that we hold near and dear to our hearts; a time to be thankful for good health, family and friends; a time to look at the progress we have made over the last year as we prepare to move into a new year.

Just last week, I had an opportunity to celebrate the completion of the first half of the school year, and our early literacy program, ReadingPals. I attended the Primary Learning Center's holiday program to watch the pre-K students that I work with every week. They sang and danced to a number of tunes in multiple languages... Chinese, Spanish, and Thai to name a few (certainly more languages than I can speak). To see these precious children singing, simply click to see the video below.

It is hard to believe I have been working with my ReadingPals students for 12 weeks already. The good news is that I still have another 12 weeks with them. I have enjoyed the process, and look forward to each and every chance I have to connect with these wonderful children. I wish you all the best in your personal efforts to give back to your friends, families, communities and causes.

Happy Holidays.

John Knight
Early Literacy Coordinator
The Children's Movement of Florida

To view this video, you will need to install a QuickTime-compatible player and/or browser plugin.

Nelson Mandela on Children

Posted on 12/06/2013 @ 09:55 AM

By Vashthi Nepaul, Co-Founder, Tehuti Institute
Huffington Post
December 6, 2013 

Tata Mandela at a benefit for the Mandela Children's Fund -- Cape Town

In South Africa, Nelson Mandela is called 'tata' by our children. Tata means 'father,' a fitting tribute to the father of our nation and a man who always had a great love of young people. To commemorate the passing of President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, here are some of his famous and not-so-famous quotes on children and youth.

History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children. -- Luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan at the special session of the UN for Children, New York City May 9, 2002

Few things make the life of a parent more rewarding and sweet as successful children. -- Letter to Amina Cachalia, written on Robben Island, 3 March 1981

Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation. -- National Men's March, 1997

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. -- University of the Witwatersrand South Africa, 2003

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. - Long Walk to Freedom

The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children. -- Launch of the Blue Train, Worcester Station, Worcester, South Africa, Sept. 27, 1997

It always gives me great pleasure to be surrounded by the beautiful children of our land. Whenever I am with the energetic young people ... I feel like a recharged battery, confident that our country can look forward to great things. -- Food for the Life Festival, Durban, South Africa, April 23, 1997

Together as a nation, we have the obligation to put sunshine into the hearts of our little ones. They are our precious possessions. They deserve what happiness life can offer. -- Lunch for sponsors of his birthday party for children with life-threatening diseases, South Africa, July 4, 1997

We understand and promote the notion that while children need to be guided they also have an entrenched right to be whatever they want to be and that they can achieve this only if they are given the space to dream and live out their dreams. -- Annual Children's Celebrations, Bloemfontein, South Africa, Sept. 27, 2003

Follow Vashthi Nepaul on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tehutiTI

The 25,555 Stories of Children in Florida

Posted on 11/22/2013 @ 02:24 PM

By Oscar Londono, Outreach and Engagament Coordinator

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a media roundtable organized by New America Media and led by the different partners within the KidsWell Florida collaborative. One of the main issues being highlighted, in addition to Medicaid expansion and presumptive eligibility, was the issue of extending health care access to lawfully residing immigrant children. Here in Florida, lawfully residing immigrant children are required, by law, to wait 5 years before being able to apply for health care coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has estimated that approximately 25,555 lawfully residing immigrant children in Florida currently lack access to subsidized health care coverage, despite being eligible for Kid Care. These children are simply stuck waiting – often times delaying necessary medical care – for their 5 year period to end.

By covering these children, we would do more than just address a basic inequality of access to health care that continues to exist between native-born and immigrant children in Florida; we would also help reduce the unsustainable cost of uncompensated care that continues to impact Florida’s health care system. Additionally, as a recent national survey commissioned by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families reveals, nearly 9 out of 10 individuals (88%) in the United States believe that all children in their state should have health care coverage. By extending health care coverage to lawfully residing immigrant children, we can begin fulfilling this ideal and chipping away at the number of children that remain uninsured in Florida (436,166), a number that ranks Florida in the near-bottom nation-wide. [1]

These facts and statistics often dominate the conversation around health care reform in Florida, and while they are certainly insightful, they do not begin to capture the essence of why the issue of children’s health is so important. Its importance lies in the people who are affected by it; people, like Irina Flores-Montalban, an immigrant mother of three, who moved to Florida from New York, only to realize – after seeking medical help for her son – that all of her children would have to wait for a couple of years before being able to receive subsidized health care coverage. Faced with an affordability issue and a son in desperate need of medical treatment for his congenital heart ailment, Irina made the difficult decision of insuring only one of her children. As she recounts: “I had no choice but to get health insurance only for Jose. I pay $141 a month for his insurance. I would not be able to afford insuring my other children, so I pray that they won’t have the same health problems.”

The stories of parents, like Irina, and children, like Jose, represent every reason why the struggle to provide access to quality health care to all children in Florida is so imperative. Their stories should and will shape the conversation around health care reform here in Florida. After all, 25,555 is just a number. The power of this number exists in the stories it contains; 25,555 stories of uninsured children who grow up without a pediatrician and of concerned parents forced to delay care for the children they love. Here in KidsWell Florida, we believe these stories need to be highlighted and placed in the forefront of any conversation around children’s health. Consequently, we are building a story-banking initiative that will try to collect and disseminate these important stories.

25,555 stories are happening as we speak, and it is time that we, the people of Florida, begin to listen.

To read more about Irina’s story, click here.

[1] http://ccf.georgetown.edu/media/50-state-analysis-finds-improvements-in-childrens-health-coverage-in-past-two-years/

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