Last Week at HiredPen: Early Education, Pay for Success, and Wile.E.Coyote

Pages-from-Not-Golden-Yet-New-America_Jackson-policy-paper-2015Read: Not Golden Yet: Building a Stronger Workforce for Young Children in California (by our own Sarah Jackson writing for New America). Bottom line: progress, but early ed teachers are still abysmally underpaid and too often underprepared to take on this enormous and critical job of preparing kids to be ready to learn. Typical: An op-ed in the Sacramento Bee cherry-picks the research on early education investments with the tired argument that progress fades by third grade. Thankfully Early Edge’s Deborah Kong and David Kirp at the Times counter with the so-apparent-it’s-amazing-we-still-have-to-say-it caveat that quality in the classroom matters.

Utah, for one, is all-in on early education, among the first in the nation to use a “social impact bond” to pay for a successful expansion of public preK when the state couldn’t cough up the money. And the first to pay out for investors, and kids, too. Of 110 at-risk kids, all but one avoided special education in kindergarten after taking part in the public preK program, ultimately saving the state money. In other SIB (aka Pay for Success) news, Dan Rinzler talks about how housing mobility programs like Moving to Opportunity could be a platform for future SIBs. So far, SIBs have been focused largely on recidivism, supportive housing for the homeless, and early education. The Nonprofit Finance Fund has a list here. Plus, we talked to Rinzler earlier this month for an upcoming story on LIFF’s Social Impact Calculator. Stay tuned for that at the Build Healthy Places Network.

TapClickRead-Book-1Watched: Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine release Tap, Click, Read, a guide to promoting early literacy in a world of screens. In addition to helping with reporting for the book, we produced a set of videos highlighting some of the most innovative literacy projects across the nation, including a unique in class tutoring program in the nation’s capital, a dual-language project in Maine, and more. After seeing these thoughtful projects, it’s disheartening to read the story about the Disney accelerator for tech startups that makes apps for kids—empty designs that smell like a stab at quick money. (Although the one that allows you to chat with cartoon characters is kinda cool. “It won’t work, Wile. E. Coyote!”)

Noted: More innovative, thankfully, is the announcement of Collective Shift, a spinoff of the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiative. Headed by Connie Yowell, they’re creating a way for kids to see all the amazing out-of-school programs in their own city, which in turn can make learning in and out of school more seamless and interconnected. Also innovative—work underway at the Behavioral Insights Lab at the University of Chicago.

Hats Off: Teachers, like babies on a plane, get a lot of grief these days. If they’re not power-grubbing union members, they’re luddites or uninspired. We’re doing our best to counter that notion, profiling teachers who make a difference. A biology teacher in Pittsburgh had her students work with scientists to clone a gene and take part in a videoconference on Ebola. Another instills global awareness and Spanish skills by having her students create their own telenovelas. And a pioneering program taps into Washington DC’s many amazing museums to make history come alive for students. That’s just for starters. Read more here and here.

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