The Challenge

Without an established Quality Rating & Improvement System, Mississippi leaders sought a common framework for quality to better ensure positive child outcomes among their diverse early childhood education providers. While researching options, the successful outcomes of Educare Schools caught their eye.

Read Full Case Study

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, four Mississippi trainers with diverse early childhood experience completed The Essential Practices of Educare’s Train-the-Trainer program and launched a unique, state-wide professional learning model. They hoped to:

  • Introduce common quality standards across the state
  • Encourage educators from Head Start, public pre-K, and childcare to learn from each other
  • Increase positive outcomes for the majority of Mississippi’s youngest learners

“We like that The Essential Practices of Educare is detailed, practical, and easily understood… It makes people more curious about the context in which learning is happening.” – Holly Spivey, Head Start Collaboration Director & Education Policy Advisor in the Office of Governor Tate Reeves

The Impact: Engaged Educators Increase Quality and Equity by Cross-pollinating Ideas

The Mississippi training team chose Start Early’s Essential Practices of Educare because it creates space for educators to respond to and get curious about quality. They attribute the early success of their efforts to five guiding principles:

Principle One: Meeting people where they are at is critical to training success.

“What’s unique about The Essential Practices of Educare is that it’s a foundation that a lot of people need. It’s a very relatable PD that gives them opportunities to really talk about what they’re doing and how they can change, or how they can redirect what they’re doing to make it better.” – Amye Hoskins, Mississippi Training Team, Professional Development Specialist, Mississippi Dept of Education, Office of Early Childhood

Principle Two: Equal access to training creates equity among educators.

“Typically childcare doesn’t receive as much PD as the normal public school teacher. So we want to make sure The Essential Practices of Educare is accessible across the state and allows everyone to have the same opportunity.” – Amye Hoskins

“We didn’t originally think about The Essential Practices of Educare as a workforce development equity move, but that’s naturally what’s happening.” – Holly Spivey

Principle Three: Training educators from diverse programs at the same time increases engagement and creates a cross-pollination of best practices across the state.

“We have people from all parts of the state learning from each other as a group. We’ll say, ‘Tell us what’s happening and how do you overcome that challenge,’ so they can listen to people across the state– and then they can take it back to their classroom.” – Tamara Smith, Mississippi Training Team, Professional Development Specialist at Midtown Partners & Childcare Director at Little Samaritan Montessori

Principle Four: A flexible professional development design is essential for localized, authentic conversations about quality.

“I’ve often been surprised with where people take this foundational learning and what they notice. The Essential Practices of Educare has made them more curious about the context in which learning is happening.” – Holly Spivey

Principle Five: When a diverse training team facilitates The Essential Practices of Educare, it increases value and insight for participants.

“As trainers, we are unique – by representing childcare, the Department of Education, and Early Head Start, we relate better with the people on the ground. I understand where you all are coming from and your stress In the classroom …but here are things you can implement that will work.” – Tamara Smith

“Our Start Early practice consultant has been a godsend for us. She’s always willing to assist and give advice; that helped us really understand each other and our vision of what we wanted to accomplish as a training team.” – Amye Hoskins

Looking Ahead

The Mississippi Training Team wants to expand access to The Essential Practices of Educare, reaching as many educators across the state as possible. And they have their sights set on taking their training support to the next level. Soon they hope to create a model that allows them to follow trainings with customized technical assistance to ensure participants feel supported as they apply their learning to daily practice.

Read Full Case Study

Complete this form to read our case study detailing how the training team used The Essential Practices of Educare to create a common understanding of what high-quality education looks like across Mississippi’s early childhood systems.

By providing your state, we are able to share resources and learning opportunities relevant to your location.

By completing this form you will be opted-in to receive email updates from Start Early Professional Development, including news, events and more. You can unsubscribe from these updates at any time.

corner square pie

More Like This

Last month I had the pleasure of co-leading a session at the BUILD 2022 Virtual Conference: Building Systems, Improving Quality, Advancing Equity.

