Policy Matters is a quarterly video chat series between Teri Talan, Senior Policy Advisor at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, and a thought leader in early childhood policy. Our guest author for Season 3 is Marica Cox Mitchell, the Deputy Executive Director for Early Learning Systems for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Want to catch up or revisit the series? Explore previous chats and topics here.
Policy [M]atters - Season 3 Episode 2 - YouTube
Welcome to Policy Matters, Season 3, Episode 2.
In episode 2, Teri and Marica further explore NAEYC’s “Power to the Profession” initiative, and how this coincides with advocating for fair compensation in early childhood education.
They also explore how different levels of experience and education can relate to levels of compensation in the field.
Do you have questions for Teri and Marica? Share your questions and thoughts in the comments section below. Teri and Marica may respond in the next episode!
Come join this conversation at Leadership Connections National Conference. Power to the Profession will be the focus of the Public Policy Forum and will feature Teri, Marica, and Anne Douglass.
Dr. Teri Talan is Michael W. Louis Chair and Senior Policy Advisor at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership and Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at National Louis University. She is co-author of the Program Administration Scale (PAS), Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care (BAS), Escala de Evaluación de la Administración de Negocios, and Who’s Caring for the Kids? The Status of the Early Childhood Workforce in Illinois.
Marica Cox Mitchell is responsible for NAEYC’s major program efforts in early childhood program and higher education accreditation. She is also leading the alignment among and between our Center for Applied Research, accreditation, and higher education with early childhood and higher education systems across the country. Mitchell has been in the early childhood education field for more than 16 years and has worked in both administrative and classroom settings.
VOICEOVER: Welcome to Policy [M]atters Season 3, Episode 2. Policy [M]atters is a video chat series between Teri Talan of the McCormick Center, and a guest thought leader in early childhood policy.
Our guest for this season is Marica Cox Mitchell, Deputy Executive Director for Early Learning Systems from NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
In episode 2, Marica and Teri explore the overarching question of why the Power to the Profession initiative is the pathway to fair compensation
TERI: Good morning Marica and welcome everybody to our second in a three-part series of policy video chats. So I’m here with Marica Mitchell from NAEYC and we are going to continue our conversation about Power to the Profession, how it supports the field, and then today, have a special focus on what the relationship is to improving compensation with Power to the Profession.
So good morning everybody and whatever time it is when you’re watching this video chat.
So Marica, you know that I and the McCormick Center have really drunk the kool-aid, and we believe strongly in the value of the Power to the Profession initiative and are really excited to be a thought partner along with NAEYC, and how this gets rolled out to the field, and how to make it most relevant for supporting the professionalization of the early childhood education profession.
I am very excited about the newest decision cycle rollout. I’m really looking forward to even further work as we move along the decision cycle with Power to the Profession, but I know that there’s such building anxiety having to do with compensation that I don’t want to wait until that part comes out, and thought this was an opportunity to give people a preview of what some of the thinking is. How Power to the Profession is going to help professionals receive the compensation that is fair based on their qualifications and their scope of responsibilities.
MARICA: Absolutely, and I think that well first, I’ll say thank you for having these ongoing conversations in many ways, the conversations we’re having Teri, are exactly the conversations that are occurring across this nation as our affiliates, other task force organizations, and stakeholder organizations, are all focused on this dynamic conversation around who are early childhood educators, what do we do, how to create a unifying framework to define our work.
So I appreciate this opportunity to model such a conversation and show that this is an opportunity for us to test out each other’s ideas, challenge in some ways each other’s thinking, and that this is a healthy process so that we get to the point where we are on the same page, and are aligned in how we talk about the early childhood education workforce.
So I’ll say that Power to the Profession first and foremost, is about young children. It is our field’s way of ensuring that early childhood educators are able to support the development and learning of all young children, birth through age eight. And we can’t do that if we don’t talk about compensation.
So while Power to the Profession is about young children, it is also about ensuring that the early childhood education profession is prepared, compensated, effective, and that we’re all using the exact same framework to talk about the profession.
TERI: Yeah, and I know that a lot of the work early on with Power to the Profession looked at some models from other professions, particularly nursing comes to mind, and thinking about the relationship between compensation and the increasing levels of qualification for the nursing profession, seems to me to be an example that we might want to talk about.
So can you share, what was the experience in nursing relative to changes in compensation?
