United Way, Schott Foundation issue "Making it Work"

EMBARGOED until Oct 17
For Immediate Release:
October 17, 2005

United Way, Schott Foundation issue “Making it Work”
A blueprint for creating a professional development system for the early education and care and out-of-school time workforce

BOSTON – United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Schott Foundation for Public Education today release a report with recommendations to help ensure that children receive quality education and care both before they enter school and after the school bell rings. “Making it Work” is a blueprint for creating a professional development system for the Massachusetts’ workforce serving children and their families outside of the traditional classroom.

In July 2004, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed the Early Education for All Act, which required Massachusetts to create the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to coordinate standards and funding for all public and private early education and care programs in the Commonwealth.  The legislation called for a statewide workforce development plan for early education and out-of-school time practitioners by December 31, 2005.

“Because research has consistently shown that staff qualifications are linked strongly and consistently to child outcomes, the legislation and this specific mandate have enormous potential to promote positive child development and high-quality early learning,” said Peg Sprague, vice president for community impact at UWMB.  “Our goal was to bring together all the stakeholders in the field – as well as the research from other states’ efforts – to help the new Department chart the course in the months and years ahead.”

“We believe every citizen is entitled to educational opportunity and that education makes a real and substantial difference in the quality of human life,” said Valora Washington, Ph.D. of the Schott Foundation Fellowship in Early Care and Education.  “The staff who are spending many hours a day with children must be equipped to be important educational and developmental influencers.”

UWMB and the Schott Foundation recognized the unique opportunity to build on and strengthen the existing legislative consensus to help the new department meet this mandate. The report is the result of an intensive consenus-building effort that included representatives from direct services, resource and referral, public policy, public and private funders and higher education.  Over 100 individuals representing these entities participated in the meeting series that drove the report.

"Making it Work" finds that the professionals in early education and out-of-school time are underpaid and lack opportunities to advance their careers in the field. It cites Losing Ground in Massachusetts Early Childhood Education, a recent multi-year national study that indicates Massachusetts has suffered a decline in the number of degreed early childhood teachers, with most of this loss occurring during the 1990s. Losing Ground reported that only 26% of the current workforce in Massachusetts have degrees as compared to 45% in the 1980s. Median pay for center-based educators has fallen from 76% (1983-87) of wages of all Massachusetts workers to 66% (2000-2004).

Three overarching principles guided the report’s recommendations:

The workforce development system should represent and be responsive to the diversity of populations residing in our state;

The system must support professionals who work in all sectors of the field, serving children of all ages, in a variety of settings; and

Compensation should be tied to expertise and experience.

“Making it Work” offers five recommendations to create a professional development system for the early education and care and out-of-school time workforce that build upon prior successes and draw from lessons learned on other states:

1. Establish data systems to inform decision-making and track progress. The collection of data such as degrees, credentials and salary levels would allow policy makers and funders to assess conditions in the field, determine progress over time and make funding decisions.   It would also allow individuals to track their career development over time.

2. Address diversity by promoting cultural competence in the workforce and by meeting the professional development needs of a diverse workforce.   The Massachusetts workforce and the children they serve include a wide range of cultures, educational experiences, languages, and ages, among other characteristics.  A more culturally competent workforce will be better able to respond to the needs of the children and families they serve. Currently there are no requirements regarding cultural competency in the EEC licensing regulations for working with children birth through age 12. Massachusetts must work intentionally to be sure that the professional development needs of a diverse workforce are met. Moreover, all members of the workforce must be prepared to teach and learn in diverse environments.

3. Build a system of differentiated staffing rooted in a base of core knowledge and skills. Since broad-based planning for professional development is now mandated for the first time in Massachusetts, it is time for the entire field to have commonly defined required skills and knowledge for all roles and levels of responsibility. This foundation of core competencies provides the basis for credentials and degrees.

4.  Link system of differentiated staffing to accessible higher education credentials.  Today the workforce is exposed to fragmented systems through which extensive course work may not lead to credentials or degrees.  Higher Education provides the opportunities to increased compensation and provides opportunities to convert (non-credit) prior learning into credits and equivalencies.

5: Fund the system: Isolated project-specific funding efforts to support professional development and to address the compensation gap have not been effective or sustainable. Substantial funding will be required to establish the requisite infrastructure to support a system as well as to provide scholarships and increased compensation. This is a major challenge that will need to be thoughtfully addressed.   Consistent public-private partnerships that enable pooling of resources and funding can be an effective and efficient strategy to helping fund the system. Examples of effective public-private partnership models include support for scholarships in states such as North Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana, and the Connecticut and Maine statewide systems.