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.

Early Ed Leadership Institute Awarded $3.8M


The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston (the Early Ed Leadership Institute) announces that it has been awarded $2.5 million by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to manage and enhance the delivery of professional development and training offered to the state’s licensed early educators through EEC’s five regional StrongStart Professional Development Centers (PDC). The state also awarded the Early Ed Leadership Institute $753,469 to operate the Metro Boston StrongStart Professional Development Center and $600,000 to scale its Early Education Quality through Instructional Leadership (EQIIL) professional learning model. EQIIL supports early education and care leaders to use job-embedded professional learning to promote instructional quality and a culture of continuous learning.

“We’re gratified by this endorsement of our work by the state’s Department of Early Education and Care. When we launched the StrongStart Professional Development Centers in late 2019 in partnership with the state, our goal was to create a system of high quality, asset-based professional learning, leadership coaching, training, and technical assistance services that recognize and celebrate the expertise and the diversity that exists throughout the workforce,” said Anne Douglass, PhD, founder and executive director of the Early Ed Leadership Institute and a professor of early education at UMass Boston. “We accomplished that and so much more.”

“All of our professional development and training is designed and implemented by people with experience in the field,” said Project Director Teddy Kokoros, M.Ed, who worked for nearly 20 years as a preschool teacher before pursuing early education system and policy work. “We are constantly iterating our programs based on feedback from early educators. It is critical that the training we offer is meaningful, actionable, and relevant.”

The StrongStart PDCs were launched in 2019 as part of a comprehensive new system of professional development and quality improvement for the state’s licensed early education and care (ECE) programs and educators. Only months after launching the new system, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated that all professional development be delivered online. The Early Ed Leadership Institute built and administered new systems to deliver high quality professional learning via online platforms. It also offered training and technical support to facilitators and coaches that included understanding the characteristics of high-quality virtual learning, developing proficiency in the tools and techniques for hosting and operating virtual learning platforms, and the provision of high-quality virtual learning resources.

All services designed and delivered statewide by the network of PDCs are offered for free to licensed early educators to ensure that cost is not a barrier to professional development. Professional development and training is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, and Mandarin to ensure that providers who speak a primary language other than English also have rich and varied opportunities for professional development.

The Metro Boston PDC has been operated by the Early Ed Leadership Institute since launching in 2019. “We have the capacity to serve approximately 1,000 educators in deeply engaging professional learning communities,” said Metro Boston StrongStart PDC Coordinator Debra Johnston-Malden, M.S. “These learning communities form close, supportive relationships that last long after the training ends. The fact that these training sessions are designed and facilitated by people with years of deep and relevant experience in the field makes a qualitative difference that early educators and program leaders notice and appreciate.”

During the pandemic, many family child care providers serving first and second generation immigrant families in Quincy and Boston’s Chinatown had no plans to immediately reopen after the temporary suspension of ECE programs in 2020. The Metro Boston Professional Development Center reached out to these providers to invite them to enroll in a professional learning community focused on understanding and meeting reopening guidance. These training communities were facilitated in either Mandarin or Cantonese. As a result of this support, approximately 80 percent of these providers reopened and have stayed in business.

The Metro Boston team (including regional facilitators and coaches) are committed to engagement and outreach to the early education workforce and community partners  which includes linguistic and cultural diversity of service delivery.

Additionally, the Early Ed Leadership Institute has been awarded $600,000 to scale its EQIIL professional learning model. EQIIL is an instructional leadership program focused on supporting group and school-age leaders’ capacity for creating the conditions that enable continuous learning and improvement and facilitate job-embedded professional learning. EQIIL includes a series of asynchronous micro-learnings developed by StartEarly and a 25-hour virtual course scaled through the existing PDC network. Intentional practices of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are embedded in the model with attention to leading for equity, inclusive classroom practices, and culturally-reflective and responsive practices with families. During the course, instructional leaders will work with a team at their program to develop an action plan related to improving instructional quality and take steps toward implementing their plan. The Early Ed Leadership Institute will work closely with the PDCs to identify and train facilitators to scale this course statewide and also prepare PDC coaches to support leaders with continuing to implement their quality improvement plan after completing the course.

In addition to Metro Boston, StrongStart PDCs are located in the Western, Central, Northeast, and Southeast regions of the state. Services offered by the PDCs are free and include coaching in addition to professional learning communities focused on entrepreneurial leadership training, program quality and improvement, reflective practice, and more.

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