#TeachersCanBeLeaders!

August 28, 2015

Steven Hicks serves as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education. Mr. Hicks first began in the Department as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, having taught preschool through third grade in Los Angeles, California. He has helped shape the Department’s birth to third grade early learning agenda and works on two high-profile programs: Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge and Preschool Development Grants. Named a Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year and member of the USA Today All-USA Teacher Team, he also served as an on-line early childhood mentor and a contributing writer for early childhood curricula. As Los Angeles Region Preschool Coordinator for the California Reading and Literacy Project, he trained teacher leaders and early childhood educators for three years on effective literacy practices. He also founded the early learning center at his charter school. Mr. Hicks holds a Master of Arts degree in Early Childhood and Primary School Education and is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Early Childhood.

PreschoolToday recently received this Tweet, “I really appreciate the efforts being made to change the face of #ECE. Please let us teachers know what we can do to help!” My first reaction, as an early education teacher of 20 years, was to be annoyed that teachers have to ask what they can do. Then I realized that this highlights the extent to which we have shut down teacher voices, especially those in early childhood education. In many schools and community-based settings, early childhood education teachers are not seen as adding value in advancing the current state of education, much less as being capable leaders. And that opinion is not only coming from administrators or colleagues, it’s also coming from the teachers themselves.

Somewhere along the way, early childhood education has been relegated by some to just a few notches above babysitting. I remember in my kindergarten classroom, the superintendent of a very large school district quipped as he walked through my classroom and saw children building structures at the block center, creating patterns with manipulatives, or exploring at the computers, “Oh this must be daycare.” Many on the outside don’t know the value of what we do, nor do they attempt to find out. If we are in an elementary school, we are often relegated down the hall, away from the ‘real’ teachers who teach the things that seem to matter, the things that are tested. And so, since what we do is not always respected on the same level as our colleagues, neither is our opinion.

Steven Hicks teacherAccording to a recent poll, only one-third of teachers feel that their voices are heard in their district, 5 percent in their state, and just 2 percent at the national level. This is for all teachers. You can imagine how much lower the stats would be if we just looked at early childhood teachers. Failure to leverage the voices and expertise of early childhood teachers in schools and community-based settings has deep implications for students, programs, and policies, as well as our profession.

Fortunately, the “face of #ECE is changing,” as the Tweeter reminds us in 140 characters or less. In fact, I’m thrilled to know that early childhood teachers, who have long been perceived as reluctant to embrace technology, are Tweeting. And they’re doing more than that. They’re blogging, Facebooking, Pinning, Instagramming, subscribing to list servs (like this one), and joining webinars and on-line communities using their smartphones, tablets, laptops and now watches! Hopefully, some of this time we spend on our devices is building our professional knowledge and providing ways in which we can find our voice to be not only great teachers, but also great leaders.

“What can we do to help?” Everything. What you do in your classroom is the most important thing you can be doing to ensure the success of our young children and the future economic prosperity of our nation. You are helping to build minds! But sorry, that’s just not enough. Each of us also should be a leader in our schools, communities, and professional organizations, a responsibility all early childhood teachers should embrace. We are the experts on early learning and development. We are the individuals who have the training and the experience to fully understand what children and families need, what is helpful, and what is not.

Education is always evolving with fads and flavors of the month to solve the never-ending challenge of closing the achievement gaps. But real progress happens when teacher leaders strive for changes in the culture of education and in the policies that affect our students. Teachers can find ways to lead at the local, state, and national levels. Often, change will occur because the astute teacher recognizes a void, something that must be done to move us further towards our goals of equitable educational opportunity.

At the local level, this can mean creating better systems for children as they transition from early childhood programs to elementary schools; serving as a mentor for new or experienced teachers; or advocating for better policies to address and reduce bullying, suspensions, or chronic absenteeism at the school or center. There are school board meetings, neighborhood associations, advocacy and union organizations, and advisory committees that would benefit immensely from the input of early childhood teacher leaders.

At the state level, decisions are being made that affect all children and families, from adopting curricula and assessments to establishing learning standards and workforce competencies. Right now, in some states, decisions are being made about mandating kindergarten, expanding early education funding, and setting standards for quality in programs. We should have an opinion on these issues and shouldn’t miss opportunities to insert ourselves into how these policies and issues are shaped.

