Early Childhood Education Teachers 2.0: Strategies to Transform the Profession...Where are we today?

One year ago, the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC), Montgomery Early Learning Centers (MELC), and Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) released a report called: Early Childhood Education Teachers 2.0: Strategies to Transform the Profession.  The report presented local data, findings, and recommendations regarding Early Childhood Education (ECE) workforce compensation, preparation, and other key factors. 

Since publishing that report, much has changed.  Some of it, such as state-wide Pre-K expansion and Philadelphia City Pre-K initiation, PHLpreK, was anticipated and is positive.  Other changes, such as the unprecedented concentration of power within the Republican Party at the federal level, were unforeseen and are potentially detrimental to children, families, and the working poor.  Due to low wages and minimal employer-sponsored benefits, many ECE teachers rely on public benefits to meet their basic needs and those of their families.  As discussion at the federal level focuses on deep cuts to these benefits, without increases to the minimum wage or the addition of new government programs to cover the full cost of quality care for children birth to five, the ECE workforce is at risk for increased financial hardship.  Some of the issues in the broader environment of public and education policy that impact our ability to increase ECE teacher compensation and improve ECE teacher preparation are listed below.     

Landscape Impact on Teacher Compensation

 

In spite of the challenging environment, during the past year we have made progress in moving forward recommendations made and programs envisioned in our report.  For instance, PHMC has continued its work to better align Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) with the needs of the ECE sector and District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund has initiated the ECE Apprenticeship Program.  Also, the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute at the City University of New York provided expertise and supports to the Mayor’s Office of Education around ECE workforce issues.  The Early Childhood Education Teachers 2.0: Strategies to Transform the Profession report itself continues to be used as a baseline for system changes and systems building in Philadelphia and surrounding region.  A more detailed summary of progress is provided in the table, below.

Recommendation

Status

Support ECE teacher affinity groups (males, Latinas, etc.) to expand opportunity for new populations to enter the workforce.

No work has begun in this area.

 

Introduce middle school students to the ECE career and education pathway while expanding high school CDA programs.

Discussions with Philadelphia School District, Mayor’s Office of Education, DVAEYC, 1199C Training Fund, PHMC, Parkway West, and Big Picture Alliance to expand programs are ongoing.

Create volunteer opportunities within ECE for high school students.

No work has begun in this area.

Introduce students in teacher preparation programs to the ECE career and education pathway to promote teaching in the early childhood sector as a viable alternative to teaching in elementary schools.

PHMC continues to meet regularly with IHE and to create opportunities for IHEs to develop partnerships with ECE providers to address this issue.  Children’s Village, a large, high quality ECE center, is partnering with IHEs to further this work.

 

Create local experts fluent in Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) regulation related to teacher certification.

Through several meetings with PDE staff and representatives from other relevant state offices, PHMC has gained a deeper understanding of these issues.

Convene local IHEs, public leaders, ECE employers and ECE experts to support implementation, testing, refinement, and promulgation of best practice teacher preparation strategies.

PHMC and the ECE Teachers Transformation Initiative continue to convene IHEs around regional Gold Standards, have updated the Gold Standards to clarify language and better support measurement, and initiated a Gold Standards pilot project for NAEYC-accredited IHEs.

Create a process for IHEs to access funds and other supports in order to meet the Gold Standards.

Through the NAEYC Gold Standards Pilot Project and the development of templates, case studies and other resources PHMC is supporting IHEs to advance through the Gold Standards.

Create a website to serve as a comprehensive source of comparable and actionable data regarding local teacher preparation programs.

 

The T.E.A.C.H. database of participating PA IHEs can be expanded to accommodate more information, including that related to the IHE Gold Standards.  PHMC intends to create a platform for matching adult teacher preparation students to clinical experiences and mentors via ECEhigherED.com

Leverage Pennsylvania’s existing professional development (PD) resources to promote best practices in credit-bearing PD.

PHMC continues to promote the idea of transforming PQAS credits into college credits. 

 

Leverage new federal education and workforce development regulations in support of innovative ECE teacher preparation programs.

 

Philadelphia successfully convened a diverse group of advocates, public and private agencies that secured high priority occupancy status for ECE. Workforce development organizations have joined ECE coalitions and planning groups and are now participating regularly in meetings.

