Early Ed Leadership & Innovation

We train frontline early educators and child care business owners in entrepreneurial leadership, and research ways to support them at scale

September 28, 2020

Pre-pandemic ECE workforce survey released

A new report from the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (Leadership Institute) at UMass Boston provides a detailed pre-pandemic snapshot of the early education workforce in Massachusetts. Authored by researchers from the Leadership Institute, the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, and the Center for Social Policy at UMass Boston, the report serves as a point of comparison in understanding the impact of the pandemic on the child care sector and contains valuable data that can inform policy discussions about early care and education now taking place at the local, state, and federal level.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that early care and education is a key piece of infrastructure for the economy. Parents need early care and education options that are high quality and affordable because when child care isn’t available, parents can’t work,” said Anne Douglass, PhD, professor and executive director of the Leadership Institute. “But as the sector grapples with the impact COVID-19 has had on the health and well-being of young children and staff as well as the financial viability of child care programs of all sizes, this survey shows that returning to pre-pandemic ways of doing business is not an option.” Continue Reading →

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September 23, 2020

Meet Our 2020-2021 Early Education Leadership Fellows

We are pleased to announce the selection of eight Early Educator Leadership Fellows for the 2020-2021 cohort of our Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice

This group of experienced early childhood educators will spend the next two years immersed in intensive training in entrepreneurial leadership, early childhood policy, and the science of early learning. They will also connect with and join our growing network of emerging and established ECE leaders. Continue Reading →

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September 10, 2020
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Creating a culture of learning

Portrait photo of Alicia Jno-Baptiste

Wee Care JP owner Alicia Jno-Baptiste: “I feel more confident running my business and I think people look at me differently, too, because I have more expertise.”

You can’t be successful directing a small early child care program unless you’re an expert in early childhood development and the science of early brain development. But it also helps to understand accounting, marketing, human resources, facilities management, and bulk purchasing. Many owners of early care and education businesses pick up enough business skills to get by. But there’s a big difference between getting by and maximizing profits.

When Alicia Jno-Baptiste signed up for our Small Business Innovation Center program she relied on a bookkeeper to keep track of her business accounts. By her own admission, she “didn’t have a clue” about how to analyze the monthly reports. After going through the Small Business Innovation Center program with other entrepreneurs, Jno-Baptiste learned about cash flow and how to analyze the costs of care to ensure a profit along with other business needs like marketing, facilities management, and automating tasks.

Jno-Baptiste, who owns Wee Care JP, still employs a bookkeeper, but now when she gets the monthly reports, she can read the numbers. “I can see if we’ve reached our income goal, how much we’ve spent, where we’re down, and where we need to be,” Jno-Baptiste said. “I can head off financial trouble much sooner because I can see it coming and be proactive in dealing with it.” Continue Reading →

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September 7, 2020

What we learned from our webinar series on reinventing child care in Massachusetts

The COVID-19 pandemic has widely exposed what early care and education (ECE) professionals have long known: our ECE system is not sustainable in its current patchwork configuration. Yet it is also vital to the functioning of our economy and must therefore be prioritized for systemic change.

This summer, we launched a webinar series, “Reinventing Child Care in Massachusetts” to facilitate a detailed discussion of what the sector needs, and we’re eager to share what we learned. More than 700 ECE professionals and other stakeholders participated and attendees gathered online to share ideas for reinventing an ECE system that is high-quality, accessible to all families, provides professional compensation to educators based on their skill and experience, has sufficient resources for professional and leadership development, and addresses racial inequities.

The webinars were conducted in partnership with Northern Essex Community College, Volta Learning Group, and Opportunities Exchange, a national leader in developing business strategies that sustain ECE programs and improve child outcomes. The ideas discussed in all three webinars were grounded in Opportunity Exchange’s policy brief framework in “Reinvent vs. Rebuild.”

Following the webinar series, we launched an Action Lab with 58 ECE stakeholders, most of whom attended the webinar series. They are meeting regularly through the end of this year to expand on the ideas put forth in the webinar series and generate additional ideas for reinventing ECE. Facilitated by Vital Village Networks, the participants formed four groups that are examining the following questions and developing ways to implement actionable ideas that emerge from the Action Lab:

  • What does policy that supports equitable ECE funding and compensation looks like?
  • What does an equitable funding stream for ECE in Massachusetts look like?
  • What information and infrastructure is needed for data-driven funding decisions?
  • What does the equitable evolution of ECE in Massachusetts look like?

Participants in the first webinar of “Reinventing Child Care in Massachusetts” discussed business strategies for improving the financial health of ECE programs. More than 300 teachers, administrators, and family child care owners tuned in for the session, which featured Louise Stoney, co-founder of Opportunities Exchange, her colleagues Sharon Easterling and Amy Friedlander, and Leadership Institute Executive Director Anne Douglass, PhD.

Stoney presented easy ways to streamline ECE business practices that only one-third of providers take advantage of and offered examples of innovations taking place around the country. The foundation for financial sustainability, she said, was business leadership, describing it as “the missing link we have not focused on.” She described five tools of business administration that could help reinvent ECE: automation and business coaching, administrative scale, de-centralized services, strategic cost modeling and rate-setting, and real-time supply and demand data.

Read a more detailed account of the first session and get links to short video highlights from the session on our blog.

The second session focused on the role of technology in improving ECE, primarily through the use of Child Care Management Systems (CCMS), which automate administrative tasks like invoicing, scheduling tours for prospective families, and enrollment management. These systems demonstrably save ECE providers time and money by automating administrative tasks, freeing up precious time and money to put toward professional development, boosting educator pay, making programmatic improvements, and marketing their business. Stoney described CCMS systems as “the infrastructure that we’re going to need in order to succeed” as we work to adapt and improve the ECE system in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

And yet, based on their research, Opportunities Exchange estimates that just 25-30 percent of providers use a CCMS. On top of that, research also shows that 69 percent of millennials—who currently comprise the majority of ECE consumers—pay bills either online or with direct debit, while just 14 percent say they pay their bills by mail. In other words, the ECE target market prefers to conduct business electronically.

Get more details on the second session, along with links to webinar slides and short video highlights.

At the third and final session of “Reinventing Child Care in Massachusetts,” we heard from a panel of Massachusetts ECE experts on how to innovate through shared services—networks of small ECE businesses banding together to share the cost of services like accounting, purchasing, enrollment management and other pricey, labor-intensive administrative needs, to free up time and money for program and staff development. The session also addressed the benefits of automation, the need for statewide innovation, how to maintain private innovation while treating child care as a public good, and advocating for support and services.

Douglass moderated the discussion. Our panel of experts consisted of Stoney, Grace Cruz, the Leadership Institute’s Early Childhood Support Organization Director; Lynne Mendes, our Leadership Program Director; Jennifer Jimenez, Family Child Care Business Owner, Entrepreneurial Leader, and a graduate of our ECE Small Business Innovation program; Katie Graham, Chief Strategy Officer, The Community Group; Samantha Aigner-Trewory, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care; and Amy O’Leary, Director, Early Education for All Campaign at Strategies for Children.

Get more details on the final session, and links to presentation slides and short video highlights here.

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