At the national level, early childhood teachers can influence laws and policies that affect the entire country. Currently, Congress is negotiating the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, our nation’s education law and last reauthorized 14 years ago as No Child Left Behind. Other laws Congress takes up every few years for reauthorization are the Head Start Act, CCDBG and IDEA. When our representatives return after Labor Day, they’ll also be deciding on the new budget, which is due by September 30th each year. The laws and budgets affect our children’s futures, and teachers have multiple opportunities to make their voices heard.

An exciting opportunity early childhood teacher leaders have right now is through Teach to Lead, a joint effort of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the U.S. Department of Education, to improve student success by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership while teachers are in the classroom. Teach to Lead gives teachers a way to share their ideas for improving education in their community, state, or nation and to learn from their peers. Whether teachers are facilitating a professional learning community at their school or center; influencing changes in their state’s licensing requirements; or making comments on policies in the Federal Register, their voices can be a catalyst for systemic and sustained change. What can you do to help? #Lots. The important thing is to do something!


It’s Time to Make ECE’s Promise a Reality

August 12, 2015

By Stacie Goffin, Ed.D. 

Stacie Goffin is Principal of the Goffin Strategy Group, which is dedicated to building early childhood education’s ability to provide effective programs and services for young children through leadership, capacity, and systems development. Stacie is also the author of several seminal publications, including the recently released Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era

In his May 29, 2014 NIEER blog, Jim Squires asked, “Is early education and care a profession or not?” The answer to his straightforward question, he concluded, was “no.” Because of the nature of ECE’s work, few would question that ECE ought to be profession. Yet as John Goodlad reminded us, “A vocation (occupation) is not a profession just because those in it choose to call it one. It must be recognized as such.”

We use the terms “profession” and “professional” very loosely. People often are deemed professional, for example, when they perform their work at a high level or when they shift from amateur to paid status. Sometimes we mistakenly presume the presence of a degree confers professional status.

Small group learningProfessions differ from other occupations or jobs. Their unique occupational structure is designed to ensure practitioners are uniformly prepared and competent, regardless of funding stream, program sponsorship, or, in our instance, the children and families being served. To qualify as a recognized profession, ECE will have to include the attributes that define professions–criteria such as a prescribed scope of work as a field of practice and formal preparation as a prerequisite to being licensed to practice. To be accepted as a profession, therefore, ECE will need to move beyond its fragmented way of life and restructure as a cohesive, interlocking system of preparation, practice, and accountability bound together by a unifying purpose.

Fulfilling this aspiration will require system leaders who catalyze collective leadership. It also will require ECE to move beyond ad hoc and voluntary efforts to repair or incrementally improve what isn’t working. Instead, we will need to step forward to reform and re-form ECE as a field of practice. Doing so will help ensure each and every child regularly interacts with well-prepared teachers who have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to accomplish the results each of us wants for children’s learning and development.

Even though the desired state has been articulated, ECE’s configuration as a profession is as yet unknown, as are the full complement of steps for getting there. Because of the adaptive work involved and professions’ systemic nature, the work ahead, by definition, will be dynamic and emergent. This means it’s not possible to devise an all-inclusive action blueprint in advance of engaging in the work. Nor is it likely a viable approach will emerge in response to someone driving a predetermined change agenda.

There is a starting place, though, and I’d suggest it’s conversations with intent, conversations that engage us in the kind of personal and collective reflections that invite thinking together about how to create an alternative future for ECE as a field of practice. While eyes may roll at the thought of still more “talking” about ECE and next steps, conversations with intent, when skillfully and purposefully executed, offer the means for getting to sustained and transformative action.

Conversations with intent and the steps that follow must

  • attend to multiple perspectives and interpretations of the field’s present status, both within and across sectors and stakeholders,
  • face difficult truths about current realities, acknowledging, for example, that some of our interventions aren’t working or the extent to which ECE is becoming bureaucratized.
  • revisit individual and collective thinking that we or our sectors defend as sacrosanct
  • foster generative conversations that spawn new possibilities,
  • rearrange ECE’s sub-systems into a coherent whole, and
  • persevere to bring a co-imagined future to fruition.

Moving forward will require courage and imagination, but if we so choose, our aspirations for widespread public recognition of our contributions to children’s learning and development can be achieved. Tackling the deep structural issues that undergird ECE’s fragmented practice–for example, the field’s uneven expectations for teachers and their preparation–will necessarily involve frustration and conflict. Yet once united around a vision for ECE’s future, the shared image of what we’re creating will focus, channel, and energize our efforts. By assuming responsibility for our field’s competence, individually and collectively, we will fulfill ECE’s promise to children and their families.