It was a joy to participate en una charla informal, a coffee talk, with my good friend, and colleague Miriam Calderon. We discussed and unpacked the strength and determination required to lift ourselves, our families, and our communities up in the unforgiving world of policy and politics.

BUILD has been a leader in providing spaces and opportunities for Latine professionals and leaders in the early childhood space to come together both informally and formally to talk and hear about what the Latine community wants and needs.

The Latine community is strong. We know that across this country it is Latinos and Latinas who pick, cook and serve our food, clean our houses and hotel rooms, care for our children, elderly and sick and are part of the backbone of the economy in countless ways.

As I joined with other Latine leaders throughout the week at BUILD and listened to their stories, I was stuck that today in 2022, many still talked about “imposter syndrome”, including me. I have had the privilege and opportunity to sit at many tables at the local, state, and national level but I am sure when I opened my mouth to share a recommendation or idea, there was some eye rolling in the room.

At Start Early, we share a commitment to racial equity and have been working diligently to provide individual staff with the support they need and want to grow and contribute to the early childhood field. For my part, I will be leading and providing a space for Latine individuals to participate in a mentoring circle where we will take time to understand our history as a community in the United States, our personal journeys and culture and how systems impact our progress as individuals and a community.

A common theme we explored was that we need mentorship – ongoing mentorship from people that look like us and understand our culture and values. As I have been reflecting on my own journey, it’s clear that each of has a responsibility to support and mentor the next generation of Latine leaders.

My hope is that through mentorship and in our daily work to change systems, Latine professionals and leaders will sit at any table and confidently speak their truth, represent the needs of their children and communities, despite the eye rolls.

More Like This

The Challenge

At Child Care Associates in Texas, the central office team noticed that, after a period of gains, its CLASS evaluations of childcare and Head Start/Early Head Start providers had plateaued.

System leaders decided it was time to change how they approached outcomes improvement and they made three important decisions:

  • Shift ownership of CCA’s education vision from the central office to campus instructional leaders.
  • Recommit to using family experience as a critical performance measure.
  • Implement The Essential 0-5 Survey across 25 campuses to provide leaders with a unified framework to move program improvement forward.

Read Full Case Study

Improving CLASS instructional support scores was important to CCA – but our goal in using The Essential Survey was to focus on how supporting leaders will drive improvement in the classroom.

Karin Scott, Chief Performance Officer, Child Care Associates
corner square square circle corner pie circle square

The Impact: Energized Leaders Re-shaping Daily Practice to Improve Outcomes and Equity

Karin Scott, Chief Performance Officer, outlines four key outcomes the CCA team experiences with their annual Essential Survey implementation:

  • Outcome One – Our entire team now uses a common framework to talk about improvement.
    “We transformed campus director meetings to bring people together who are working on common problems of practice – to share out what’s working, lift up people getting better outcomes, and talk about pivots when something doesn’t work.”
  • Outcome Two – We are reducing leader & teacher overwhelm by focusing on where they CAN have impact.
    “It can get overwhelming when you’re dealing with deep root causes to early childhood issues, like a national labor shortage or systemic racism. The Essential Survey toolkit’s root cause analysis allows us to dig down to root causes and build strategies to affect the most change with limited resources.”
  • Outcome Three – Staff at all levels are making proactive, positive changes in daily practice.
    “The Essential Survey got teams into the practice of reviewing data. They’re taking it into their own hands to make easy, accessible processes for people. They’re rethinking how they use their time.”
  • Outcome Four – We have more data to help us drive equity for families of color.
    “There is a huge equity piece to the Essential Survey work. We serve majority families of color and we need to know how they’re feeling about the services they are receiving, as well as how we can improve. This is a great tool to do that.”

We want staff to feel like they are valued and cared for while they’re here – and make sure they keep doing this work because it’s important for our community.

Karin Scott, Chief Performance Officer, Child Care Associates
corner square square circle corner pie circle square

Looking Ahead

The Child Care Associates team is committed to implementing The Essential 0-5 Survey annually to sustain a culture that values and supports leaders. “It was important before the pandemic, but now more than ever we need to know how people are feeling,” says Karin Scott. “Our long-term hope is that our staff are supported and feel motivated to do their best work, which in turns leads to better interactions with children and teachers and better outcomes for families.”