Provide technical assistance to providers in operating more efficiently and drawing down multiple funding sources to enable them to direct more funding to staff compensation.

The Mayor’s Office of Education secured a grant and hired Children’s Village to provide business management and administration professional development and coaching to PHLpreK providers.

Work with OCDEL to ensure that child care subsidy rates are based on cost calculations that include appropriate salaries.

OCDEL recently hired Research for Action to complete a true cost of care study that includes scenarios for teacher compensation and impact on CCIS rates.

Fund research to pilot and study the impact of the integration of occupational health and safety practices (wellness, stress reduction and self-care) into ECE settings.

PHMC has incorporated teacher self-care into its Induction and Alternate Certificate Program plans.

 

Increase access to credentials for incumbent workers through apprenticeship programs and credit for prior learning.

The ECE Apprenticeship Program is now operational. As part of this initiative, Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) will confer up to nine credits for on-the-job training.  DVAEYC is designing a process for confirming competencies aligned with CCP course work, and will develop a model that is replicable for current workers not formally enrolled in an apprenticeship program.

Study the impact of career advising and tuition assistance programs in helping teachers earn BAs and teacher certification.

Now that T.E.A.C.H. counselors and tuition assistance are available again, PHMC will add T.E.A.C.H. data to the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program data that it reviews quarterly.

This work will continue to evolve in the days and months ahead.  As new challenges, such as the Philadelphia School District’s recently announced plan to hire 1,000 teachers, and as yet unimagined opportunities arise, we will continue to prioritize the need for attention, resources, policies, and initiatives in support of the ECE workforce.


Amy Friedlander served as the Director of the Early Childhood Education Workforce Transformation Initiative from May 2015 – April 2016.  Previously, Amy led the Southeast Regional Key at PHMC, and grew PHMC’s ECE programs and services to include ChildWare and ECEhire.com.  As a consultant, Amy now works for ECE providers, funders, advocates, and others, to conduct strategic planning, collect and analyze data, develop and implement programs, write proposals, develop and deliver training, and manage a variety of complex projects.Amy can be reached at amy@amyfriedlander.com and her web site is www.amyfriedlander.com

Funding for the Early Childhood Education Teachers 2.0 was provided by the William Penn Foundation.  The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.

 

A Snapshot of Early Childhood Education in Philadelphia

Last week we introduced data from the April 2017 release of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Program Reach and Risk Assessment, which presents useful county-level information about the number of children at risk for poor school outcomes and the number of children served through OCDEL early childhood educational (ECE) programs in fiscal year 2015 - 2016.

Here’s what it looks like in Philadelphia, the “reach” of ECE programs was impressive:

> Over 46,000 children had access to publicly-funded early learning services in 2016.

> Keystone STARS programs provided care to over 19,000 children from birth to four years old and 11,000 children five years or older.

> Close to 10,000 children –under the age of 5 with disabilities/developmental delays received early intervention services.

Philadelphia performed better than other counties statewide with regard to the risks associated with school failure. The City had neither the highest percentage of births born at low birthweight, nor the highest rate of births born to young teenagers; both factors that put children at risk.

Likewise, other counties had higher percentages than Philadelphia of births born to mothers who smoked tobacco or had higher percentages of substantiated abuse and neglect for young children. These findings are promising for our City.

However, the percentage of 3rd graders scoring below proficient in both reading and math remain alarmingly high.

Figure 1 illustrates the percentage of the 46,000 Philadelphia children under age 5 who were served by the early childhood education programs described in OCDEL’s report.

Figure 1. Programs Providing Services to Children under the Age of 5 in Philadelphia 2016

Source: Office of Child Development and Early Learning Program Reach and Risk Assessment State Fiscal Year 2015-16.

Profile of Quality Early Learning in PA

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning’s (ODCEL) Program Reach and Risk Assessment for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 provides useful information about the early learning landscape in Pennsylvania (PA).  Users can download county-level data about the number of children served by various programs and learn about the risk factors for school failure. We mined the report’s data and found the following results for the Commonwealth in 2016:

  • The state and federal Head Start programs reached over 33,000 children through close to 100 agencies.

  • Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts provided high-quality pre-kindergarten opportunities to over 17,000 three and four-year olds in 2016.