As I’ve argued, professionalizing ECE requires defining, unifying, and taking responsibility for our profession–which Jacqueline Jones similarly underscored in her post last week that reviewed the Institute of Medicine’s report on the ECE workforce. With the increasing attention being placed on ECE, though, the stakes are mounting. Ultimately, we must move forward together to fulfill ECE’s promise because it is a matter of our integrity as a field of practice.

This post was updated with author edits August 14, 2015.


Unifying, Defining, and Owning the Profession

August 6, 2015

By Jacqueline Jones, PhD, President/CEO, The Foundation for Child Development

The past 10 years have seen unprecedented federal, state and local attention to the education and healthy development of young children. Government resources have been targeted to support such efforts as home visiting programs, high-quality preschool, research on the effectiveness of early learning and development programs, and teacher professional development. Yet there remains wide variability in the funding levels for these programs, the program components, and the competencies required of the early care and education professionals who are charged with program implementation.

In April of 2015 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. This consensus study outlines the current science of child development, proposes a set of competencies for lead teachers who work with children across the age range of birth to 8 years, and provides a set of recommendations for achieving a unified workforce. I served as a member of the committee that drafted the report. The IOM report provides the field of early care and education with the scientific foundation to support a demand for rigorous teacher preparation, ongoing professional learning, and reasonable compensation for professionals in early learning and development programs.

This is a watershed moment because, at present, the requirements for lead teachers in early learning and development settings vary widely from state to state (and program-to-program within states), ranging from a high school diploma to a BA with a specified certification. At the heart of this variability is the fact that there is no nationally agreed upon set of competencies that define what early care and education professionals should know and be able to do. But who should make this determination? What body should define the professional field? This moment requires a level of cooperation and informed leadership that has not been the norm in early care and education. The fight for resources to improve the quality of and access to effective programs has resulted in a somewhat fractious community that is often divided by elements such as setting, age ranges, and domain of learning and development. The hard work of defining the profession requires leadership that can promote a united coalition of the major early care and education professional and membership organizations. How this work happens may be as important as the product of the effort. This is not a task for local, state, or federal government. It is not a time to look to Washington or to state and local government to create the vision and take the leadership to define the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that early care and education professionals should possess. Rather, this is a unique moment when the field has the opportunity to make a significant leap forward by using the IOM report’s synthesis of the current science and the proposed recommendations to finally define itself, demand appropriate compensation, and outline the critical elements for professional monitoring and accountability systems. If the profession will not own these elements, each reigning political perspective will continue to frame its own notions of early care and education–rather than having the science of child development serve as the consistent core of the field and as its unifying factor.

Local, state, and federal policy makers still have an important role. Government support will be needed to increase funding for implementing high-quality programs, support research, and facilitate greater coordination across its own programs. However, this work should be guided by professional standards that are developed and agreed upon by the field of early care and education. Unifying, defining, and owning the field of early care and education will not be an easy task. The need for real leadership has never been greater, but that leadership must come from within.


On leadership and listening

August 4, 2015
 
Author Susan R. Andersen is an early childhood advisor, formally with the Iowa Department of Education. She has served on the Board of Directors of NAEYC, NAECS-SDE, Council for Professional Recognition and as a National Head Start Fellow. She has taught students in Head Start, Kindergarten and the early primary grades, college students and supervised student teachers in a variety of early childhood settings. She has worked with a number of states and CCSSO  as a consultant  for early childhood projects and is the co-author of ‘Reconnecting the World’s Children to Nature’. Most of the time, she would rather be in her kayak.

Carl R. Rogers wrote that we are all ‘becoming human’. Every day and every experience influences our growth toward ‘becoming a person’ and finding our sense of self. This also reflects the conscience of our profession: to ensure that every child has the most supportive environment in which to ‘become’ a loving, informed, healthy and decent human being.

It is noteworthy that we are so malleable for so long in our lives. Even at birth; there are few pieces of the human body that are fully formed. The exceptions, as Ernest Boyer often reminded his audiences, are the three small bones of the inner ear (stirrup, anvil and hammer). These are, in fact, the only bones that are fully formed at birth. For most of us, we could listen, hear and respond to the sound of our parent’s voices before we were born.