MARICA: Just a really high-level overview first of all, they led that change, the nursing profession had conversations like the one we’re having right now, to create their unifying framework. They acknowledged that it was gonna be an ongoing process.
There’s still tinkering right now with what that looks like and so they adopted that the continuous quality improvement model. So we can sort of look towards that and say that we can put out a framework. We can have a similar conversation, put out a framework, and commit to collectively improving that framework to ensure that we’re incorporating new signs, as well as what we’re learning from implementation.
So I think that in defining early child education, particularly around whether or not we’re going to have levels in this profession, how we talk about early childhood educators, are we talking about teachers or teacher assistants? What does that mean across multiple settings and sectors?
There were opportunities for us to draw upon other professions, like the nursing profession, and how they have clear designations, and each of their designations clearly signals at the level of preparation.
So if you think about the CNA versus the LPN, versus the RN. I think that model helps to inform the taskforce conversation. What we see is there are definitely differentiations across each of those designations, and we attempted to do the same with this first iteration of the early childhood profession as is described in decisions cycles of three four and five. And it was a very healthy conversation with the discourse and we’re now presenting that for additional feedback from the field.
TERI: So for those who may not be as familiar with that: This decision cycle is recommending three levels for the early childhood educator. Level one which is a training level, and I believe at this point the recommendation is a minimum of a hundred and twenty integrated clock hours of professional development. Level two would be at the associate degree level, and then level three would be at the baccalaureate or graduate level.
And I will say that one of the things that I did most recently, was present this model to our Professional Development Advisory Council in Illinois to really think about what this meant, how it would impact the work of our professional development system, how we saw it related to compensation. Would it help? Would it get us further along that conversation?
So I think that was a really healthy way to take these iterative cycles, and I recommend for folks listening or watching, to think about what are those forums that you could bring this conversation to. Because it’s really important as we move to this national framework that we actually understand how it’s gonna relate to state framework.
So that might be a topic for another, maybe our last policy chat once the decisions are firm. But I think that we are really committed in Illinois to stay aligned with NAEYC and with the Power to Profession, and we see lots of places for that alignment to continue to grow. I know that compensation is a tricky business, and as we continue to have conversations at the state level about how to make that happen, and are really eager to see this addressed very directly in terms of the Power to Profession cycles that are coming down the pipe at a later date.
So you know, I think about the conversations that are have happening in Washington State, where they’ve raised the minimum wage, and the impact this has had on early childhood services, the providers the ability for families to afford increased rates of care, and realize thatyou know this is an experiment that we can watch in Washington State and learn from. And so I just hope that whatever models we develop we’re thinking about how to move public policy and not put it on families, I think that’s such an important component.
MARICA: Absolutely, which is why this conversation around being very clear about who early childhood educators are is an important conversation and lays the groundwork we need and the foundation we need to make the case for public investments.
We’re very clear that additional funding to support compensation will have to come from public sources to get that funding we’ll have to be clear about who we are and actually demonstrate that we can be accountable for delivering on the promises of those public dollars.
And so, part of it is exactly that it’s knowing that we have to be accountable for the public dollars, and private dollars that we receive and we have to be accountable to supporting all young children.
TERI: Yes we’re in the midst of it all and we are getting piecemeal ways of addressing it, parity with state pre-K teachers, and working in community-based programs, and state pre-K in schools, and how to achieve that parity, how to look at it as a social justice issue, like they’re doing in Washington, in terms of raising the minimum wage for all people employed in the state. Both of these models need to come together, and I hope that as we move further with these different levels of the early childhood educator that we can link it to both social justice, and to compensation based on increased qualifications, and responsibilities.
MARICA: Absolutely, I think there are some conversations we have, I think there are times where we have isolated conversations on compensation and we say compensation parity and when it comes to accountability parity, or preparation parity, or responsibilities parity, we don’t have those conversations. And so what Power to the Profession provides is an opportunity for us to have that comprehensive conversation so we’re not talking about compensation in isolation.
We’re actually talking about compensation in the context of preparation and accountability. If we want additional public funding, we’re gonna have to be clear and accountable about how we’re gonna use that funding, and who is actually going to get that funding.