Read Full Case Study

Complete this form to read our case study about the Child Care Associates’ rollout of The Essential 0-5 Survey across 25 early childhood campuses.

By providing your state, we are able to share resources and learning opportunities relevant to your location.

By completing this form you will be opted-in to receive email updates from Start Early Professional Development, including news, events and more. You can unsubscribe from these updates at any time.

corner square pie

Teacher burnout, under enrollment, workforce retention and well-being – we know many programs across the US are struggling with multiple problems of practice. Addressing these problems of practice can be overwhelming. How to build trust with staff? How to encourage collaborative practice? How to embed these solutions into our ways of working?

Decades of study by the University of Chicago and Start Early reveals that program conditions at the organization level are more closely linked to child outcomes than what’s happening in individual classrooms. The Essential 0-5 Survey, developed in partnership by Start Early and the University of Chicago, is a measurement system that provides insight into the strengths and weaknesses of organizational climate for programs.

At this year’s Shared Services Technical Conference, hosted by Opportunities Exchange, Start Early co-presented with Pre-K 4 San Antonio (Pre-K 4 SA) to share the amazing work Larrisa Wilkinson, Director of Professional Learning and Program Innovation, and her team are doing to make impactful changes in their community.

Data & Goal Setting

The Essential 0-5 Survey data elevated two Essentials as areas for improvement in Pre-K 4 SA’s program – Effective leadership and Collaborative teachers. After completing their first root cause analysis, the leadership team came up with a shared goal: to improve their organizational culture of growth and learning by starting the year developing stronger relationships with educators at both the personal and professional level. Using what they learned about their teachers (interests, needs, etc.), the idea of collective problem solving became integral to moving forward with organizational change.

Our process and what was really integral to that process was making sure that we carved out a dedicated time for reflection and collaboration. So that is really difficult as we all know in organizations where you never have time to sit and reflect but [its] critical.

- Larrisa Wilkinson, Director of Professional Learning and Program Innovation, Pre-K 4 SA
corner square square circle corner pie circle square

Small Action Steps

The PreK-4 SA leadership team begin to implement 30-day Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) improvement cycles. Initially, they implemented a “getting to know you” tool with teachers. Directors and Assistant Directors started classroom walkthroughs during the first 30 days of the program year. They looked for and celebrated strong teacher practice and positive classroom environments. Both the South and East Centers dedicated time for peer learning communities (PLCs) to reduce staff meetings. At the South Center, they established a Campus Leadership Team and read receipts to improve two-way communication. The East Center, in addition to increased staff collaboration time, added need-to-know information for staff to their newsletters.

First cycle came and went and we felt so accomplished.

- Belinda Gonzalez, Director of the South Education Center, Pre-K 4 SA
corner square square circle corner pie circle square

Results

When staff were asked directly, the overwhelming response was it was an effective practice:

  • Staff felt more ownership in meetings
  • Staff felt increased responsibility and accountability towards continuous organizational improvement;
  • Staff felt connectedness and agency, which strengthened trust with leadership
  • Transparency was key for Pre-K 4 SA leadership to build trust during the PDSA cycles of improvement

Key Takeaway

Start small. You cannot solve every problem in the world at once. Use the Essential 0-5 Survey data and toolkit to build common language, guide your efforts and identify areas that will have the most impact. When staff see even small amounts of progress, they are motivated to keep trying and start to trust that change is possible.

I want to do so much because I want to make all these big changes…that was the hardest part was to narrow it down.

- Tonda Brown, Director of East Education Center, Pre-K 4 SA
corner square square circle corner pie circle square

Are you interested in making organizational improvements but are not sure where to start? Contact us to learn more about how Start Early can help focus your efforts to ultimately improve child outcomes.

Today’s early childhood organizations are vocal about their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). As leaders, we vary in the degree to which we responsively identify and change processes that make those commitments visible. Regardless of how long we have been or where we stand in the field of home visiting, we need not look far to find ways to move from intention to impact.

