You may have heard the news. In early August, Massachusetts raised MCAS score requirements for high school graduation.
We applaud the state’s determination to graduate young people who are ready for careers and college. However, standardized testing is only part of the solution. We urge legislators to increase Massachusetts’ investment in early learning and care; doing so will minimize achievement gaps so more students can meet or exceed academic standards.
High-quality childcare even supports college and professional readiness, and helps tackle generational poverty.
K-12 performance and professional success begin in early childhood
The earliest years are the most important years.
Between birth and age six, children experience profound brain development. They achieve 90 percent of their adult brain volume, including neural connections that last a lifetime.
Effective early education and care harnesses this unique period of development. It enhances intellectual and social-emotional growth and healthy physical development.
The results are significant. High-quality early learning aids k-12, college, and professional success.
High-quality childcare is unaffordable for many Massachusetts families
As effective as high-quality childcare is, high prices make it unaffordable for many families in the state.
The cost of childcare in Massachusetts is the highest in the country. Infant care costs more than $20,000 while care for 4-year-olds costs $15,000 per year, on average. Per-capita income stands at $45,000 a year, forcing parents to choose between work, food, rent, and childcare.
Unaffordability harms children and families, fuels racial and socio-economic achievement gaps, and reinforces systemic, generational poverty.
It also affects businesses and the economy.
Did you know? Lack of access is costing the state billions of dollars a year
According to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, inadequate childcare is costing the state an estimated $2.7 billion per year in individual earnings, lost worker productivity and other employer costs, and lost tax revenue.
Let’s do the math.
Universal affordable childcare can be achieved for hundreds of millions of dollars over five years, says the Common Start Coalition. It’s a hefty price tag but still far less than $2.7 billion in annual losses. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.
Not ready for universal childcare? A mere 10 percent cost decrease will equal a 0.25 percent to 1.25 percent increase in parental labor force participation, a boon to families and businesses.
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Edward Street promotes early childhood success by supporting early learning providers, families, and communities.
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Although the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act requires statewide testing, making it a requirement for high school graduation is optional.
Massachusetts’ decision to do so is problematic without a comparable investment in early education in care. If high school graduation continues to be tied to higher and higher test scores, the least we can do is support every student’s success from day one.