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Early Childhood Education in Cambridge

For Providers
For Families

About

Birth to Third Grade &
Cambridge Initiatives

Partnership Committees

  • Steering Committee
  • Access & Quality Committee
  • Family Engagement & Partnership Committee
  • Health Committee

Cambridge has a mixed-delivery system of early childhood education and care, which includes:

  • Maternal and neonatal health care and health education programs provided by private and nonprofit hospitals and health clinics, as well as the Department of Public Health.

  • Publicly-supported programs aimed at infants and very young children, which include home visiting as well as community-based family support and education programs.

  • A mix of public, private, and non-profit early childhood education that includes small in-home child care programs, community-based private and non-profit preschools, and programs of the Department of Human Services and Cambridge Public Schools.

The Early Childhood Task Force Report defined the problems to be addressed within this system as follows (p. 10):

Access to Information

It is challenging for families in Cambridge to find appropriate services and for early childhood service providers to keep abreast of the full range of available services.

“It takes a while to get plugged in and know about everything that exists. You have to be aggressive to find out what exists.” —Cambridge Parent
Maintaining and Improving Quality
Quality is not consistent throughout the community’s early childhood service providers. Organizations report challenges in maintaining quality programs and qualified staff given financial pressures.

“Quality varies from program to program.”
—Cambridge Family Childcare Provider
Aligning and Coordinating Services
Children and families benefit when services are coordinated. Common standards and approaches, joint professional development, smooth transitions across programs, and coordinated care all contribute to improved quality. Better coordination and alignment between family childcare, community-based preschools, community-based family support services, the Department of Human Services, and the Cambridge Public Schools emerged as a key theme of the Task Force’s assessment of needs.

“We have the entities but they are not linked together. Cambridge should make a commitment that education begins prenatally – before birth. That would create value for preschool as it would be part of a continuum of services.”
—Cambridge Preschool Director

“We need to learn more about what early childhood providers do, and they need to learn more about what we do.”
—Cambridge Public School Elementary School Principal
Addressing Critical Gaps
Families, providers, and local experts identified several gaps in critical areas, including the need for additional supports for social-emotional skill development, mental health, family engagement, families in crisis, dual language learners, and children with disabilities.
”It appears as though many of the children are coming to us needing greater support than we can sometimes accommodate.”—Cambridge Preschool Teacher
“It’s challenging for families to navigate the systems if their child has a special need or they are new to the Cambridge community.”
—Cambridge Preschool Teacher
Affordability and Access
For many Cambridge families, finding high quality, affordable early childhood services is difficult and presents considerable financial hardships. Making high quality home visiting, infant—toddler care, and preschool more affordable for Cambridge families is a clear priority for families, early childhood providers, and the Task Force.

“Childcare is a huge problem for families.”
—Cambridge Agenda for Children Literacy Ambassador

“Waiting lists and costs are barriers.” —Community Engagement Team Outreach Worker

“Voucher pay is not enough – this is a big issue and not sure how to fix it without money.” —Cambridge Family Childcare Provider