Consider this quick questionnaire:

  • Think about the values and cultural backgrounds of families in your program. Is there cultural alignment between the practitioners and the enrolled families?
  • Who is responsible for decisions of policy, job qualifications, and practice protocols for home visitors and supervisors in your program? How many of those who are making system and protocol decisions are actively engaged with families on a day-to-day basis?

COVID has prolonged widespread staff vacancies in early childhood settings. Today’s leaders are faced with the simultaneous challenges of hiring new staff and retaining their current workforce. During this season of workforce upheaval, we need to look for ways to cultivate and elevate the voice, experience, and expertise of those currently engaged in direct work with families to increase DEIB in our programs.

Home visitors, by the very nature of their jobs, are uniquely positioned to support caregivers’ goals for themselves and their child. Parents and home visitors co-develop action plans in the context of the family’s composition of members, culture, community, and economic resources. Home visitors partner with parents and caregivers directly to navigate culturally dismissive, disconnected community systems that are not responsive to the family’s identified needs. Practitioners hold expertise in their local resources, provide in-person and virtual support, are on top of trends and interests of families, and have the experience and perspectives of cultural brokers in the community. They honor a caregiver’s unspoken words, “…nothing about me without me…”.

As we prepare for the upcoming virtual National Home Visiting Summit in late March, let’s keep talking with each other and listening to the perspectives and expertise of home visitors. Let’s challenge ourselves to identify strategies that seek to invite, reach, engage, and cultivate the invaluable input of practitioners. When we return to the routines of our work, let’s commit to create and improve platforms for home visitors’ involvement in decisions related to policy, research and practice that directly impact them.

Interested in learning more about Start Early’s resources and learning opportunities for home visitors and supervisors? Check out our Essentials of Home Visiting online professional development experiences or reach out to us directly at professionaldevelopment@startearly.org.

A Fresh Look at Supporting Your Team This Winter

This is a critical year as programs continue working to offset the effects of the pandemic on early learning. With research-based professional development from Start Early, we can help you get there faster.

During our recent webinar, we explore how Start Early Professional Development can help you navigate a return to live instruction amidst ongoing federal funding opportunities and overwhelmed leaders and teachers who have been working around the clock since the start of the pandemic to serve children and families.

Watch the recording below to learn how Start Early’s portfolio of professional learning opportunities and resources can help you and your team:

  • Learn and deploy strategies for workforce retention,
  • Support overwhelmed leaders and professionals,
  • Discover solutions to under-enrollment and family engagement, and
  • Effectively on-board new staff at any experience level

From data-driven working sessions to a supportive fellowship for leaders, we translate decades of experience into actionable learning for today. Strengthen your program’s outcomes with Start Early Professional Development.

Interested in learning more? Reach out to us today to discuss how to best leverage your federal stimulus dollars to support your workforce through this time of transition and into the future. Email ProfessionalDevelopment@StartEarly.org to schedule a conversation with one of our professional learning advisors, and join our mailing list to find out about upcoming learning experiences from Start Early.

By Debra Pacchiano, Vice President of Translational Research and Isabel Farrar, Research Associate at Start Early

Start Early recently organized a session at the 2021 Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) conference that highlighted three soon-to-be published research studies from across the field that push our understanding of whether and how The Essential 0-5 Survey framework relates to other aspects of quality and outcomes we care about in early childhood programs. Together, these studies examine how specific organizational conditions identified in the survey framework impact teacher well-being and retention and how to measure the strength of these essential conditions within programs serving infants and toddlers.

What we continue to find is that nurturing begets nurturing: when teachers, staff and families are nurtured and supported by robust organizational conditions, especially facilitative and instructional leadership and routine collaboration with peers, teachers and staff are more committed, persistent, and competent in meeting the dynamic and changing needs of children and families.