These two remarkable people, among many, continue to influence my thinking about professional responsibility. Carl Rogers’ reminder is that we should be continually growing, in every possible way because life is an ever-changing process. And Ernest Boyer suggests that we should always be listening. For me, these two life skills are interconnected.

To increase test scores or to be world class in math and science without empowering students or affirming the dignity of human life is to lose the essence of what we and education are presumably all about.

    –Ernest Boyer

Leaders never stop learning. In fact, leadership is often a continuum of questions. Finding answers and expanding your own understanding requires intentionality. Failure to expand your awareness only limits possibilities and partnerships. This means learning from everyone who chooses to talk to you. Each person brings a personal point of reference and it may not be in your own field of view, but you can listen to how things seem to others, the emotions that they hold, and then take time to reflect on what you have heard. You never know when a previous listening experience will surface as a piece of a solution to a current challenge. Listening to understand leads to learning.

Leaders with purpose constantly listen and learn. They listen to children, parents, teachers, those who challenge and those who encourage. Hopefully, they listen with their own ear of experience, but they also pause to listen to the unfamiliar. This requires listening with full awareness, respect, curiosity, and listening to understand the concerns behind the concerns. Inevitably, it means that you hear a constant noise of both positive and negative material. Sometimes the speed of information sharing is overwhelming and loud, and the skill of listening may soon be lost to the inhumanity of the Internet. The speed of the return comment often seems more important than really hearing the intent of the original message. Taking time to reflect and balance what you hear with your professional expertise will help you to make positive, intentional choices.

Our children are in motion. We happily note their changes and herald them as growth. In ourselves we seem less willing to notice, but we too are in motion, evolving and changing through our lives

                                           —Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers, A Simpler Way

Listening to colleagues you respect is invaluable. They have navigated some of the same wide range of conundrums. Their work experiences can help you see options and opportunities. Remaining open to listening, asking, and sharing of yourself contributes to becoming better able to navigate challenging situations and making difficult decisions.

Listening can lead to partnerships, collaborations, negotiations and long term meaningful work. If you choose this path, you must hear fully your responsibilities and remain engaged throughout the entire project. If you have the good fortune to work with colleagues who are solid in intent and practice, thank them. Be glad to have such good fortune in your professional career and take the time to acknowledge this valuable, serendipitous part of your growth.

Eleanor Roosevelt often found herself facing very difficult decisions. She studied the meanings of her experiences and learned from them. She considered the ability to be constantly learning was one of her strongest assets. So, when she knew that there was not one single answer to a dilemma, she decided to follow her heart. “Do what you feel in your heart to be right–for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

If your progress leads you to a place that no longer allows you to be true to your core sense of purpose with integrity, honesty, and veracity it is time for a change. If you have challenged yourself and found no way to resolution through an ethical or authentic compromise, acknowledge your learning; be grateful for your opportunity of experience and find the next place in which you can learn and continue to grow. Listen to yourself.


Birth-3rd and Leadership: Steve Tozer’s message to the Birth-3rd Community

July 22, 2015

This is a post from July 1 on The Birth Through Third Grade Learning Hub, by David Jacobson. It is the first post in our next forum on Leadership in Early Education. Follow us for the next few weeks, and please weigh in with your comments and opinions, as we explore this issue from a range of perspectives.

Research shows that leadership is the second most important influence on student learning in schools. Further, as Steve Tozer points out, leadership is critical to improving the most important factor—teaching. It is hard to imagine improving teaching and learning throughout an entire school or early childhood center without good leadership.

Tozer has an important message for the Birth-3rd Community. He directs the Center for Urban Education Leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he runs an award-winning principal preparation program. Tozer has recently made compelling presentations at two early learning and care events, most recently at a meeting of state early childhood specialists in New Orleans and before that in Chicago at the Ounce of Prevention’s District Leadership Summit. Tozer suggests that Birth-3rdinitiatives and leadership development form an important “nexus” between two worlds that until recently have operated separately, but that could and should be joined together in mutually reinforcing ways to achieve greater impact.

“The System is Designed to Obtain the Results It is Obtaining”

Tozer uses this popular saying to make the point that if we want significantly better results in Birth—3rd education and care, we need to make big improvements to the systems that produce these results.

