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.
Abel, M. B., Talan, T. N., & Masterson, M. (2017, Jan/Feb). Whole leadership: A framework for early childhood programs. Exchange (19460406), 39(233), 22-25.
Barrueco, S., Smith, S., & Stephens, S. (2015). Supporting parent engagement in linguistically diverse families to promote young children’s learning: Implications for early care and education policy. New York, NY: Child Care & Early Education Research Connections.
Bloom, P. J., & Abel, M. B. (2015). Expanding the lens—Leadership as an organizational asset. Young Children, 70(2), 8-13.
Bornfreund, L. 2014. Family Engagement Is Much More Than Volunteering at School. http://www.edcentral.org/family-engagement-much-volunteering-school/.
Forry, N., Bromer, J., Chrisler, A., Rothenberg, L., Simkin, S., & Daneri, P. (2012). Review of conceptual and empirical literature of family-provider relationship, OPRE Report#2012-46. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Hilado, A., L. Kallemeyn, & L. Phillips. 2013. “Examining Understandings of Parent Involvement in Early Childhood Programs.” Early Childhood Research and Practice 15(2): 1–12.
McWayne, C., Hampton, V., Fantuzzo, J., Cohen, H.L., & Sekino, Y. (2004). A multivariate examination of parent involvement and the social and academic competencies of urban kindergarten children. Psychology in the Schools, 41(3), 363-377.
Roggman, L. A., Boyce, L. K., & Cook, G. A. (2009) Keeping kids on track: Impacts of a parenting-focused Early Head Start program on attachment security and cognitive development. Early Education & Development, 20(6), 920-941. Pelo, A. (September 2002). From borders to bridges: Transforming our relationships with parents. Exchange(147): 39–41. www.ks.childcareaware.org
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.
Teri Talan, our Senior Policy Advisor, spoke recently at New America in Washington D.C. at an event called The Power of Leaders in Early Learning. As part of the panel, she shared her insight into how states and organizations can better prepare leaders through policy for the early childhood workforce.
Watch below to hear from Teri about her experience and how she believes the early childhood landscape can be improved using efforts such as the L.E.A.D. Clearinghouse to change policies and grow leaders in the field.
I often think about my time working as a director in a child care program and wonder how different things would have been if I had known then, what I know now. As time passes and I gain new experiences and insights on leadership in early childhood education, I frequently ask myself what I would do differently if I could relive that period of time. In my reflection, I have realized that my conclusions are from my point of view. Recognizing that the experience I had as a program administrator affected so many, I thought it would be interesting to learn what my team would like for me to have known.
In a series of conversations with teachers I have worked with in the past, here are five common themes I discovered that the teachers wanted me and other directors to know:
As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Directors come with education, experience, and skill sets needed to get the job done. What tends to get in the way is the failure to build authentic relationships with the people in the program; primarily teachers, parents, and children. As a leader, it is important to build strong individual relationships with those in your program and just as important to foster relationships between them.
Building a community of collaboration means everyone wins.
The child care program often involves very specific tasks to be done by specific people. However, there is still an opportunity to establish collaboration as opposed to working as separate entities. Create an environment where communication is frequent and information is shared among teams. Some roles and responsibilities may overlap, and, even if they don’t, staff members should be aware of how they can support others while still fulfilling the obligation of their own jobs.
Don’t assume that teachers know how to meet YOUR expectations.
Teachers also come to the table with a wealth of knowledge and experience. It can easily be assumed that they know how to fulfill the expectations of your program. Not necessarily! Each program has its own culture and way of operating that may be unlike what teachers have done in the past. Some concepts and ideas in the field are universal but the way they are carried out can be very different. Take the time to train teachers in the way you want things done.
Involve those involved.
When possible, involve those affected by a change to participate in the decision-making process. While it is not feasible to seek suggestions and input for every program decision that needs to be made, allow staff, parents, and children an opportunity to be included as much as possible. Solicit their suggestions and feedback and incorporate their ideas. This validates their place in the program and relieves you, the director, from carrying too much weight on your own.
Don’t take the job too seriously.
Sometimes, it is perfectly acceptable to leave the pile of papers on the desk to go and enjoy the scented playdough and bubbles in the toddler classroom—or even pull a prank or two with the teachers! Directors can become so overwhelmed with the business of running a center that little time is taken to have fun on the job. Find opportunities to participate in the early childhood activities you love with the children and teachers in your program and all of your hard work will be that much more rewarding.
Flora Gomez is an Assessor and Training Specialist at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University. She is an experienced preschool teacher and trainer, mentor, and coach for early childhood educators. Her mission is to teach teachers to impact children!
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