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

April 12, 2022

New Study Finds What Drives Wage Gaps Among Early Educators in Massachusetts

A new study found that teachers’ educational attainment and current teaching positions explained wage gaps among a statewide representative sample of ECE center educators in Massachusetts. The study also found that center educators who self-identified as Black earned higher hourly wages than their White, Hispanic/Latinx, and other-race counterparts with similar characteristics. Hispanic/Latinx educators earned wages comparable with their White counterparts.

“Teachers with a bachelor’s or higher degrees earned higher wages than those with lower educational attainment, and being a lead teacher instead of an assistant teacher was also associated with higher wages,” said study author Anne Douglass, PhD, Professor of Early Care and Education at UMass Boston and the founding executive director of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation. “The strong association between educational attainment and hourly wages underscores the importance of implementing intentional strategies to create equitable opportunities for pursuing higher education degrees for all early educators.”

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March 16, 2022

From preschool teacher to PhD holder

Just as Becky DelVecchio launched her research project for her doctoral thesis, the world shut down due to COVID-19. 

She had originally planned to do an ethnographic study on the psychologically restorative benefits of nature play for children and families by embedding in a nature program to study the lived experiences of children, educators and families as they move through the program. That became impossible when COVID-19 health and safety restrictions forced the closure of ECE programs across the state. For months after reopening, most programs prohibited visitors to their centers and schools. 

She instead adapted her project to a mixed-methods study, which included a quantitative  online survey directed at caregivers of 3-4-year-olds in Greater Boston, followed by qualitative interviews with a sample of the respondents. 

DelVecchio was pleased to receive 173 completed surveys, given the pressures parents were under, especially in the early days of the pandemic. “I was really thankful and just continue to be thankful to all the families who contributed to my research,” she said. 

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February 16, 2022

Advancing scholarship in early ed leadership: Amanda Wiehe Lopes

Dr. Amanda Lopes

For the Early Ed Leadership Institute’s Amanda Wiehe Lopes, earning a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education and Care capped a personal, educational, and professional journey that began when she was a teenager ignoring advice from the adults in her life to become a teacher. 

“I thought of teachers as people who wore khakis and had a lot of rules,” recalls Wiehe Lopes, who successfully defended her dissertation in July, 2021. “That was my experience growing up and I just didn’t see myself in that role. I hated khakis, I hated rules —and still do.” 

Instead, Wiehe Lopes wanted to be an artist. So she studied drama and performance art and eventually taught theater to mostly pre-school age children at the Seattle Children’s Theatre Drama School. 

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September 11, 2021

2021-2023 Early Education Leadership Fellows announced

3The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (the Early Ed Leadership Institute) at UMass Boston is pleased to announce the selection of nine Early Education Leadership Fellows for the 2021-202 cohort of its Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice (PMC).

The Early Education Leadership Fellows were selected from a highly competitive pool of over 120 applicants. They represent a variety of public, private, and community-based programs. The 2021-2022 cohort will spend the next two years immersed in intensive training in relational and 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 early childhood education leaders. 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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