Tozer’s understanding of leadership is thus less about a “leader as hero” model than about improving the way organizations and systems work through the basics—“good shooting, dribbling and passing.” A central priority for leaders of centers and elementary schools should be developing their organizations as “good places for adult learning,” in effect building the capacity for continuous improvement so that centers, schools, and the systems that connect them and other partner organizations “get better at getting better.”

Theory of Impact

Five essential supports provide direction to the challenging work of getting better at getting better. These supports are described in what in Tozer’s view is the most important education book published in the past 25 years, Organizing for School Improvement: Lessons from Chicago (Bryk et. al., 2010). See this article for a summary. The five supports, listed below, emerged from a multi-year study of elementary schools as the distinguishing factors that accounted for the success of high-achieving schools.

  • Coherent instructional guidance system (e.g, clear curricular expectations, common assessments, and related coaching and professional development)
  • Professional capacity
  • Strong parent-community-school ties
  • Student-centered learning climate
  • Leadership drives change

In Tozer’s view, leadership teams build capacity in elementary schools and preschool centers through these five essential supports and P-3 (Birth-3rd) alignment.Since most principals are not trained in early childhood education, the foundational new PreK-3rd Leadership competencies issued by the National Association for Elementary School Principals serve as a pivotal step in bringing Birth—3rd and leadership efforts together. One of the school success stories profiled in the NAESP report is of Carson Elementary School, a school led for 16 years by Kathleen Mayer, now a coach in UIC’s leadership program. Mayer led her staff in designing the prekindergarten program and in integrating Reggio Emilia practices. According to Mayer, she could not have achieved the success she did in her school without incorporating prekindergarten.

The five supports and P-3 alignment lead to good teaching and care in classrooms, which in turn leads to student engagement and learning, as shown in the following theory of impact:

image

This theory of impact is embedded in the UIC principal preparation program that Tozer directs, the result of a 10-year partnership between the Chicago Public Schools and UIC. Over time Tozer and his colleagues have increased the priority placed on early childhood development and best practices in the program. Additional essential (and uncommon) features of the program include:

  • High selectivity
  • Clinical intensity
  • K-12 results orientation
  • Residency and post-residency coaching
  • Assessment rigor—> counseling out

UIC has tracked student gains in schools led by UIC-prepared principals and compared them to Chicago’s average. UIC-led principals have significantly outperformed Chicago averages on a number of measures, including one-year gains in student achievement, performance at mostly low-income/mostly African-American schools, and performance in high-performing schools as well.

Leading Organizational Change Efforts

Tozer’s views on the organizational nature of improving Birth-3rd improvement naturally leads him to the research on organizational change. Specifically, Tozer points to an important list compiled by change expert John Kotter of errors that leaders often make in change efforts, a list that in effect serves as a thought-provoking set of suggestions to keep in mind for Birth-3rd change efforts.

  1. Allowing too much complacency
  2. Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition
  3. Understanding the power of vision
  4. Under-communicating the vision by a factor of 10, 100
  5. Permitting obstacles to block the new vision
  6. Failing to create short-term wins
  7. Declaring victory too soon
  8. Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in organizational culture

According to Tozer, “social justice resides primarily in institutions.” He appeals to the Birth-3rd community to become agents of institutional change in programs, centers, schools, and communities. Tozer shows that it is possible to dramatically improve how we select and develop good leaders while highlighting adult learning, the five essential supports, and “getting better at getting better” as key priorities for Birth-3rd efforts.

Tozer’s Early Childhood State Specialists presentations can be found under the presentations tab here at the CEELO website and his Ounce of Prevention presentation can be found here.


1. Tozer uses the term “P-3” but makes it clear that he is referring to the prenatal-through-3rd-grade continuum.


P-12 Alignment: Collaboration and Communication in Louisiana

June 24, 2015

As part of an ongoing series of interviews with leaders in early childhood education, CEELO spoke with Jenna Conway, Assistant Superintendent, Early Childhood Education, Louisiana Department of Education, about their process of implementing major changes in Louisiana’s early childhood program. We focused on how they are enhancing leadership at every level.

What is the scope of change occurring in early childhood in your state?

We are part of a multi-year effort to unify early childhood programs in Louisiana–Head Start, pre K, child care, public and nonpublic schools–from how do we keep kids safe, all the way to: How do we identify what instruction we want to see happening in every early childhood classroom in Louisiana? How do we work together to achieve that?

