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

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.

July 15, 2020

The Vision for Reinventing Child Care – Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going?

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred an increasingly urgent conversation among political leaders, policymakers, and leaders in early care and education (ECE) about the need for systemic change to ensure the economic survival of the sector, which is vital to a functioning economy.

To add to the public discussion now taking place, the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation convened a series of webinars, “Reimagining Stronger and More Equitable Systems of Early Care and Education.” The three-part series explored ideas and innovations for solving some of the persistent obstacles to expanding affordable access to quality early care and education. Continue Reading →

July 14, 2020

Automating invoicing, enrollment and applications saves time and money

As we continue to adapt to operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, families have been slow to return their children to early care and education programs, according to Opportunities Exchange, a national leader in developing business strategies that sustain ECE programs and improve child outcomes. These observations provided the backdrop to a robust discussion of the ways in which automating back-end operations can free up significant time and money during our webinar “The Role of Technology in Reinventing Child Care: Working Smarter with Shared Services.” This webinar, which was part two of our three-part webinar series titled “Reimagining Stronger and More Equitable Systems of Early Care and Education” is filled with practical and actionable ideas for early care and education programs. Continue Reading →

July 1, 2020

Building a better ECE system post-COVID-19

Our three-webinar series, “Reimagining Stronger and More Equitable Systems of Early Care and Education” launched on Friday, June 26.

You can watch the recorded webinar here.

You can watch short clips from the video:

Access to Automation Is an Equity Issue

Market Rate Inequities

You can download a PDF of the slides from the webinar here. Continue Reading →

June 16, 2020

Webinar series: Reimagining Stronger and More Equitable Systems of Early Care and Education

If you could redesign early care and education in Massachusetts, what would it look like?

  • Professional compensation for educators and family child care providers?
  • Affordable access for all families?
  • Resources that emphasize professional learning and leadership?
  • Education and care that addresses racial equity?

Continue Reading →

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