The Schott Fellowship in Early Care and Education was a rigorous year-long deep-dive into the policy process for mid-career professionals from diverse backgrounds who share an interest, commitment, and job in early care and education, and a desire to learn more about the policy process. From 2004 to 2009, 65 Fellows have participated in the program. Over 60% of those were people of color. They work in schools, childcare centers, family day care, Head Start programs, higher education institutions, multi-service agencies, professional organizations, and local and state government. Each year three policy areas of critical importance to children and families of color in low income communities are selected as the focus for policy action.
Action learning teams were formed early in the Fellowship year and became a laboratory for learning about how to frame a policy problem, develop a research plan and collect data about the problem, work collaboratively with a team to develop a policy solution, and write a policy paper. Fellows also organized community roundtables to share their findings with influential leaders, presented their solutions to policy decision-makers, and wrote policy papers on a variety of topics.
From 2006-2011, the CAYL Principals Fellowship in Early Care and Education was for elementary school Principals who worked in Boston Public Schools. Principals worked voluntarily to develop their leadership skills and approaches using the principles of early care and education. Throughout the program, the CAYL Principals Fellowship has worked with 29 Boston Public School Principals. At the time of the program’s conclusion in 2011, 29% of BPS elementary-level Principals, serving 7,200 children, had participated in the Fellowship.
CAYL worked to strengthen Principals’ individual and collective capacity to lead efforts to integrate pre-kindergarten children into their schools and to influence district and state level policies. Our nationally recognized professional development cohort model provides intensive year-long learning experiences that were both theoretical and practical, conceptual and hands-on. In the process, we earned respect and appreciation from Principals as well as the BPS administration.
The work of the Fellowship consisted of the following: dialog with national speakers, monthly seminars and dialogs, site visits designed by the cohort including on-site support at each school, content intense workshops, discussions around school and district policy, nourishing and reflective community building sessions, and discussion and policy experiences at a state level.
The Wean Scholars Fellowship was founded in 2010 to bring together principal and administrator leaders from school districts in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, to assess the needs of their early care and education environments, to identify goals and strategies for responding to challenges, and to provide tools and shared learning experiences to build both the individual and collective capacity to lead change in their schools and communities.
From 2010 to 2012 the CAYL Institute supported two cohorts of scholars, creating the start of a local learning community that still exists today. In March 2012 an alternative strategy was proposed for the upcoming year as early educators not in public schools were approaching the Wean Scholars for information and seeking participation. So the following year, in the spirit of responsiveness, CAYL decided to implement a series of learning experiences into the fellowship where preschool teachers, elementary Principals, elementary teachers, and community-based early education providers gathered to focus on enabling and supporting these leaders to identify areas of change and to take action.
The Fellowship engaged in an extensive print and video documentation process to report and share the lessons and outcomes of this initiative over time. The fellowship outcomes were enhanced by the following seven strategies: focusing on building a learning community, creating attention to the impact and use of knowledge, building partnerships by constructing a network of contacts for individuals and organizations, providing web-based resources available to both participants and their colleagues, researching and participating in evidence based learning experiences, generating space and opportunities for reflection, and creating access to national key experts who serve as models and mentors as the community builds its system and professional capacity as a workforce.
The Early Educators Fellowship Initiative (EEFI) was designed to meet the call from the Department of Early Education and Care to build a collaborative learning institute where community-based providers and elementary school principals worked together to study the three issues of children’s growth and development, literacy and dual language learners and develop consensus – and actionable plans – upon what developmentally appropriate practices look like in each of these areas for young learners of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and their families.
To meet our goal of building high-quality learning environments for our earliest “school-ready” children, in partnership with families and communities across the Commonwealth, CAYL competitively selected applicants from across all regions of Massachusetts. The focus was on leadership and skill development for those working directly in early education programs, which included a large number of elementary school principals, an equal number of community-based early educators from Head Start, Center-based and Out-of-School Time care programs, and Family Childcare systems, and a few key leaders who are not direct-service early educators, such as experts in mental health or early intervention, were invited as observers. Participants were given access to tools and resources necessary to become fluent in transferring quantitative data into qualitative results. These elements were brought together with the intent to give participants and teams the opportunity to assess, reflect, and develop identifiable goals and action plans based on the information they learned from keynote speakers and small group discussions.