Is every early childhood educator going to be paid as much as a third-grade teacher? What about the associate degree graduate? Where do they stand? What’s comparable compensation for them? Are there some responsibilities that will be the same across the varying levels? How will we show differentiation? What we see right now with career lattices, as they’re currently implemented is why we provide some sort of broad guidelines and guidance about how to navigate through the complex early childhood education occupation as it exists today.
We also know that some of those levels can feel meaningless to the educators themselves because currently progressing from a level 2 to a level 5 does not necessarily mean you are gaining greater skills. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have increased accountability and responsibilities. It doesn’t mean you even have a change in professional designation. It does not mean you have more accountability requirements.
So we’re trying to make sure that the designations we use in this profession are meaningful and that we have compensation that are tied to those varying levels. And we’re clear about the scope of their practice.
Right, so what’s the difference between educator 1, as it is currently framed by the task force in this draft document, versus educator 2? What’s the difference between educator 2 and educator 3? And recognizing that we need multiple pathways for educators to assess, access those levels. We need to ensure those levels are stackable, we need to create pathways that minimize the impact of systemic racism and elistism.
We need to ensure that we have articulation. So there’s lots to a unpack with Power to the Profession. And it is through conversations like these, us holding on to what works well, but us also being open to new ideas and ways of rethinking the early childhood education profession.
TERI: Well I think you’ve summed it up really nicely Marica. I would love us to have this conversation next time about how our state professional development systems can best align with the recommendation regarding levels for the early childhood educator, and share with you more about how Illinois has looked at this in terms of its career lattice and how it relates to the levels.
So, I think this is a great place to end, and I look forward to our next part of the series when we focus on that alignment with the state systems.
MARICA: Absolutely, again Teri, thanks for this opportunity, I look forward to future conversations.
VOICEOVER: Thanks to Marica for joining us and thanks to you for watching. Join the conversation with Teri and Marica in-person at Leadership Connections National Conference.
In the meantime, what questions do you have about Power to the Profession? tell us in the comment section below. Until next time!
It is with great sadness that we share with you the news of the passing of Dr. Paula Jorde Bloom—our founder, an extraordinary visionary, and a “gatekeeper to quality.” For nearly two decades, Paula lived with a cancer that was expected to take her life years ago, outlasting numerous doctors’ predictions. Paula died at her home on Saturday, February 17, 2018, in Lake Bluff, Illinois.
Paula’s journey in early childhood leadership began in 1975, when, with the support of local philanthropists, she designed and brought to life the child care center of her dreams in Alamo, California. Classrooms were spacious. Windows were abundant. Farm animals and a vegetable garden were thriving in an expansive yard. Children were happy and engaged with a developmentally appropriate curriculum. Yet, something was missing. Operating a sustainable program required more skills and knowledge than Paula felt she possessed.
“While I had been a very talented and accomplished classroom teacher, I had no clue about program administration and had had no formal organizational leadership and management courses,” Paula reflected. “At that time, I didn’t know the difference between a debit and a credit.” This experience fueled Paula’s passion and life’s work.
Paula dedicated the rest of her life to not only bringing national attention to the role of leaders in early care and education, but also to inspiring those leaders to learn more and improve the quality of their programs. She went on to be an instructor at Mills College and the director of the campus lab school. Paula completed her doctorate at Stanford University, moved to the Chicago area, and started as an assistant professor at National Louis University (then National College of Education). In 1985, she applied for and received a $600 Membership Action Grant from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to start the Early Childhood Professional Development Project. Ultimately, the project, which focused on directors of early care and education programs, led to the founding of another center. This one, though, would focus on leadership development for those in early childhood. Her goals for the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership were to identify, define, and support the competencies of early childhood program administrators and to bring credibility to the importance and complexity of the administrator’s role. While nationally renowned, and the executive director of a premier organization, Paula was surprisingly humble. She was also gracious in her unwavering drive to support early childhood program leaders. She did not take “no” for an answer. Paula was able to grow the McCormick Center and improve standards for administrators as a result.
Throughout the next 30 years, Paula devoted her work to supporting program administrators, whom she referred to as the “gatekeepers to quality.” She authored scores of journal articles and resources including the widely read Director’s Toolbox management book series and the Early Childhood Work Environment Survey (ECWES), an organizational climate assessment tool. She also co-authored the first valid and reliable tools to measure early childhood leadership and management, the Program Administration Scale (PAS) and the Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care (BAS). Academically, she chaired the department of early childhood education, became the Michael W. Louis endowed chair, and more recently became professor emerita. In her spare time, when not immersed in activities with her beloved husband Darrell and their family, Paula was president of New Horizons, a publishing company specializing in resources to support program administration.
