Worcester, MA — Key stakeholders from around the state, including early childhood and elementary educators, researchers, advocates, mental health and health providers, and educational policy experts; representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Children and Families, Early Education and Care, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Public Health; as well as researchers and academics from UMass, Harvard, and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts gathered yesterday at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA for the Starting Strong Summit.
Participants gathered in working sessions to discuss how Massachusetts can support all children in gaining the skills they need to succeed in school and in life. The Starting Strong Summit was the result of a collaborative effort from multiple statewide planning partners, and was focused on beginning to develop solutions to ensure social emotional competency for young children.
The keynote address was given by Dr. Stephanie Jones, the Marie and Max Kargman Associate Professor in Human Development and Urban Education Advancement at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who emphasized the critical need to promote development of social emotional competency in young children as a growing body of research shows these skills are even better predictors of learning and later success in life than academic skills.
Other speakers at the event included Jennifer Poulos, Associate Director of the Rennie Center, who discussed the research, goals and outcomes of some of the Center’s recent projects and reports on this topic. Participants also heard from Kate Roper, the Assistant Director for Early Childhood Services in the bureau of Family Health and Nutrition at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, who gave an overview of past and present statewide work in this area. The lunchtime presentation, given by Dr. Jayne Singer, who is the Clinical Director of the Child and Parent Program in the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, focused on how professionals can support children’s social emotional growth through increased understanding of a child’s development and their need for attachment to parents and other caregivers.
“Massachusetts has made significant investments in improving supports for young children to develop the social emotional skills they need to thrive – and yet, many young children still fall through the cracks,” said Bill Diehl, the Executive Director of the Collaborative for Educational Services. During the meeting, Mr. Diehl shared the results of a pre-Summit survey, which identified specific challenges to improving social emotional competency for young children. These challenges served as the basis for intensive small group work during the day. “It’s our hope to continue to coordinate an active collaboration and partnership around these issues moving forward, and for that collaborative effort to identify solutions, strategies, and policy recommendations for the challenges we face,” said Diehl.