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

Leadership Institute Testing Model To Improve Business Operations of Small Business Child Care Providers

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The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (the Leadership Institute), housed in UMass Boston’s College of Education and Human Development, announces that Songtian (Tim) Zeng PhD, BCBA and Anne Douglass PhD are co-principal investigators on a study measuring the effectiveness of the small business innovation and shared services model for home- and center-based child care providers serving high-poverty communities in the city of Boston. The $250,000 study is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and will be administered by United Way of Massachusetts Bay from 2020 to 2022.

“Early childhood education is the essential foundation for improving all levels of education,” said College of Education and Human Development Dean Joseph Berger. “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.”

The small business innovation and shared services model provides home- and center-based child care providers training in marketing, financial management, accounting, human resources, business planning, technology, leadership, and entrepreneurial innovation. Participants have access to an online platform that makes it possible to reduce operating costs by sharing administrative, management and other operational services. They also join a peer learning network from which they gain support from other business owners facing some of the same problems of practice.

The RWJF-funded study will measure the effectiveness of the model through a randomized control trial that will follow participants over a two-year period. It will examine whether the model affects the supply of child care services in high-poverty neighborhoods. A pilot study of the small business innovation and shared services model recently published in Early Childhood Educational Journal suggests large effect sizes on improving participants’ business management skills, self-efficacy, and program functioning.

“We’ve already collected compelling data showing that this model increases home- and center-based child care business owners’ knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy as leaders and entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Douglass. “Our next question is whether these increased skills, knowledge, and resources will empower and equip providers to improve financial operations and ultimately increase the supply and quality of ECE programs in low-income communities.”

Even before the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, states around the country have were experiencing steep declines in the number of licensed or regulated FCC providers, with the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance finding a 35% decrease between 2011 and 2017. The 2019 Annual Report of the State of Early Education and Care in Boston: Supply, Demand, Affordability and Quality found that 35%, or 14,370 birth to five year olds in Boston, would not have been able to access a child care seat if all children attempted to enroll.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the creation of child care deserts, geographic areas with a substantially inadequate supply of child care. These areas are more prevalent in low-income communities, rural communities, among families of color, and among families with irregular or nontraditional work schedules,” said Dr. Zeng. “As policy makers continue to grapple with interventions that support strong and sustainable business practices among home- and center-based child care providers, particularly those in high-poverty communities, it’s imperative that they have the information they need to know what interventions work.”

The toll from the pandemic on ECE systems in Massachusetts is already evident.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put early education—already costly and underfunded—in a perilous situation,” said Bob Giannino, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Since the onset of the crisis, more than 270 childcare providers have closed, widening this gap even more. We’re proud to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Early Education Leadership at UMASS Boston around our innovative Shared Services model to stabilize family childcare providers and provide them with the small business resources and tools to thrive and serve their communities.”

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.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

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