Over the years, Paula served on countless boards and committees informing their work in the development of early childhood director competencies, credentials, and coursework. Her pioneering efforts have been the basis for the national and state emphasis that exists on leadership today. Early observations led Paula to recognize that there were not many professional development opportunities for early childhood leaders, so she began Taking Charge of Change, a groundbreaking year-long institute where directors could learn best practices, be mentored, and network. The institute now serves as a model for states striving to improve program quality. Her maxim “quality is a moving target” guided a myriad of directors to embrace systems thinking and create work environments where the norm was continuous quality improvement.
This norm of perpetual growth was not just for the directors whom she served. It also became a guiding principle for the McCormick Center. Paula inspired us to move mountains and taught us that we are catalysts for change. She was the embodiment of what she preached. We will miss the positive energy she instantaneously generated upon entering a room.
Paula’s far-reaching impact on the field of early childhood is widely recognized and much celebrated, most recently being named a doyen by Exchange. For her retirement celebration in 2014, scores of colleagues across the country called the McCormick Center to leave Paula voicemails of endearment, congratulations, and a tremendous amount of gratitude. You can listen to some of them here, as well as read Paula’s inspiring retirement address. Unsurprisingly, Paula did not stop working when she “retired.” Instead, she worked on new editions of several of her most widely read books and trainer’s guides. And, despite knowing her time among us was nearing an end, Paula continued to work on projects and offer insights that will undoubtedly move the field forward.
“We are somber today and at the same time celebrating everything Paula contributed and the legacy she began with just a few hundred dollars and a single idea,” said Teri Talan, Michael W. Louis Chair of the McCormick Center. “We are dedicated to building on Paula’s tremendous vision and contributions. Our drive to improve the quality of early childhood education nationwide persists. We remain dedicated to supporting administrators in their passion to provide high-quality programs for the families and children who depend on their leadership.”
Thank you, Paula. Thousands of children, families, and early childhood leaders have a brighter future because of you.
A memorial service to celebrate Paula’s life will be held on March 2nd at 1:00 p.m. in the John and Nancy Hughes Theater at the Gorton Center, 400 East Illinois Road, Lake Forest, IL 60044. A reception will follow in the Stuart Room. Paula’s family has asked us to share that in lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Paula Jorde Bloom Scholarship Fund for Leadership Education at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University, 6200 Capitol Drive, Wheeling, IL 60090.
Editor’s Note: The post below was originally featured in a weekly newsletter from the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER). In the write-up, Research Project Coordinator Kaitlin Northey discusses the L.E.A.D. Early Childhood Clearinghouse, created by the McCormick Center.
What We’re Reading:
Closing the Early Ed Leadership Gap
By: Kaitlin Northey, NIEER, Research Project Coordinator
The siloed nature and complexity of the early childhood field has made collecting workforce data challenging. Most efforts have focused on the frontline workers and overlooked the field’s leaders (e.g., National Survey of Early Care and Education, 2012).
The 2015 publication, Transforming the Workforce for Children from Birth through Age 8, called for a unified effort to increase the capacity and competency of early childhood leaders, and the Leadership Education for Administrators and Directors (L.E.A.D.) Early Childhood Clearinghouse has been an important step toward that goal.
The report assigns each state an overall policy lever score and provides average scores for five different policy levers:
Administrator Qualifications in Child Care Licensing;
Administrator Qualifications in QRIS;
and Administrator Qualifications in State Pre-K Programs.
Each state’s profile also includes details such as the number of leaders and their average salary, degree programs available, and the number of early childhood academies. The website features an interactive map displaying the density of child care directors by county in selected states, along with the policy lever rubric, and links to the data sources.
This report, an excellent first step in identifying site-based early childhood leaders and the leadership programs available in each state, provides a foundation for future research and entry points for state policymakers interested in improving the capacity of their early childhood leadership.
The report also offers a glimpse into the rich data already present in the Clearinghouse. For example, a National Profile section includes administrators’ demographics—information not typically included in reports of early childhood workforce data.