In one upcoming study, researchers Anna J. Markowitz, Daphna Bassok, and Amanda Rosensky of the University of Virginia used data from early childhood programs across Louisiana to explore associations between teachers’ perceptions of their leaders as effective instructional leaders and measures of teacher turnover intentions, observed turnover, teacher well-being and the quality of teacher-child interactions. Their initial findings strengthen the evidence that site leadership is critically important to the quality of teachers’ interactions with children, as well as to teachers’ commitment to the program and decisions to remain in their position. These authors suggest that their findings indicate that coherent leadership development is a “potentially powerful area of intervention” impacting teacher/staff retention and quality improvements in early education settings.

Another study, conducted by Allison Friedman-Krauss, Milagros Nores, Charles Whitman, and W. Steven Barnett at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) examines how differences in teachers’ perceptions of organizational conditions vary by teacher/school/district characterizations and impact classroom quality and teachers’ well-being. This research finds a strong association between teacher perceptions of their school organizational conditions and teacher depressive symptoms, suggesting that supporting teacher well-being is particularly important in today’s pandemic context.

Early Childhood Education & Workplace Conditions

Learn more about our three upcoming research studies.

Read More

And finally, we presented recent research conducted with Marc Brodersen and Joshua Stewart at Marzano Research that explores whether an adapted version of The Essential 0-5 Survey is relevant to and effectively measures the strength of organizational conditions in infant and toddler settings, something the field currently lacks. The team used cognitive interviews and survey data from a sample of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grantees and programs in three states to evaluate the technical adequacy of the surveys. Initial findings suggest the adapted surveys do capture teacher, staff, and parent perceptions of these essential conditions meaningfully and reliably within programs serving infants, toddlers and their families.

These new research findings add to the growing body of evidence that surrounding teachers and practitioners with robust workplace supports improves their well-being, increases collective purpose and responsibility, and builds their individual and collective capacity to successfully meet the changing and diverse needs of young children and their families starting at birth. Efforts to support leaders in early childhood settings as they support their staff are more important now more than ever given the reality that programs are acutely struggling to support and retain staff due to COVID-19.

Learn more about the three upcoming research studies in our research brief.

More Like This

Finding a way to talk about hard things can be challenging and stressful for even the most seasoned home visitor and family support professional. This has been especially true over the past year and a half as we’ve experienced the crises and challenges of the pandemic and more.

In talking to home visitors, supervisors and administrators about how they’re handling the current pressures of their environments, they’ve shared that what they really need right now is incremental support. In response to this need, we are pleased to announce the publication of the 4th edition of the NEAR@Home Toolkit. The NEAR@Home Toolkit is a free, self-study guide for how to safely, respectfully and effectively discuss ACES (adverse childhood experiences), trauma, and other hard things with parents by focusing on hope, respect and resilience. This newest edition features stories and quotes from home visitors to help contextualize the work described in the toolkit, and a framework for thinking about childhood trauma and adversity.

The NEAR@Home Toolkit

A resource for home visitors to respectfully and effectively address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) with families.

Download Toolkit

We spoke about how the four elements that serve as the foundation of the NEAR@Home Toolkit — Neuroscience, Epigenetics, ACEs, and Resilience — come to life in our recent webinar at the Region 9 Early Head Start Conference, “Messing Up in Home Visits: an Opportunity for Repair and Deepening the Relationship.

As a former home visitor, I can attest that we all mess up. Ruptures in home visitors’ relationships with families are inevitable. By openly talking about our mistakes, we have an opportunity to learn and grow. In the webinar, we share strategies to repair the interactions between home visitors and families, leading to a more authentic and trusting home visitor-parent relationship. View the webinar recording directly below.

For home visitors who want to go deeper, the NEAR@Home Facilitated Learning process offers home visiting programs additional support for the toolkit, including experiential and reflective learning resources and modules, as well as support to implement the toolkit. The facilitated learning process occurs over 6-12 months in a safe, supported small group led by a specially trained NEAR Facilitator with expertise in home visiting and infant mental health. Reach out to us at NEAR@StartEarly.org to discuss how to bring NEAR@Home to your program.

More Like This

In-person conferences are back! This August, Start Early president Diana Rauner and I joined leading minds in technology and education from across the country in San Diego for the 2021 ASU+GSV Summit. With awareness of the importance of early childhood education and the care economy at an all-time high, more than a dozen sessions at this year’s conference explored critical issues facing our field, including kindergarten readiness, equity and workforce development.