This effort is unprecedented in the level and speed of change in Louisiana. It comes with a host of leadership challenges. The first is the need for all the leaders to come to the table and work collaboratively to achieve shared goals. And we’ve gotten every community in Louisiana to step up and to do this; leaders who didn’t interact, who may even have perceived each other as competitors, are now working together to consider how to focus on kids; look at standards, professional development, enrollment, what the data tells us about kids being kindergarten-ready. The most dynamic leadership teams are taking it back to teachers and parents to make sure they’re part of the change movement.

The other important challenge is that this effort works differently in different contexts. Part of the magic in our model is in saying that local leaders are best suited to find solutions that meet their local needs, as they are the ones who best understand their teachers, children, and parents.

A bit of learning we’ve had from implementation—we pilot and learn from that and then develop policy. And we support local leadership: if local leaders are invested and believe that it’s a solution that works for their families, it’s more likely to be successfully implemented.

How are you addressing leadership at different levels in the state: classroom, school, district, SEA?

Considering we are building local birth-through-12th-grade systems that include a portfolio of providers, we like to think of our local networks as community entities rather than school districts. At the state level we see our leadership work in 3 key pieces of work.

First: promote a shared vision and support our community leaders to successfully execute that vision locally. In our pilot model: all kids are Kindergarten-ready; kids have access to high quality classroom experiences; parents can make the best choice for their kids; teachers are supported to provide effective meaningful interaction in the classroom. The state provides funding and technical assistance to achieve that, then removes the barriers–regulatory and bureaucratic–to allow communities to be successful.

Second: Organize all of the things that impact programs, from rules and regulations, and funding, to create a more level playing field. You can’t just say here’s a shared vision, but child care is funded at a lower level than schools; teachers and their preparation differ. We’re thinking about how to use policy, funding, and incentives to create a more level playing field in which the community networks are operating.

Third: Be very responsive to what is working and what is not in the field and communicate that frequently as you go. A law was passed to call for a unified system—that has been a very dynamic and interactive process since the beginning, responsive to families and local leaders.

The hardest part about this work and about change is how it works and how you implement changes over time. Being responsive, adjusting, and learning as we go has been important. We quickly fix what’s not working—going from ideas and a requirement to sustained, locally owned change.

What are the challenges associated with implementing professional development changes?

When it comes to leadership there are both tangible and intangible aspects that are critical to success. Since the outset we have grappled with the question: How do we at the state level support local leadership in a specific sustainable way? We’ve focused on collaborative leadership locally. We created a pilot rubric in which we laid out what success looks like over time in leadership and tried to make sure everything we produced was in line with that rubric.

We provide professional development sessions, such as a data reflection workshop at the end of the year, in which we model how to use data and think about what to achieve next year. We’ve put out an early childhood guidebook to get an understanding of what success looks like and give real-life examples of how this plays out.

We’d love to be able to provide more intensive PD, but there are very real resource restraints, and we may not be best positioned to teach leadership, especially the more intangible aspects.

Instead, what has worked well for us is this idea of cohort. We’ve provided space and time for ‘partner panels’ where we brought together leaders from each of the community networks. They share what’s working and what’s not, and they have really grown, both in their relationships with each other and in understanding in their work.

What leaders really need is tools to support their work, time and space to interact with their colleagues, and someone to get on the phone to work through issues with. This is not a typical workshop format, but is supporting community-level leaders.

As we move forward we need to take it to the next level, to help every director, Head Start, child care, elementary school principal, become the instructional leader, or to make sure instructional leadership is happening within their program. A critical lever for long-term success will be program-level leadership, not only in resources and enrollment, but in focusing on how they ensure every child has access to a high quality early childhood classroom.

Any advice to other states who may be considering taking on the same kinds of changes?

  1. Empower and honor local leadership from the beginning; fund them to pilot the change; make it their choice rather than a mandate; and learn from them. Be committed to going back to them time and time again—be humble about the state role and acknowledge their insights and efforts where the work is being done.
  1. Consider all the pieces of the system when you make policy: how you think about funding impacts teachers you can hire; which impacts what happens in the classroom; which impacts quality; and impacts what programs parents choose. If you do things in isolation it creates major gaps and unintended negative consequences for providers, families, and kids.
  1. Be intentional and proactive in engaging everybody who is touched by the work. We are making sure they feel heard, that we respond to every email, that we talk to people in programs.

We don’t have all the answers, we are working on a shoestring budget; we get things wrong, as everybody does. But we are committed to always being responsive to every parent, teacher, director, and superintendent.