A good next step would be enabling users to view data by sector, making it easier to spot—and address—gaps in data collection to, eventually, provide a more accurate portrait of early childhood leaders.
Policy [M]atters is a video chat series between Teri Talan, Senior Policy Advisor at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, and a guest expert in early childhood policy. Our guest for Season 3 is Marica Cox Mitchell, Director of Early Learning Systems at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Want to catch up or revisit the series? Explore previous chats and topics here.
Policy [M]atters Season 3, Episode 1 - YouTube
In Episode 1, Marica introduces and provides context for the NAEYC “Power to the Profession” initiative, which is a national collaboration that seeks to establish a unifying framework for qualifications, compensation, standards, career pathways, knowledge, and competencies within the early childhood profession.
Teri and Marica explore why we need this initiative, who is involved with it, and what the rationale for it is.
Do you have questions for Teri and Marica? Share your questions below. Teri and Marica may respond in the next episode!
Marica Cox Mitchell is responsible for NAEYC’s major program efforts in early childhood program and higher education accreditation. She is also leading the alignment among and between our Center for Applied Research, accreditation, and higher education with early childhood and higher education systems across the country. Mitchell has been in the early childhood education field for more than 16 years and has worked in both administrative and classroom settings. Before assuming her current role, she served as the Director of Higher Education Accreditation for NAEYC. Prior to this position, she led the Early Childhood Professional Development Unit at the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education where she developed and monitored a wide range of professional development resources designed to increase the quality of early learning programs and advance cohorts of early childhood professionals. These resources included the TEACH Early Childhood DC scholarship program, DC Career Guide for Early Childhood and Out of School Time Professionals, DC Trainer Approval Program and accreditation facilitation projects. She also worked with stakeholders to evaluate and propose enhancements to the DC Quality Rating and Improvement System. She was promoted to Director of School Preparedness (Readiness) before her departure from the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Mitchell also facilitated the pilot and implementation of the Full Service Community School Model while serving as a specialist with the District of Columbia Public Schools. Early in her career, she supported the launch of NAEYC’s Early Childhood Associate Degree Accreditation system as a staff member.
Two new tools that provide information about early childhood leadership were launched this summer. Concurrent with the development and release of the McCormick Center’s L.E.A.D. Early Childhood Clearinghouse,1 New America created a data visualization tool, the Pre-K Leader Policy Scan.2 Both organizations collaborated on data collection and analysis to reduce duplication and serve stakeholders with comprehensive interactive websites. They also published research reports that drew from the rich and extensive data found within the tools.
New America’s report, A Tale of Two Pre-K Leaders: How State Policies for Center Directors and Principals Leading Pre-K Programs Differ, and Why They Shouldn’t,3 written by Abbie Lieberman, highlights the contrast between the qualifications for early childhood program directors and those of elementary school principals. Lieberman found that standards for center directors were much lower than those of elementary school principals even though the requirements for their jobs were similar. While this finding is not surprising, the report comprehensively demonstrates a pervasive gap between the child care and public school sectors.
As a framework for assessing the pre-K leadership landscape, New America looked to “Knowledge and Competencies for Leadership in Settings with Children Birth Through Age 8” in the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation.4 Several of these competencies align with the Whole Leadership Framework5 including teaching practices that help children learn, authentic child assessment, fostering a professional workforce, meaningful appraisal of teachers’ performance, strong community partnerships, and organizational development. These competencies point to the similarity of what is required of administrators in both child care centers and pre-K-12 schools. New America’s Early & Elementary Education Policy team conducted a 50-state survey of departments of education (DOE) and a few state elementary school principal associations to scan the policy landscape of elementary school principals. They partnered with the McCormick Center, who collected data on early childhood center directors by examining source documents on state policies and surveying various state departments (other than DOE) for certain indicators. To more deeply understand leaders’ roles, challenges, professional preparation, and supports, New America interviewed center directors and principals across the country giving voice to their perspectives.