  • 66 school districts offered 9,000 pre-K slots.

  • Over 90,000 children aged 0 - 5 with disabilities/developmental delays received early intervention services.

As Figure 1 below illustrates, overall one-third of children under age 5 received quality early care and education services in fiscal year 2015-2016. However, when care levels are broken down, the report indicates half of preschoolers received these services compared to one out of four infants and toddlers.

Figure 1. Children who Received Quality Early Care/Education in Pennsylvania in 2016

Children
(Those under age 5)

Preschoolers
(3 and 4 year-olds)

Infants and Toddlers
(Under age 2)

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Source: Office of Child Development and Early Learning Program Reach and Risk Assessment State Fiscal Year 2015-16.

Public health for communities and children

The long-term health of communities and children are deeply connected.

City Health recently released its inaugural report rating cities on their ‘healthiness.’ We're pleased to note that high quality early childhood programs were included as an indicator of health. City Health explains it here:

“High-quality pre-K improves children’s school readiness and success: they enter school better prepared and are less likely to repeat a grade or be referred to special education. Long-term benefits include higher high-school graduation rates, lower rates of crime and teen pregnancy, higher lifetime earnings, and better health outcomes.”

Philadelphia scored a silver medal overall, and in high quality early childhood education programs, meeting all four critical benchmarks (related to teacher training, class size and ratio, site visits) and 8 of 10 overall benchmarks, but scoring low on enrollment.

There are an increasing number of research reports indicating that high quality early childhood programs can have a positive impact on health from the start, and on a range of life outcomes as children grow, including academic success, social-emotional well-being, and long-term health. A recent presentation by Bartik concludes that significant long-term outcomes can be shown for large-scale pre-K programs if they are high quality or specifically targeted to disadvantaged populations of children.

At the same time, early childhood education alone is not enough. A recent study shows that city living can make asthma worse for children, for example. Children’s success in kindergarten has been linked to food security, and long-term life outcomes can be influenced by factors ranging from family stability, and segregation, to specific parent engagement indicators. For example, Penn State researchers report that:

  • Promoting positive parenting practices and parent-child relationships can reduce behavioral problems.
  • Promoting home learning activities and effective teaching strategies can foster early learning.
  • Strengthening parent-teacher partnerships can boost academic and social-emotional skill development.
  • Emphasizing a child's physical health can aid healthy overall development.

Resilience can also be a factor for children challenged by ongoing toxic stress, which may be exacerbated by living in poverty, experiencing health issues, or being hungry. Strategies to build resilience are still being clarified, but it is clear that positive relationships with caring adults, along with opportunities for creative play, exercise, and mindfulness, can help. High quality preschool can be a factor in providing those opportunities.

Joan Lombardi, from The Center for the Study of Social Policy recently discussed a growing movement to “involve the whole community in efforts to help children and families learn and thrive.” This is based on a range of concepts, including: 

  • The ecological systems model that recognizes that children grow up in families, which are influenced by the communities around them and in turn by policies at all levels.
  • The movement towards collective impact, rather than focusing on impact from a single program.
  • The use of population-based data to drive towards results. 

Lombardi suggest a range of steps communities can take to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of their efforts, including planning across sectors; developing strong connections and linkages among groups, and from families through the community; and developing integrated systems and dashboards to track the success of those efforts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the 500 Cities Project in 2015, a useful source for current information on city indicators, “to provide city- and census tract-level small area estimates for chronic disease risk factors, health outcomes, and clinical preventive service use for the largest 500 cities in the United States.” The data for the largest cities in every state is included, to ensure all states are represented. 

Some data specifically related to Philadelphia changes over time are available here. The Pew Charitable Trusts has also released some case studies and infographics about how community development and health are related.

Last week NIEER described this report about cities offering universal preschool: “Child Care and Early Education Research Connections this week shared a Resource List providing a comprehensive list of city universal preschool initiative evaluations and research in the Research Connections collection. To count as universal, a city's program must aim to eventually provide universal access to publicly-funded preschool for all 4-year-olds using at least some city funds, even if it does not currently achieve universal access.”

The takeaway? It might take the whole city plus some high quality early childhood education to give every child the opportunity to succeed. Many elements that contribute to success are already in place in Philadelphia, and in other cities, which can provide examples of how to proceed.