Experts Discuss the Early Learning Workforce

On Monday, Senior Advisor for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones (ED) and Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development Joan Lombardi (HHS) hosted a panel of experts in Denver to discuss challenges and policy recommendations for the early learning workforce. This was the second stop on the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services’ Listening and Learning About Early Learning tour to gather information about key issues in early learning.

Dr. Marcy Whitebook, Director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, kicked off the public meeting by pointing out that this was the first time a gathering to discuss both the early learning workforce and professional development has been held by the two agencies.  Dr. Whitebook called for a workforce-related vision for meeting the President’s goal of being number one in college graduation rates by 2020.  She outlined three key ingredients for improving the quality of the early learning workforce:  better preparation, support for on-going professional development, and higher rewards and compensation.

President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute Ellen Galinsky spoke about the importance of preparing teachers to keep the fire of curiosity alive in young children.  Dr. Galinsky also talked about the need for teachers to address the readiness gap by focusing on both knowledge and skills, particularly executive functioning skills in which children master self-regulation.

Dr. Phil Strain, Director of the Positive Early Learning Experiences Center in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver, described the lack of preparation for early learning educators who work with children with challenging behavior.  Dr. Strain noted that pre- and in-service training involving evidence based practice (EBP) only occurs half of the time resulting in teachers who engage in reactive, punitive and ineffective strategies rather than preventative ones.  He suggested that expansion of coaching models could be the mediator of change for educators.

President of the Child Care Services Association Sue Russell concluded the panel’s remarks by discussing the state of teacher preparation programs and challenges to the system.  Dr. Russell recommended that states be required to develop comprehensive plans to address the compensation and retention of the early childhood education workforce.

Panelists agreed that the quality of early learning programs will not improve unless the quality of the workforce is addressed.  The system is broken and there is a need for bold, federal leadership.

Slide presentations and public speaker comments will be posted at www.ed.gov.  Two more meetings planned for the tour: Orlando and Chicago.  Each meeting will focus on a specific topic.  Below are dates, places, and names of panel members for the meetings, which will run from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.

Family Engagement: Tuesday, May 4, 2010, at the Orange County Public Schools Educational Leadership Center, 445 W. Amelia Street, Orlando, FL
Don Bailey, Distinguished Fellow in Early Child Development for RTI International
Gene Garcia, Vice President for University-School Partnerships at Arizona State University
Carol Day, President of the National Black Child Development Institute
Heather Weiss, Founder and Director of the Harvard Family Research Project and Senior Research Associate and Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Standards and Assessments: Tuesday, May 11, 2010, at the Polk Bros. Lecture Hall at the Erikson Institute, 451 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL
Sam Meisels, President of the Erikson Institute
Kathy Hebbeler,  Manager of the Community Services and Strategies Program at SRI International and Director of the Early Childhood Outcomes Center
Linda Espinosa, Associate Professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia
Catherine Scott-Little, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Registration: To attend or speak at a meeting, you must register at http://www.fsaregistration.ed.gov/profile/web/index.cfm?PKWebId=0×91942aeb2&varPage=agenda at least 4 business days prior to each meeting you plan to attend.  Seating and speaker slots are limited, so registering early is important.  On-site registration will be permitted if space allows.

Please go to http://www.ed.gov/blog/2010/04/listening-and-learning-about-early-learning-tour-announced-for-dc-denver-orlando-and-chicago/ for complete information on registration, webinar attendance, submission of written comments, and special accommodations and assistance to individuals with disabilities.

See you in Orlando and Chicago!

Steven Hicks
Special Assistant on Early Learning