Early education policy advocates and supporters regularly — and understandably — seek new ways to influence policymakers. The goal: How to get more and better policies for early education and care programs.
Earlier this year, The Ounce of Prevention Fund outlined one such approach, outlining ways that policymakers could improve the “organizational conditions” that ultimately lead to improved early childhood care and education.
The report is titled “The Case for Strengthening Organizational Conditions to Improve Early Childhood Care and Education Quality.” As the authors write: “Our ultimate goal is to enhance the ability of all ECE programs to support young children’s learning and development by improving the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms. Evidence shows that children learn more in high-quality classrooms, yet recent research has illuminated the limitations of current policy approaches to strengthening classroom practice.”
Their key approach: “Advocating for and implementing policies aimed at improving the organizational conditions of ECE programs as a means to stimulate quality improvement at the classroom level.”
Education Policy: Develop Early Learning Teachers
The policy proposal puts its focus squarely on generating help for early learning teachers. The authors note that “creating and maintaining high levels of quality in a classroom is not easy: even the best teachers require a great deal of knowledge, experience, and ongoing professional support and peer collaboration to do so successfully, consistently, and equitably.”
“This means that when improvement is the goal, we must concern ourselves not only with the conditions that support children’s development, but with the conditions that support teachers’ development as well.”
Proposal: Support Programs’ Organizational Conditions
Specifically, The Ounce argues that “policies that aim to improve ECE quality and children’s development should more intentionally focus on supporting programs’ organizational conditions by directly supporting leaders’ and teachers’ capacity and ability to create and engage in collaboration and cycles of continuous improvement.”
They offer three strategies:
- Change how leaders and teachers are prepared through policies and incentives that target teacher and leader qualifications and experiences, including: a. Foundational and specialized competencies b. Preparatory programs (pre-service) c. Residency programs (pre-service) d. Certification
- Change how leaders and teachers are supported by the systems and resources provided or made possible by an entity external to an individual program (e.g., at the federal, state, or district level), including: a. Adequate and equitable pay commensurate with qualifications b. Continuing professional development requirements (in-service) c. Professional development provider or coaching competencies and qualifications d. Resource allocation
- Change what leaders and teachers are expected to do and focus on in their roles through regulations and standards that target the quality of program-level organizational conditions, including: a. Job-embedded professional development b. Data-informed decision-making c. Reflective supervision d. Collaborative planning e. Peer learning communities