Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children
Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Two new tools are available for the early education and care field, thanks to a collaboration between the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Framingham-based consulting company Early Childhood Associates (ECA).

One tool is a workshop series – the Getting it Right for Children: Early Educators Leadership Institute, which ECA developed to explore how to align birth-through-third-grade systems.

The other is a resource guide that ECA created called, “Guiding Change, Impacting Quality: A Guide to Technical Assistance in Settings Serving Infants & Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Children in Out-of-School Time Programs and Their Families.”

Both provide insights into how to develop high-quality approaches to helping children thrive as they grow from birth through the third grade. 

The Leadership Institute

The institute, which was held this spring, featured four, day-long workshops that covered a wide range of topics, including:

• embracing the birth-through-grade-three early learning continuum

• building and sustaining birth-through-grade-three systems

• aligning standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessments as well as funding and resources, and,

• leading, communicating, and driving the instructional agenda

The goal of the recent institute was “to support a cohort of leaders from school districts, community-based organizations, and family child care systems in building cross-cutting partnerships that will lead to improved school readiness, school success, and life-long opportunity for the children of Massachusetts.”

The featured speakers included our own Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign; as well as Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading; and David Jacobson, a fellow early education blogger and the Birth Through Third Grade Learning Hub Director at Cambridge Education, Inc.

Slide presentations from the institute are posted on ECA’s website. (Click on the titles to see all the slides).

The Resource Guide

“The increasingly professionalized field of early education has created [a] new opportunity to support the professional growth of the early education and care workforce as well as the people who provide professional development (PD) to the field, including technical assistance (TA) providers,” according to ECA.

What is technical assistance? “targeted, customizable support” provided by a professional who “helps educators implement specific instructional, developmentally-appropriate practices when working directly with children.”

That’s why the “purpose of the Guide is to describe and articulate the dispositions, knowledge, and skills needed by TA [technical assistance] providers” who work in preschool and out-of-school settings.

The key dispositions are being caring, communicative, creative, critical, and professional.

The required knowledge and skills are covered in four sections:

• understanding technical assistance

• infants, toddlers, and their families

• preschoolers and their families, and,

• children in out-of-school-time programs

“Each section is divided into domains, or subject areas, and subdomains, which list specific knowledge and skills related to the domain. The subdomains first list indicators of knowledge or understanding, then list corresponding skills, and finally provide examples of how the knowledge and skills can be demonstrated (evidence).”

These sections are supported by guiding principles, which include:

• using evidence-based best practices

• ensuring access for all

• reflecting and responding to children’s “to children’s different, social, economic, and cultural backgrounds, and experiences,” and,

• linking research, theory, and practice

“While the Guide is designed to support TA providers in Massachusetts, it is also intended to strengthen and inform similar efforts to identify a coordinated set of competencies and expand opportunities for TA providers and Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) faculty and staff who work with these settings across the nation.”

Indeed, as Massachusetts and the country build better aligned birth-to-third-grade systems that provide cutting-edge education for children, both this state and the country will need to find new ways to help adults become skilled, sensitive, highly trained leaders.