The University of Massachusetts – Boston held its third annual Early Education Leadership Forum earlier this month, highlighting research done by students in its Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice Post Master’s Certificate Program.

UMass has been actively developing new education pathways for early educators to help them lead both in the classroom and in the policy arena.

As we blogged about UMass’s program last year, “In Massachusetts, it’s clear that these two educational systems — preschool and higher education — should develop in concert with each other, so that early educators are always learning the newest concepts and strategies for teaching young children.”


A Spotlight on Early Educators

The leadership forum’s topics included “supporting children’s social and emotional development, building positive family and community relationships, and early education and care policy and systems change. Tom Weber, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, was the keynote speaker.”

Daniela Dalessio, a student in the program, said that UMass’s program taught her to be “a catalyst for change,” as a UMass article explains.

“‘The post master’s program made it possible to use my passion to translate an idea into meaningful change,’ Dalessio said. She presented on the Parental Shared Reading Program.”

Marylin Bennett, another student who participated in the forum, “spoke about the need for guided play and situational teaching in early childhood.” She said, “I learned the power of being a teacher leader, that you can be very influential as a peer, and you do not have to sit in the ‘big’ chair to impact change within a movement or an organization.”


A New Model for Leadership

During the forum’s afternoon sessions, “key education and innovation leaders led dialogues to inform the design” of UMass’s new model of leadership development.

Anne Douglass, the program director of the post master’s program, explains, “We are designing a model for leadership development that continues beyond the post master’s program, that offers a supportive ecosystem for our alums and for experienced early educators, where they can create, test new ideas and innovations, and implement and study them, and be part of a community of inquiry and improvement. This is how we drive change from within our field and build our own leadership.”

The leaders who spoke about the model at the forum were:

– Ann Reale, undersecretary & chief operating officer at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education

– Kim Syman, managing partner, New Profit

– Winifred Hagan, interim deputy commissioner for Academic Affairs and Student Success at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education

– Marilou Hyson, adjunct faculty in Early Childhood Education, UMass Boston, and

– Hanna Gebretensae, director, Eliot-Pearson Children’s School, Tufts University

A Brand New PhD Program

The post master’s program has also poured a foundation for UMass Boston’s new PhD program for early educators.

“The purpose of the new PhD in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is to produce future leaders who are prepared to transform opportunities and outcomes for young children through skilled research, policy development, and innovative practices.”

The programs four areas of concentration are:

– Learning and Teaching in the First Five Years

– Leadership, Policy, and Finance in ECEC

– Urban, Multilingual, and Global Contexts for ECEC, and

– Individual Concentration

The deadline to apply for the program is December 1, 2015, and the first cohort will enroll in the fall of 2016.

UMass’s goals are impressive:

“Both within the state and from a national/international perspective, the field of early education and care faces a critical shortage of well-prepared professionals,” the PhD website explains. “Shortages are evident at all educational levels. Doctorally-prepared leaders are needed for multiple roles:

  1. to staff college and university programs that prepare early childhood practitioners;
  2. to conduct research on urgent problems in early education and care; and
  3. to serve as policy leaders in local, state, national, and international organizations.

“By developing a new generation of highly-qualified doctoral graduates, [the] UMass Boston program has the potential to positively affect this situation, which ultimately impacts the well-being of vulnerable young children in need of quality services.”

Indeed, these programs promise to forge more dynamic, fruitful partnerships between early education and higher education improving outcomes across Massachusetts.