Three Steps to Success: Prepare, Support, Reward

Effective early care and education leaders, in addition to understanding child development and learning, must navigate complex policies and political terrain, and work collectively with diverse stakeholders to ensure that educators of young children have access to the education they need, are fairly compensated, and work in supportive early learning environments. The demand has never been greater for developing effective, diverse leaders and agents of change who can transform the current early care and education system into one that is more accessible, equitable and effective for all children and families, and that values ECE professionals.

Yet the early care and education field faces multiple leadership challenges:

  • A lack of well-articulated competencies for ECE leadership, and of education and training programs in leadership development. Competencies that identify what ECE leaders need to know and be able to do—apart from program administration and management—have yet to be widely established or accepted. In most communities, higher education or community-based leadership training opportunities are unavailable, leaving many established and emerging leaders with a mismatch between their professional preparation and the skills that are necessary for effective leadership.
  • Insufficient information about the characteristics of current ECE leaders. Little is known about the professional preparation and experience of current leaders in the profession, especially those who work in settings other than ECE centers and homes, such as resource and referral agencies, and who are often in the position to shape services and effect change. Further, little is known about the extent to which current ECE leaders reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the communities they serve.

Effective leadership leads to better public policy and programs for children

To promote the development of a diverse cadre of leaders who act as effective agents of change on behalf of the ECE field, CSCCE recommends:

Federal and state support for efforts to identify the range of leadership roles, characteristics, and needs of leaders in the ECE field:

  • Collect workforce data on those working in ECE leadership roles in settings other than centers and homes, such as resource and referral agencies and other infrastructure-building organizations, and include them in ECE workforce data systems and reports.
  • Support research to identify the professional development needs of these leaders, as well as effective leadership development strategies.

State support for the development of appropriate ECE leadership training, by investing in policies and initiatives that:

  • Establish competencies that describe the knowledge, skills and dispositions that are needed for understanding the complexities of the ECE system, engaging effectively in the development and implementation of public policy, and working with others within and across disciplines to enact change.
  • Expand the availability of higher education and community-based leadership development programs for the ECE field, based on the above competencies.
  • Integrate these leadership competencies into advanced degree programs in order to develop leaders who are knowledgeable about early childhood development, pedagogy, and public policy, and who can fill college instructor, teacher trainer, program director, school principal, and advocate positions.
  • Create a professional development initiative for established leaders to update or expand their competencies as effective agents of change.

Federal and state support for efforts to diversify ECE leadership:

  • Include ECE leadership in publicly funded teacher and principal leadership initiatives.
  • Allow quality improvement resources to be directed to professional development activities focused on leadership.
  • Offer financial assistance and other supports to help under-represented populations gain access to higher education and become leaders in the ECE field.