Increased Need for Social & Emotional Supports

As we enter the start of another program and school year, children will need continued support and attention, particularly in areas of social and emotional support. We know children will be bringing the trauma that they and their families experienced in the last 18 months to school with them. As one attendee noted, they will be “bringing it in their backpacks and putting it on the table.” We also need to acknowledge the extreme stress and trauma that teachers have experienced and support them through this difficult time.

Start Early president Diana Rauner joined Walter Gilliam (Yale University), Shantel Meek (Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University) and Janice Jackson (Chicago Public Schools) for a discussion examining kindergarten readiness through the lens of disparities in suspensions, expulsions and placement in special education that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and threaten children of color’s access to education.

Meeting the Moment: The Economic Imperative of Early Childhood Education

The pandemic highlighted how essential early learning and care is to help parents return to work and support the economy. Diana joined Barbara Cooper (Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education), Rhian Allvin (National Association for the Education of Young Children), and Jane Swift (LearnLaunch) for a conversation that explored two other themes critical to the economic imperative of early childhood education: the critical need for workforce development for our current early childhood workforce and how early learning and care supports the development of our children, the workforce of the future. Diana stressed that early childhood education has a triple bottom line — it allows people to work, grows small businesses and most importantly, supports the development of children.

Every School & Community Ready to Serve Children & Families

Finally, I was excited to lead a panel on something close to my heart: flipping the narrative of the school readiness conversation. Rather than ask what we are going to do to make sure children are ready — a question that puts the burden on children and families — we need to think about how schools and communities can be ready for children as kindergarten begins.

Joined by Sophie Turnbull Bosmeny (Khan Academy Kids), Kai-lee Berke (Noni Educational Solutions), Henry Wilde (Acelero Learning), Andy Myers (Waterford.org) and James Ruben (Hellosaurus), our panel explored how we can take advantage of the current moment to ensure all children are equally ready for school.

For more content from this year’s ASU+GSV Summit on early childhood education and the care economy, visit the conference’s website or YouTube channel.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

Nelson Mandela
corner square square circle corner pie circle square

As part of Start Early’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB), we strive to nurture and embrace racial, cultural and linguistically diverse teaching and learning environments. We know these diverse and inclusive environments unify our field and ensure equitable access to high-quality early childhood experiences. We are embarking on a journey to translate our professional development and research into languages other than English, starting with Spanish. Our goal is to be more inclusive of early childhood educators, parents and leaders that represent the populations we serve and who strive in their own role to support those who need us the most, our youngest children.

Over the past many years, my bilingual colleagues and I translated documents and resources into other languages (including Spanish), to meet the linguistic needs of the participants we support and serve. Nevertheless, the translations themselves, the process and the extra workload were not sustainable and needed to improve. Having multiple experiences with schools, centers and organizations throughout the early childhood field, we know these challenges are not limited to Start Early.

We launched a project to increase the accessibility of our training materials to better serve adult learners and support their professional development. The purpose of our project was to develop a process to translate trainings, materials and resources to increase Start Early’s ability and capacity to serve linguistically diverse customers. In addition, we designed a process to ensure the quality of the translations and the sustainability of the process itself. We kicked off the project with Start Early’s Essentials of Home Visiting – accredited online courses and webinars to support home visiting in any model.

Reach out to our team to get started on your professional development journey today!

Let's Talk

We are excited to debut Spanish language translations of two of our most popular webinars within the Essentials of Home Visiting course catalog: “Exploremos los Valores y Las Creencias sobre la Crianza de los Niños y las Niñas” (Exploring Values and Beliefs Around Parenting) and “Estar Presentes para las Familias” (Being Present with Families). The live webinars will be available through our online learning platform on January 12 and February 2, respectively.

Moving forward, we will continue to adapt our professional development portfolio for additional languages and cultures to better represent the populations we serve, in the hopes of closing the opportunity gap. Our mission is to ensure every child can achieve their full potential not only in school, but also in life.