Four aspects of pre-K leadership were examined in the New America study: pre-service requirements, in-service requirements, compensation and retention, and leader diversity. New America noted the challenges of collecting data within the two sectors and the complexity of data systems, particularly in the child care sector. The report examined states’ pre-service requirements for principals with six indicators:
Minimum education requirements
Grade span of the principal’s license
Coursework around early learning and/or child development
Prior teaching experience – number of years
Prior teaching experience – grades taught
Clinical experiences in preparation programs
The study looked at pre-service requirements for center directors with four indicators:
Education requirements in licensing standards
Experience requirements in licensing standards
State-recognized center director credentials
Director credentials required in licensing standards
Pre-service requirements of principals were significantly higher than those of center directors. However, most states are slow to establish policies that require principals to acquire leadership knowledge and skills specific to pre-K children. Researchers found that licensing standards for center directors were inconsistent across the states and lacked rigor. Table 1 shows some highlights from the report that demonstrate the contrast between elementary school principals and child care center directors.
New America included case studies of innovative professional learning opportunities for principals, with a focus on pre-K to 3rd grade alignment. Twelve states reported having similar programs for principals. The report also highlighted professional development through tiered quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) for child care center directors. Researchers noted that in all states, principals were required to have formal performance reviews, but no state system exists to ensure formal evaluation of center directors.
Findings were presented on compensation and retention from states where data were available. The disparity of average salaries across sectors were particularly acute. The average salary for elementary school principals was $90,410 (range $67,890 – $124,560), while that of center directors was $52,760 (range $39,190 – $68,180). Turnover for both principals and center directors was reported to be high.
New America found that 80 percent of principals were white; however, racial statistics were not available specifically for center directors. The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment reports that the overall child care workforce is more ethnically diverse than K-12 teachers. No states reported initiatives to increase the diversity of school principals or center directors.
New America recommended that states would benefit from recognizing the similarities that exist in the roles of child care and elementary school administrators. Cross-sector professional learning opportunities where principals and center directors could build relationships and coordinate efforts would help children and families as they transition along the pre-K to 3rd grade education continuum. The report put forth the following recommendations:
For Elementary School Principals
Embed early childhood education throughout principal preparation courses.
Require teaching experience or clinical experience specifically in elementary schools.
Offer ongoing professional learning opportunities on early education.
Track principal turnover and salaries and use the data to determine how districts can better support leaders.
For Pre-K Center Directors
Increase center director qualifications to reflect the research on child development and early learning.
Increase infrastructure for child care to improve center director well-being and retention.
Increase center directors’ opportunities for professional learning.
Streamline state regulations and eliminate redundancies.
The report carries a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license; full legal code at creativecommons.org.
Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) (2015). Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 344–345).
Abel, M. B., Talan, T. N., & Masterson, M. (2017, Jan/Feb). Whole leadership: A framework for early childhood programs. Exchange, 39 (233), 22–25.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post authored by Richard Sheridan, author of Joy, Inc., and CEO, Chief Storyteller, and co-founder of Menlo Innovations. Richard was the opening keynote speaker at the 2017 Leadership Connections™ national conference, which is hosted by the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership.
I had the great honor of addressing the annual Leadership Connections national conference in May in Chicago. My goal was to inspire two actions on the part of the many leaders in the audience:
Encourage the leaders to leave with a mindset to “run the experiment” and break free from the mindset of “that won’t work here.”
Encourage them all to crack open the copy of Joy, Inc.in each person’s book bag. (I was so committed to this goal that I took my entire speaker fee and bought copies for all of the conference attendees.)
Every once in while a new thought is born in such a talk. This was one of those moments for me. When I speak of joy in the context of work, I encourage everyone, especially leaders, to first look outside the organization with a simple question:
Who do you serve? And what would delight look like for them?
While I told the famous “run the experiment” story about Menlo babies, I also touched on the story of Buster the Great Dane. If you were at the conference, you’ll recall that at Menlo Innovations, we have a tradition of having dogs in the office (Our lease language allows up to three. … We are currently at that limit!).
However, the Buster story was a little different. In this case, Buster was the dog of one of our customers. He asked if he could bring Buster in for his weekly Show & Tell with our team. We said yes, and that day this gentle giant of a dog was in our space. He greeted me warmly by putting his paws on my shoulders, and suddenly my 6’5″ frame felt small as Buster was looking down on me!
As I discussed in my talk, the real story behind Buster’s visit was that our customer was choosing to be more like us when he interacted with us. He couldn’t bring Buster into his workplace (it wouldn’t be appropriate as he works in a medical lab). But, when he interacted with us, he chose to join our cultural mindset. This can be a powerful and beneficial side effect of a great work culture.