Anything else you would like to add?

It really takes leadership at all levels; we’re transforming the Department of Education into a Birth-12th grade organization and that takes leadership from the top—acknowledging that the foundation for school, college, and career success starts at birth. At the local level, the child care owner, the Head Start executive director, and school Superintendent are critical—where they have been clear in their commitment to this work it has allowed other at other levels to support it as well, which is necessary to achieve and sustain this much change. And the leaders must keep kids’ interests at heart. Increasing opportunities for all young children should always be the priority.

 


The State of Preschool 2015: Please join the conversation

June 17, 2015

This year at the CEELO Roundtable in New Orleans, Steve Barnett talked about the findings reported in The State of Preschool 2014. He noted that we might be considered to be “on the sunny side of the street,” at the moment: quality is up in some states, Mississippi has a program, more children are enrolled. However: many states don’t have enough money to provide preschool at high standards, and the highest percentage of children are enrolled in states with lowest quality.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 4.28.06 PMThere is still tremendous variation across the states in pre-K—and we don’t see that variation in any other education area. Preschool has shown, however, what states can do in a short period of time. The biggest gain in the decade occurred in Vermont, which was not predicted—and added 82% of children to programs, going from 9% to 91%. Florida went to UPK, from no program. States that are very different can make really tremendous progress over a period of time.

As a national average we’re moving pretty slowly—we need a greater sense of urgency about early education. It would take 75 years to serve 50% of all 4-year-olds. To get to 70%, a figure some use to represent universal access, would take 150 years.

Quality standards are still a big issue, particularly teacher qualifications and pay. We use the examples of Perry and Abecedarian, but we invest on a lower-league scale, which won’t have the same results. Funding differences by state are really extreme; they would not be tolerated in K-12.

Expansion and development grants give us opportunities to build success, measure success. If we put evaluations into place we can have a body of evidence available to build support more quickly for the kind of success we’d like to see.

The State of Preschool is one useful tool to measure progress and improvement. As NIEER gears up to develop the next version and begin gathering data, we are asking for your input. Keep in mind the fact that we gather data from state administrators, who gather it from different sources within states themselves.

  • What kind of changes would you like to see in the Yearbook?
  • Any benchmarks to add? Drop?
  • What additional information would be useful to you?
  • Any variations on what we have?
  • Is there anything about the design and delivery of the Yearbook you would like to change?
  • If we could release the Yearbook any time of year, what would be optimal in terms of informing your state policy or budget processes?
  • We would like to add some special topics from year to year, and report out on findings: any suggestions for what topics would be most helpful to you?

Here are some topics that came up in the Roundtable Presentation discussion. Feel free to build on those or add your own and weigh in using Comments below. (Please note that comments are manually approved, so there may be a delay before your comments show on the site.)

  • More defined enrollment data; reducing duplication; including race, ethnicity, free lunch status, gender, home language
  • Some indicators of actual quality and outcomes
  • More clearly defined hours per day of service
  • Policies related to dual language learners
  • Information about teacher salaries and benefits; comparable to K-12?
  • Teacher retention
  • Evaluation results
    • Do you have an evaluation?
    • Does it show substantial impact?
    • What kind of evaluation? Required legislatively?
  • Child outcome measures and their use
  • QRIS information
  • Context and outcomes, linking to quality benchmarks.
  • Process quality measures (CLASS)
  • OSEP 619; report now, would like to approach that for all students.
  • Engagement of family in pre-K world and K
  • Clarifying funding streams: local schools, counties, Title 1, Head Start.
  • Leadership: Principals, coaching in classrooms
  • Public school pre-K facility licensing/approval
  • Kindergarten assessment
  • Teacher evaluation
  • Early learning standards alignment with K-2

Questions raised. Do you have any to add?

Can we pick one benchmark we should all embrace as states to emphasize or work on to move forward to move things faster?

Can you set a rubric on evaluation? Is the state looking at its results? Is it being used to make changes? How often to visit classrooms? What process measures to use? Which classrooms to visit?

Funding adequacy—is there enough money here to provide a program of sufficient quality and intensity to achieve the goals we want for kids?

Is there a rubric for a continuous improvement process in place: how to structure for reliable scoring for states?

Follow up with early learning challenge grants: measure of how much progress is being made in these grants.

A rubric to assess state agency capacity; organizational model for P-3rd grade?

–Kirsty Clarke Brown


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