Vibrant Voices in the Valley positioned The CAYL Institute to serve the Mahoning Valley, Ohio as an intentional convener dedicated to supporting the collaborative leadership development of committed and strategically positioned local professionals. The unified and underlying goal was to strengthen and support family engagement in programs that serve children and families within the Mahoning Valley. By building the capacity of local community leaders, we strengthened the ways that enabled it to be sustainable and replicable.
CAYL helped Mahoning Valley build public and sector leadership and facilitated the development of concrete strategies, tools, and cohesive plans of action for participants to implement by building capacity of schools and community-based organizations, and having programs to act as partners with families. Additionally, this initiative enhanced quality, standards, policies, and practices for early care and education programs in the area, while embedding a community of practice around positive family engagement. It created stronger connections by facilitating opportunities to support children’s social and academic growth and included diverse family voices in decisions that impact their lives.
The CAYL Institute was contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to develop a roadmap for English Language Learners (ELLs). The roadmap was intended to inform EEC, institutions of higher education, and community-based agencies about how to better support multi-lingual educators as they navigate entry to higher education institutions, matriculation, and degree attainment.
As a grantee, The CAYL Institute produced a report titled “Opening Pathways: Strengthening Opportunities for Massachusetts Educators Who Are English Language Learners,” drawing broadly from the literature on workforce development, early childhood education and care, adult learners and ELLs in higher education, and postsecondary access and persistence among nontraditional students. To supplement the literature review, a series of six focus groups in three different Massachusetts regions (Central, Northeast, and Metro Boston), and a series of three webinars were held across the Commonwealth. Participants included representatives from institutions of higher education (IHEs), early childhood education practitioners, and community-based organizations engaged in early childhood education workforce development. CAYL also held two Higher Education Leadership Institutes—one in Greater Boston and one in central Massachusetts—to bring together key stakeholders in higher education and state policymakers to discuss the challenges and opportunities in moving early educators who are ELLs through postsecondary education.
The Nellie Mae Policy Forums were planned and implemented by CAYL Schott Fellows, as a seminal activity of their Fellowship year, with assistance of the CAYL Alumni Network and key leadership in the Early Care and Education field in Massachusetts. Through this work, they demonstrated the process of creating change that evolves through a rigorous process of policy identification, analysis, research, reporting, and then the convening of the Policy Forums on topics that are timely, relevant, and immediately actionable. These forums attracted hundreds of Early Care and Education (ECE) local, regional, and national leaders and administrators seeking to deepen their understanding of issues concerning the ECE workforce, family childcare, cultural competence, and the social-emotional aspects of child development through expert keynote speakers and communal discussion. They also provided a neutral meeting ground to discuss often controversial and sometimes highly charged issues since CAYL is not involved in direct services. Furthermore, feedback from these gatherings assisted in the production of the CAYL Policy Papers which are widely disseminated and shared with government leaders, decision makers, and legislators.
This ethnographic case study of the Massachusetts voucher system tests the belief that demand subsidies increase choice and purchasing power for working poor families while improving the quality of care for children. Using multiple methodologies, this study examined vouchers’ impact on parents, childcare providers, and resource and referral agencies. All participants recognized the value of subsidy. Yet low reimbursement rates forced providers to subsidize the system; many limited or refused vouchers. Providers and families had a strong bond; each was often overwhelmed by and suspicious of voucher administration. Children experienced discontinuity of care. Underresourced, resource and referral agencies struggle to balance a dual mission of service and “policing”.
From January 2007 to February 2009, the Voucher Study team focused on these issues and advocated for regulatory change to the voucher system. The collective efforts included conducting town meetings in all five regions of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. In total, team members interviewed twenty center-based staff from eight different agencies, (some of whom were also parents with vouchers), seventeen parents, and nineteen staff from six resource and referral agencies. In addition, a community forum was organized at the Kennedy Library where more than one hundred and forty providers, resource and referral staff, and public officials attended. Several meetings were held with officials from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and the Department of Transitional Assistance, as well as focus groups with nine transportation companies. In December 2008, follow up interviews were conducted with eleven state officials, resource and referral staff and programs staff, and about the progress of the past few years.
As a result of this research, the following four strategies for action were suggested: lengthen the certification period of child care vouchers to one year; ease administrative burdens by eliminating the prevalence of “double documentation” among agencies, address transportation issues and office service hours, address unsubsidized time periods such as school vacations, provide translation services, and reduce the waiting list; increase reimbursement rates for providers; and strengthen the resource and referral function. These specific policy recommendations were suggested, and adopted, in Massachusetts.
“Now is the time to build on our own previous successes, and to learn from the experiences of the other states in building long-term, comprehensive approach to professional development for the field.”
