Early Education Leaders, an Institute at UMass Boston

provides the leadership development opportunities and infrastructure that early educators need to support thriving children and families.

Leadership Institute Creates Early Childhood Support Organization for State’s ECE Programs with $3.75M Grant


The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (the Leadership Institute), housed in UMass Boston’s College of Education and Human Development, announces today that it is designing a new Early Childhood Support Organization (ECSO) for the state’s licensed early care and education programs. The Leadership Institute is partnering with longtime collaborators the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) and Start Early (formerly the Ounce of Prevention) to deliver services. The 4.5-year, $3.75 million project is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and New Profit, a venture philanthropy organization that invests in systems change initiatives that break down barriers to opportunity.

“The ECE field urgently needs high impact professional and leadership development supports that promote early educators’ expertise and abilities to improve program quality,” said Anne Douglass, PhD, the Leadership Institute’s founder and executive director. “Research shows that to be effective, ECE educators and leaders need a workplace context that is designed to develop and sustain teachers’ ongoing learning and practice.”

The ECSO offers leadership coaching and training to ECE program administrators to cultivate the skills necessary to create cultures of continuous learning and improvement in organizations and establish professional development opportunities in the workplace that strengthen teaching quality and children’s learning.

“The ECSO offers program leaders high quality professional development to gain knowledge, coaching to transfer knowledge into practice, and opportunities for peer learning to support their efforts to continuous improvement,” said Grace Cruz, Director of Early Childhood Support Organizations at the Leadership Institute. “With this support, they’re able to build warm and professional work cultures that prioritize ambitious instruction, inquiry-based learning, and the use of data to assess progress.”

“Start Early is thrilled to bring our national experience with The Essential Leadership Model to support leaders across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts strengthen the organizational conditions of their sites, and improve outcomes for leaders, teachers, children and families,” said Maribel Centeno, Start Early’s Director of Practice Development and Improvement.

UMass Boston College of Education and Human Development Dean Joseph Berger added: “Early childhood education is the essential foundation for improving all levels of education. I am proud of the ongoing leadership provided by the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation as they apply their exceptional expertise to improving quality and equity of early childhood education throughout the state and beyond.” 

About the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation

The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation was founded in 2016 and is a university-wide initiative housed in the College of Education and Human Development at UMass Boston. It is mobilizing leadership from the field to create systems of early care and education in which all young children and their families thrive. To realize this vision, it drives system change in three ways. First, it cultivates racially and linguistically diverse leaders with entrepreneurial leadership training. Second, it sustains those leaders and supports their development and influence through its growing leadership and innovation network. Last, it conducts original research that contributes new knowledge about the impact of leadership in early care and education, and its potential as a powerful lever for equity and social change. With this work, the Leadership Institute is creating ecosystems throughout the field that recognize, support, and sustain the leadership of early educators to drive change and improvement so that all programs of early care and education are high quality, affordable, and accessible for all children and families.

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