It was at this moment in my talk, as I thought hard about all of the leaders in early childhood and the challenges they face every day. I can easily imagine that one of the biggest obstacles they face is that, as hard as they try to create the very best nurturing environment possible for their young charges, sometimes children live in home or community environments that are stressful or even toxic.
What if the effect of the learning environment was so compelling that the families in your program wanted to bring the lessons of your program home with them? What if each and every day, you were making a difference in many of the homes of the families you serve? What kind of impact could that make in the world?
If there is one central lesson I have learned over the years, it is that we humans are wired to serve others, to be in community with one another. We desire to work on something much bigger than ourselves. What better place to do this than with our children.
I know the work is hard, and there are likely days that are unrewarding. As I state in Joy, Inc., joy and happiness are not the same! We can’t possibly hope to be happy every minute of every day.
Yet, the joy comes from seeing the effects of the work of our hearts, our hands, and our minds play out in the world we serve. If you can cultivate a supportive learning culture and run experiments that allow the joy of your early childhood program to go home with the children and their families, you would have done wonderful work to advance our world in ways that are so desperately needed.
I wish you joy in the journey ahead!
Ready for another inspiring keynote speaker? Save the date for the 2018 Leadership Connections national conference, May 10-12, 2018. Walter S. Gilliam, Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale University Child Study Center, and Director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy, will be providing the opening keynote remarks. Dr. Gilliam’s research involves early childhood education and intervention policy analysis (specifically how policies translate into effective services), ways to improve the quality of prekindergarten and child care services, the impact of early childhood education programs on children’s school readiness, and effective methods for reducing classroom behavior problems and reducing the incidence of preschool expulsion.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally featured in the Summer 2017 edition of Kansas Child Magazine, a publication of Child Care Aware of Kansas.
FOR DECADES, the value of partnering with families to support children’s learning and development has been touted among early childhood care and education leaders. Initiatives to enhance family engagement in early childhood programs and schools is increasingly prevalent, and with good reason. Family engagement increases children’s age-appropriate cognitive skills (Roggman, Boyce, and Cook, 2009), improves student achievement (Forry, Bromer, Chrisler, Rothenber, Simkin, and Danieri, 2012; McWayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Sekino, 2004), and supports early literacy in diverse families (Barrueco, Smith, and Stephens, 2015).
Involving parents and other family members in the learning opportunities that occur in child care settings and building bridges between the home and the program extend learning and promote child development in a meaningful and authentic way.
Early childhood administrators might feel unprepared to lead efforts that foster family engagement. However, being intentional about involving families in program activities and choosing to consider family members’ perspectives in decision-making go a long way toward overcoming any reticence the leader might have about reaching out to families. A shift in the leaders’ thinking aids in creating an organizational culture that welcomes family partnerships.
Leadership for family engagement might include creating policies and practices that respect differing family structures, involving family members in decisions related to their children, and regularly asking for feedback from family members about their experiences with the program. Directors who make family engagement a priority actively seek parents’ and extended family members’ support and assistance. They also encourage staff to allow families easy access to the classroom and school. Supervisors can urge teachers to make families a visible presence in their classrooms by posting photos or displaying artifacts from children’s experiences outside of the program (Pelo 2002).
Encouraging teachers to bring family life into the classroom is a function of the administrator exercising pedagogical leadership. The McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University recently developed the Whole Leadership Framework to clarify and differentiate various aspects of leadership in early childhood programs (Abel, Talan, Masterson, 2017). This broad view of leadership can be explained through three domains: leadership essentials, administrative leadership, and pedagogical leadership.
Leadership essentials include foundational skills in reflective practice, communication, and relationship-building. They include such personal attributes as self-efficacy, empathy, creativity, authenticity, humility, transparency, adaptability, and a learner’s perspective on which administrative and pedagogical leadership are built and are often expressed in leadership styles and dispositions. Leadership essentials are foundational for influencing and motivating people around a shared vision.
Administrative leadership involves maximizing capacity to develop and sustain an early childhood organization. It is about setting goals, orchestrating work, and mobilizing people to sustain an early childhood organization, with both operational and strategic leadership functions. Operational leadership is accomplished through such critical functions as hiring, evaluating, and supporting teaching staff; developing budgets aligned with program goals and needs; and maintaining a positive organizational culture and climate. Strategic leadership involves guiding the direction of an early childhood organization with the future in mind. Strategic leaders clarify mission and values, inspire staff to pursue a shared vision, and ensure that program goals and outcomes are attained. Effective administrative leaders establish systems for consistent implementation of program operations to meet the needs of children, families, and staff.