This was the consensus of “Making It Work”, a series of discussions convened in 2005 by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Schott Fellowship of Early Care and Education. The “now” which prompted that statement was the 2004 passage of the Early Education for All Act (EEA) by the Massachusetts legislature. Section 5 of that law mandated that the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), the new state agency created through this legislation, develop a statewide workforce development plan, to be updated annually.
Since its establishment, EEC has begun work toward a comprehensive workforce development plan, providing initial ideas in the 2006 report to the legislature, and outlining key system elements and next steps in its 2007 Workforce Systems Plan update. To build greater momentum, in July 2007, EEC partnering with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the Schott Fellowship in Early Care and Education, convened The Massachusetts Early Education and Care and Out-of-School-Time Workforce Development Task Force. Four working committees of the Task Force were organized to correspond with EEC’s 2007 Workforce Plan to create a comprehensive system for children form birth to age 14. A Steering Committee comprised of the three sponsors and all committee co-chairs – provided oversight to the charge of developing initial recommendations to advance the development of an effective workforce development plan within a 12-month period. This report is the compilation of recommendations of the working committees: Core Competencies; Orientation; Credentialing and Career Lattice; and Articulation/ Transfer Agreements and Credit for Prior Learning.
In 2007, the fastest growing immigrant population (Asian) and the largest number of new residents (Latino) in Massachusetts have roots outside the United States. While there was emerging literature on Mexican Americans at the time, most of the immigrants of Massachusetts hailed from Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and other countries. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of the childcare and educational decisions about young children are made by relatives who spend all or part of their residence outside the United States.
Designed as a year-long project, the Immigration Project and Educational Study Tour took participants through an intense learning and sharing journey. Beginning in January 2007 when applicants were assigned, round table discussions were organized to ensure participants had access to expert representatives of target communities. Panel presenters in May and October 2007 reflected the diverse immigrant populations in the Commonwealth. Educational Study Tour participants took site visits to the Greater Boston area programs, visibly enhanced their learning, understanding and appreciation for dual language learners, recently arrived immigrant families, punitive immigration laws, the impact of the raid in New Bedford, and the assets as well as the challenges for families living in two worlds. The six-day program in Puerto Rico further increased their awareness of the political, economic, educational and social issues impacting the lives of families, educators, and communities on the island. This program concluded with a participant debriefing, a press release, and a public sharing of the lessons learned coupled with the identification of needed policy adjustments to further dialogue in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Accelerating Change: Leadership for High Quality Early Learning was a professional development program tailored for the Warren City School District in Warren City, Ohio. Principals of primary grades with preschool classrooms, pre-kindergarten coordinators and key direct support leadership composed the “cohort” which met for monthly professional development meetings that were focused on coaching, school site visits, and developmentally appropriate practice to ultimately provide a strong foundation for the needs of preschool and primary grade school children, and a seamless and successful progression during the early years to maximize student achievement and growth. In these meetings, school administrators studied the standards and criteria of NAEYC Accreditation, created a consensus document identifying where the Warren City School District related to it, and developed thoughts on improvement and next steps based on what they learned.
This program was funded under the No Child Left Behind, Title IIA – Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grant program, administered by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE). CAYL partnered with multiple colleges and universities across the state of Massachusetts to provide early childhood knowledge, pedagogy, content, and technical support services for principals and superintendents. With these higher educational institutes, CAYL helped recruit administrators from participating school districts to engage in several professional development programs and to strengthen leadership networks with each other as well as other high-need school systems and early childhood educational programs. Also, while working cooperatively with the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute Research and Evaluation team, CAYL developed formative evaluation of professional development activities and outcomes, including a pre- and post-test design for measure gains.
The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care funded the 2011 Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) Training Program. Two trainings were offered in each of the five participating regions of Massachusetts, and each curriculum was specially designed to address all mandated requirements of the QRIS project as well as cover specific areas of instruction which helped attendees achieve and succeed baseline QRIS standards. These professional development sessions included the following topics: an overview of the five QRIS standards (Curriculum and Learning; Environment; Workforce Qualifications and Professional Development; Leadership, Management and Administration; and Family Involvement), instruction in understanding and mastering the level systems, identification of related resources and materials; relevant and appropriate self study instrument techniques for measuring and evaluating success; a training on ITERS, ECERS, FCCERS and SACERS as necessary and applicable to specific providers and childcare settings; and a specialized training for Center based, After School and Family Childcare providers respectively around unique challenges they may face when meeting QRIS Standards.