The first 1,000 days refers to the first couple of years of development in a child's life: Better communication between health service and education providers is needed in the first 1,000 days of a child's life to to help them thrive and be successful in school.

Better communication between health service and education providers is needed in the first 1,000 days of a child's life to to help them thrive and be successful in school, according to New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

She addressed the issue last week on an Albany radio program, "The Capitol Pressroom," hosted by Susan Arbetter, who noted former state Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson announced the state's First 1000 Days on Medicaid Initiative in 2017, patterned after an original 1000 days program published 10 years earlier in a British medical journal.

The first 1,000 days refers to the first couple of years of development in a child's life. Elia and Nancy Zimpher, former chancellor of the State University of New York, co-chaired Helgerson's work group.

“I think it's important that we all understand we all want children to thrive and, as we're finding out, the things that they need to be able to thrive and be successful, those systems of heath and education, have not talked,” Elia said. “We don't really interplay there, so sometimes you see the end results and outcomes for children are not as great as they could be if we're able to have shared information and we were more efficient in the work that we're doing to support kids.”

As an example, she cited a child with sight issues who does not receive proper vision screening and may be behind when entering kindergarten because, for whatever reason, he or she did not get the type of glasses they needed to be successful.

Elia said as they are born, children are seeing doctors and in many cases, it would be helpful for schools to know ahead of time what a child will need when he or she enters school at age 3.

“Having a conversation and support for the family would support the family to get what they need to understand how to advocate for their child,” she said. “It would also help the schools and education, as we try to move the student toward success.”

Among the other recommendations that came out of the work group was providing early childhood education, for which Elia noted an additional $15 million was included in the state budget, as supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

She said the department is also looking at a developmental inventory to track how students are progressing in school, particularly on the health side, looking at managed care plans and encouraging doctors to communicate with schools.

Elia said there would be a liaison between the managed care and the family, with the family being notified of what their child is going to need. Then managed care, social service agencies, the community and school could work together.

“We can't afford to be in silence, is that what you're saying?” Arbetter asked.

Elia said money is put into Medicare, school systems and agencies and they all need to be working together for the success of the child.

Upcoming educational issues include changes to the Annual Professional Performance Review being addressed in a bill Elia said has passed the Assembly and is being considered by the Senate.

The 2010 law requiring annual performance evaluations of all teachers was altered in the 2015-16 budget, tying them to test score results, which drew outrage from teachers and prompted a four-year moratorium.

“We work very closely with the Legislature,” Elia said. “Clearly, I think we all recognize the evaluation system and APPR that was put into law was problematic. It created a furor in New York and I think rightfully so. Teachers were very concerned about it.”

She was on the governor's committee that worked with the Board of Regents for the moratorium and other changes, based on comments from across the state. She noted the state Education Department is not necessarily involved, but recognizes it's important that changes be made.

“Any action that you take, I think you need to think through the unintended consequences that may come with that,” Elia said. “We had unintended consequences. Clearly, people wanted to have a good evaluation. It got out of hand. Things were done that didn't support that and I think that was unintended — that furor in New York was an unintended consequence. We have to be thoughtful about this.”

Arbetter said Newsday and other publications drew a link between the movement with students opting out of taking annual tests, saying until the test scores and teacher assessment are unlinked, opt-outs will continue.

Elia acknowledged the law caused a lot of stress for teachers, administrators, parents and students.

“You had a system that, because of those stresses, one outcome may have been an increase in opt-outs,” she said. “At this point, I think what we need to do is be really cognizant of the things that are going to support education for the children of New York and that's the focus I have.”