Pedagogical leadership involves supporting the art and science of teaching, including ensuring high-quality interactions with children and affecting the dispositions of teachers. Pedagogical leadership includes instructional leadership and family engagement. As pedagogical leaders, directors continually assess whether classroom activities are implemented with fidelity to the program’s philosophy and curricular objectives. They examine the learning environment from the child’s perspective and consider whether it is authentic to their life beyond the classroom, and inclusive of families’ cultures. Is it provocative enough to capture children’s interests and challenging enough to affect their development? Pedagogical leaders also create systems of accountability for assessing children’s development and learning, using evaluation data to guide and differentiate instruction, and optimizing learning environments.
Instructional leadership in an early care and education setting involves establishing and maintaining an organizational culture that functions as a learning community. Program leaders attend to teaching and learning as the primary focus of the program and make it a priority in their work. As instructional leaders, directors can affect classroom practices by establishing peer learning teams, increasing awareness of emerging pedagogical methods, and allocating resources for professional development. Reflective supervision can support child development and learning by providing feedback to teachers about their practice and drawing attention to the children’s individual needs. Fostering an organizational culture that values reflection and continuous improvement is a powerful tool for effective instructional leaders.
Engaging families to support children’s learning and development requires leadership and organizational focus.
In tandem with establishing a community of learners among staff, pedagogical leadership requires including families in the process. When administrators acknowledge the primary role of parents and family members in their children’s learning and development, it influences the program’s pedagogical approach. The director’s role in shaping expectations for family engagement and establishing an organizational climate that supports families’ participation in learning activities is critical. Hilado, Kallemeyn, and Phillips (2013) found that administrators who had a more flexible definition of family involvement tended to have more positive views of parents and perceived higher levels of involvement. Bornfreund (2014) emphasizes that random acts of encouraging family involvement aren’t enough. Simply inviting parents to center celebrations, distributing a newsletter, or creating a parent resource room is not likely to lead to improved outcomes for children.
Pedagogical leadership that affects children’s learning and development requires establishing family-center partnerships where power and responsibility are shared. It can be challenging to shift attitudes and perspectives within an organization to embrace a philosophy that families are central in the learning equation, but effective leaders are able to articulate a vision for partnering with families and manage change processes that influence the collective core beliefs about shared responsibility for children’s learning. Ongoing individualized communication, home visits, and multiple opportunities for families to be involved in the life of the program and classroom can aid in changing the organizational culture with regard to family engagement.
It is important to recognize that the domains of Whole Leadership — Leadership Essentials, Administrative Leadership, and Pedagogical Leadership — do not operate independently. Few leadership roles and functions are mutually exclusive. Rather, leadership exercised in one domain affects and/or requires reciprocal leadership in the other domains. Administrative and pedagogical leadership are separate but connected. The interdependent relationship between the domains is vital to organizational success, especially as it relates to family engagement. Implementing family engagement efforts that affect teaching and learning requires strategic and operational leadership, such as planning for coordinated and aligned activities, establishing objectives for shared decision-making, and allocating resources to involve families. It is through a balanced approach to leadership that family engagement can flourish.
Michael B. Abel is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University where he designs and implements original research studies regarding administrative practice in early childhood programs. His education includes an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Educational Leadership Policy and Foundations, an M.A. in Educational Administration, and an M.A. in Early Childhood Education. Mike has extensive experience in higher education, child care management, and service with NAEYC.
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This new Illinois legislation is a model for nationwide reform of expulsion criteria and advances a policy agenda that is supportive of all children during the critical preschool years. In addition to protecting children from expulsion, the bill also calls for increased mental health support for children and increased professional development for teachers and caregivers. The act includes provisions for when children exhibit persistent and serious challenging behaviors and a systematic process for transitioning to a more appropriate setting. While some early childhood administrators may feel the burden of additional regulation, they may also benefit from a defined process for working with families who have a child with serious behavioral needs. Dr. Walter Gilliam will be a keynote speaker at the 2018 Leadership Connections™ national conference, hosted by the McCormick Center.
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