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

March 11, 2021

StrongStart Professional Development Centers Are There To Help

Graphic of Keira Durrett with quote It’s safe to say that Keira Durrett has earned the title of “expert.” She’s worked in early care and education for over 30 years, 21 of them as director of the Williston North Hampton Children’s Center in Easthampton. Even so, she credits the Western Mass StrongStart Professional Development Center (PDC) with providing her with much needed resources this past year.

Shortly before early care and education programs in Massachusetts were suspended from operating in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Durrett had joined a professional learning community (PLC) run by the Western Mass StrongStart PDC. Comprised of other directors of ECE programs in her region, the PLC was set up to provide structured support for directors working through typical problems of practice: improving curricula, supporting staff, strengthening relationships with families, and streamlining back-end operations.

But as programs prepared to reopen, directors had numerous questions about maintaining health and safety, understanding the reopening guidance issued by the state, and managing finances with dramatically reduced enrollment. (For example, at the start of the year, there were 53 children enrolled in Durrett’s center. Now there are just 35.) Continue Reading →

October 19, 2020

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.” Continue Reading →

July 8, 2020

Building community

Dottie Williams

Dottie Williams: “You’re not just taking care of someone’s child. You’re taking care of your community.”

“My families and my community needed me to stay open. I never thought about shutting down,” says Dorothy (Dottie) Williams, of her decision to remain open through the COVID-19 crisis as one of the state’s 500 emergency early education and child care providers.

“You’re not just taking care of someone’s child. You’re taking care of your community,” says Williams of her decision to remain open throughout the pandemic. Williams’ emphasis on community is evinced by the fact that older neighborhood children whose younger siblings are now in Williams’ care still gave hugs (pre-COVID-19) when they came through her door.

“They have fond memories [of being in my program]. I have fond memories of them,” says Williams, who is a Leadership Fellow in our Post-Master’s Certificate Program and a graduate of our Small Business Innovation Center. “It’s a community.” Continue Reading →

May 2, 2019

Research Summary: Mobilizing Leadership with the Breakthrough Series Collaborative

In her 2017 book, Leading for Change in Early Care and Education: Cultivating Leadership From Within (Teachers College Press), Professor Anne Douglass offers a framework for leadership in early care and education that is inclusive, collaborative, and purpose-driven and that defines a leader as someone who can influence and inspire change from within the field. In Chapter Seven, Douglass examines the Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) model for organizational change. BSCs have supported quality improvement in the health, child trauma, and child welfare fields, but have not yet been widely tested in ECE. In describing the results of an 18-month pilot program of the model in ECE settings, she shows how it offers a concrete strategy for facilitating individual and organizational change within ECE by mobilizing leadership from all levels. Continue Reading →

April 18, 2019

Research Summary: Pathways to Leadership for Early Educators

In “Redefining Leadership: Lessons from an Early Education Leadership Development Initiative,” published in the Early Childhood Education Journal, Professor Anne Douglass shows that a leadership development program can change the mindset of experienced early educators so they see themselves as innovators and influencers. This first-of-its-kind study followed 43 early educators as they went through a relational and entrepreneurial leadership development program. The results demonstrate that these educators, who had an average of 18 years’ experience in early childhood education (ECE) but who did not self-identify as leaders, subsequently took on leadership roles within the field, bringing new ideas and innovation to their practice. Continue Reading →

May 23, 2018

Leadership Forum Draws Record Participation, Spurs Conversations About Early Care and Education

A record number of people—more than 100—attended the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation‘s fifth annual Leadership Forum on Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice on Saturday, May 19.

The day celebrated graduates of the leadership institute’s early educator leadership programs, provided a platform for ECE practitioners to discuss leadership for change and innovation in the field, and facilitated dialogue about advancing leadership pathways in early education and care in Massachusetts. Continue Reading →

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